Laser vs inkjet: Adding up the cost

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Laser vs inkjet: Adding up the cost

Have you ever calculated the total cost of printing for your business? Do you buy the cheapest printer in the shop? Should you get inkjet or laser?

Here's a scary statistic. If you work a 50 hour week, between half an hour and 90 minutes of the time you spend earning money goes on covering the cost of printing. That's between 1% and 3% of your revenue according to research conducted by large printer manufacturers. With one of my large clients, with annual turnover of between $15M and $20M the cost is about 1%.

One of the first questions you'll need to answer when buying a new printer is laser vs inkjet.

Early next month Epson will be holding an inkjet v laser shootout with information from independent researchers. While I'm interested in what they'll have to say, there are a few things you can do now if you're in the market for a new printer.

Ready to take a deeper dive on this topic? Read our guide to halving your print bill.

In the past, the answer was easy. Lasers for black and white and inkjets for colour. When colour laser printers hit the market they were very expensive but they're now affordable. And so the gap between the two technologies was narrowed.

However, while the up-front cost can be an immediately painful wound to your bank balance it's the slow bleed that most small business don't monitor or manage that really causes the pain. How do you consider this when buying your new printer?

1. Measure how much you print per month

You can do this by either counting the reams or pages of paper manually or using some print management software.

2. Don't just look at the printer cost, check the consumables

Grab the replacement cartridges for the printers you're considering and pay close attention. Most will be rated for a certain number of pages. If a replacement cartridge costs $50 but can print 1,000 pages it's better value than a $25 cartridge that's rated for 400 pages

3. Paper is not the big cost

Sure, be frugal and shop around for your paper, but consumables almost always cost more than paper. With one of my clients the annual cost of printing, excluding the capital cost of printers, is about 15% paper and 85% consumables, maintenance and paper.

Armed with that data you can make a considered estimate as to the cost of a printer. For example, if you print 1,000 pages per month you could end up with the following to consider. Note that the figures are indicative only and are designed to illustrate the process:


Option 1: Colour laser

Printer cost: $1000

Toner: $400 per 5000 pages ($0.08 per page)

Paper $6 per 500 sheets ($0.012 per sheet)

Three year cost: $1000 + $2880 + $432 = $3312


Option 2: Mono laser

Printer cost: $300

Toner: $125 per 7500 pages ($0.017 per page)

Paper $6 per 500 sheets ($0.012 per sheet)

Three year cost: $300 + $600 + $432 = $1332


Option 3: Colour inkjet

Printer cost: $300

Toner: $120 per 500 pages ($0.24 per page)

Paper $6 per 500 sheets ($0.012 per sheet)

Three year cost: $300 + $8640 + $432 = $9372


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