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When You're Buying a Printer, Inexpensive May Not Be

by Keith Gatling | 12 months ago

When does spending more money at first save you more money in the long run?

A lot of times, actually. But the best example I can think of at the moment is when it comes to buying a printer...especially a color one.

A lot of us will opt for the inkjet model, which you can still get a very basic model of for a nice low $34.99. If we feel like splurging, we might opt for one of the fancy all-in-one models, that does printing, scanning, and faxing, for $49.99. But the idea of buying a color laser printer that costs $200.00 is immediately off the table.

It needs to go back on the table, and here’s why.

While that $34.99 color inkjet printer may seem like a bargain when you buy it, it’ll eat you out of house and home in the long run. In fact, it will very quickly end up costing you more than the color laser printer.

How? Replacement ink cartridges. Those things are expensive. And fussy. Because of the way they’re built, if you’re not printing at least a page every day, the print head will clog and the cartridge will be unusable, meaning...you have to buy another expensive ink cartridge.

Let’s face it, those inkjet printers were designed by the printer companies as a way to sell you more ink.

And don’t even ask me about the time I had to buy three black ink cartridges in one day because of a photo I was using in the family Christmas letter. No...on the other hand, do ask me. Because it was in that moment, after I bought the third cartridge, that I realized that I would’ve been better off just buying a color laser printer.

But aren’t they more expensive than inkjets?

To buy, yes. To own, no. And here’s why.

First of all, instead of using ink, which can dry up and clog the print head if you don’t print enough; laser printers use toner...which is already dry. And if it’s already dry, it can’t dry out.

Second, the toner cartridges last a good long time. If you’re an average person, you could get six months to a year out of the starter toner cartridges they give you before you have to replace them.

Third, even when it comes time to replace your toner cartridges, you might be able to get them at a better price than inkjet cartridges if you go with a generic brand made for your model. I just bought a five-pack of color toner for my Brother printer (cyan, yellow, magenta, and two blacks...smart people) for $50. That’s $10 a cartridge for cartridges that will last me a year each (except for the black).

By comparison, a complete set of replacement cartridges for that $34.99 inkjet will cost $60.00, and maybe not even get you through six months.

OK...there actually is one good reason to consider an inkjet printer...or was.

As much as I love my color laser, it’s just not good at odd paper sizes...like for DIY greeting cards and invitations, and such. I actually bought a cheap little color inkjet just for that...and immediately regretted the extra room it took up for how infrequently I actually needed to use it for that. I got rid of it almost as soon as I got it.

Then I discovered that Zazzle, which I talked about in a previous blog post, could do all that special-sized stuff for me. Postcards, greeting cards, notecards; and not only did I not have to have a special printer for it, but their print quality was better. Sure, I had to plan a few weeks in advance, but it could be done, and it looked good. And yes...the printing wasn’t free, but the quality was great, and I didn’t have to fuss around with all that stuff at home.

So my advice when it comes to buying a color printer? I think you already know it. Spend the extra money up front and go for the laser printer...and preferably one that does double-sided (also called “full duplex”).

I don’t think you’ll regret it.