Beware of cheap (or free) printers! Read on to learn about the smarter way to go printer shopping.
Go to any big box retailer and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of printers. With so many options and deals, consumers tend to gravitate towards the printer with the cheapest price tag, allowing other equally important factors to fall by the wayside.
Many assume that if the machine comes at a a decent (or cheap) price, the cartridges, page yield, and print quality must be too. Especially now that most printers look sleek and stylish, we can easily get distracted by aesthetics from investing in a printer that truly fits our needs.
In this article we’ll go over the ways cost can add up over the lifetime of a printer and also cover a couple of popular printers by type so you have a pretty good idea on which machine can get the job done best.
1. Be Wary of Printer and Cartridge Price
Cheap printers generally use expensive cartridges. They end up costing more to maintain in the long term.
A current real life example is the incredibly cheap HP Deskjet 3755. At first glance it looks like a steal. It’s an all-in-one machine, meaning it has print, copy and scanning capabilities. It’s wireless, uses both black and color printer ink cartridges and comes in a slick looking off-white color. The downside? The cost of the cartridges.
A brand new machine includes starter black and tricolor HP 65 ink cartridges that are partially filled which is common practice for most printer manufacturers to get you up and running. These run out pretty quickly, however, and soon you will find yourself paying full price for a brand new set of standard HP 65 or high yield HP 65XL cartridges.
The average price of a genuine high yield black HP 65XL ink cartridge for the Deskjet 3755 is $32.99. and the color equivalent goes for $37.99. After one trip to the store you’ve already spent almost as much as the printer. At that rate, you might be better off buying a brand new printer every time you run out of ink!
We’ll go over ways to circumvent paying full price on ink later in the article, but for now we want you to simply consider the price tag of the printer andink cartridge.
2. Find the Printer that Fits Your Needs
Printers nowadays offer many different functions and features. You first need to decide if you need an inkjet or laser printer. Inkjet printers are compact, versatile and capable of printing both documents and decent looking color photographs. The majority of them feature all-in-one capabilities, allowing you to print, scan and fax with ease.
Most include a wireless feature and require multiple ink cartridges to keep your machine running. Laser printers are considered the workhorse of the printing world. Common in offices, the most popular laser printers are monochrome, meaning they only print in black and white. For a legal office that prints a lot of documents and color is not a necessity, a monochrome laser printer makes the most sense. Laser printers use a toner cartridge to produce a print and although the cost of the toner itself is typically more expensive than an inkjet cartridge, they print considerably more in the long term. Color laser printers are also an option for offices that print a lot of color but instead of spending money on one expensive toner cartridge, you will end up spending it on four.
In order to save the most amount of money and still get the right printer for your needs you first need to be familiar with a few terms that printer manufacturers frequently use when selling their latest and greatest machine. We will go over a few terms here, followed by some printer recommendations that will most certainly help you save.
***Go to this link if you want to jump right to the list of ink saving printers, but we strongly urge you to read on and learn more about how to choose the right printer.***
Printer Terms You Need To Know
Page Yield – Page yield by far is the most important thing to pay attention to when considering a new printer. A printer’s page yield is the average number of prints a cartridge will give you as determined by the manufacturer. Manufacturers include this number on the box and the yield can vary significantly depending on what type of cartridge you have. Even printers with identical price points and features may have very different page yields and cartridges for a very different price. Page yields are based on ISO standards, using a standard test page at 5% coverage.
Total Cost of Ink – Why is it so important to pay attention to a printer’s page yield? Because of how it translates to the total cost of ink your printer will use regularly. The cost of ink is where most printer manufacturers make the bulk of their money. As illustrated by the previous example with the HP, printer companies will often sell their machines for cheap, only to charge a premium on the ink. The cost of ink is calculated by dividing a printer’s page yield by the cost of the ink cartridge. For example, the price of a genuine HP 65XL black ink cartridge is $32.99 and its page yield is 300 pages. After a bit of division, the cost is 10 cents per page. This is why aftermarket cartridges have become such a viable alternative. Aftermarket cartridges can be worlds cheaper than the genuine brand, and if bought from a reputable supplier, come with a nice guarantee too. If you were to buy a compatible HP 65XL black cartridge at $23.99, your cost would only be 7.9 cents per page.
Duty-Cycle – A duty cycle is the number of pages a printer can print in a month without any issues. Businesses use this number as a way to keep track of performance and to gauge when a particular part might go bad. Replaceable parts like a drum or fuser assembly will wear out over time and can be expensive to maintain. Keeping tabs on wear and tear will keep your printer running smoothly for a longer period of time and ensure you are getting the most from the machine. Consumers that routinely print at a high volume should pay attention to their printer’s monthly print volume, or the number of pages a user requires from their printer. If you print 5,000 copies a month it wouldn’t make sense to invest in a printer that only handles a 1,000. Read up on the statistics of each machine you are considering and buy one that makes sense for your needs. If you only print a few times a day your monthly print volume shouldn’t be a concern but you should still pay attention to your cartridge’s page yield.
Print Speed – Printer companies call a printer’s speed PPM, or pages per minute, and the quality of a print can vary depending on how quickly you are churning out pages. For example, printing in draft mode may be faster but the end result isn’t going to look as good compared to a print in optimal mode. Laser printers tend to be much faster than an inkjet and are the preferred machine for a business that has a need for speed.
Now that you are familiar with some of the terms, it’s time to consider what type of printer makes the most sense for your needs whether for home use or business use. We’ve reviewed a couple of both for you to consider, with savings being one of their main criteria. If you are still on the fence about compatible ink, you can learn more about it here.
Ink Saving Printers: Printers That Use Less Ink
If price is your only deciding factor, here’s a list of printers that are priced reasonably and also use ink efficiently.
HP® OfficeJet Pro 9015 – Buy on Amazon
One of the most inexpensive ink-saving inkjets is the OfficeJet Pro 9015. It has everything you need for the home office, including print / scan / copy functions and automatic duplexing for easy double sided printing. The printer uses the HP 962 ink cartridge series which print up to 1,000 pages with a standard black cartridge and 2,000 pages with an XL or high yield black cartridge. Standard color cartridges print up to 700 pages each and the high yield options print up to 1,600! It offers fast print speeds too, making it a solid choice for most casual home printer users.
Canon® PIXMA® TS6320 – Buy on Amazon
The PIXMA TS6320 is a great buy when it comes to functionality. Cartridges are available in three sizes (standard yield / high yield / extra high yield) in black, cyan, magenta, yellow and pigment black. The extra high yield Canon PGI-280XXL and CLI-281XXL cartridges are your best option if you print frequently, offering more ink per cartridge. A 5-inch touchscreen is easy to navigate and a borderless printing feature ensures your photos look professional-grade. To top it off, it’s one of PC Mag’s Best All-in-One inkjet printers for 2020 too.
Brother® MFC-J995DW All-in-One – Buy on Amazon
The first of two ink tank printers on our list, the Brother MFC-J995DW is also one of the most ink-efficient. Part of Brother’s INKvestment tank printer line, this printer’s hybrid ink tank system holds more ink than most inkjet printers (which means cartridge replacement is rare) ultra-high yield Brother LC3035 black cartridges print out 6,000 pages and color cartridges produce more than 5,000 pages. Copy / fax / scan options are all included and the print quality is superb.
Recommended Printers for Home Use
For those who want a printer with the capabilities fit for home use, here are some printers you may want to look at.
Epson® WorkForce WF-4830 – Buy on Amazon
Compact and inexpensive, the Epson WorkForce WF-4830 is a nice all-in-one option for the average home user. Appreciated for it’s ability to print, scan and copy, all three functions are very useful features to have at your fingertips. The Epson WF-4830 uses Epson 822XL ink cartridges and these are considerably less expensive than the cartridges of other similarly priced printers and its wireless connectivity option makes printing from anywhere a snap. The automatic duplex printing function saves paper and money, allowing you to print on both sides of the page with the push of a button.
Epson® Expression Premium XP-6100 – Buy on Amazon
The Epson Expression XP-6100 is the perfect home printer for printing photos. It uses 5 high yield Epson 302XL cartridges which come in: black, cyan, magenta, yellow and photo black. The regular black cartridge is for printing text and the photo black cartridge creates more defined shades of black and gray in your photo prints. On top of that, it offers a similar all-in-one functionality to the Workforce and a handy built-in USB / memory slot for easy edits and prints from your camera.
What I like most about both of these options is the fact that they both require multiple ink cartridges. Some inkjet printers on the market require just two cartridges (a black and tri-color). What gets to be cumbersome about the two cartridge variety is the fact that when one particular color is low you’ll need to replace the entire cartridge. With a four color ink tank, you only need to replace the problem color which saves you frustration and money in the long run.
Epson® Ecotank® ET-2720 – Buy on Amazon
The Epson Ecotank ET-2720 is an ink tank printer that’s built for home offices. If you are looking for a color printer but don’t want to spend a fortune on multiple color toner cartridges, ink tank printers are a great alternative. The Ecotank ET-2720 is a good entry level option due to its decent price tag and generous high capacity ink tank bottles. Instead of printing with cartridges, EcoTank ink tank printers use a refillable tank system and ink bottles to produce a print. Refilling your printer with ink is just like filling up your gas tank, just unscrew the bottle and fill ‘er up to the appropriate ink level on your printer’s display! Best off all, the printer’s continuous ink system delivers the ink via an airtight tube to the printhead, so ink won’t dry out over time. Color output for graphics and photographs is incredibly vibrant compared to color laser printing too. Epson Ecotanks offer the durability and workhorse capacity of a laserjet with the precision and color brilliance of an inkjet, all rolled into one very capable machine. The Epson ET-2720 uses Epson 522 ink bottles which come in black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
Recommended Printers for Business Use
Finding the right printer for your business is a tricky task. Every company has different printing habits and every business printer has different functions they do well. To make a calculated assessment of what your company’s habits are, take a look at our small business printer guide here. In the meantime, we will take a look at two inexpensive business savvy printers that might just suit your company’s needs.
Brother® HL-L2390DW – Buy on Amazon
Brother’s HL-L2390DW model is a moderately priced monochrome printer that is perfect for heavy duty office printing. Relatively small in size, it fits neatly onto any desk or work surface. It’s easy to use control panel and built in wireless function lets you print seamlessly from any mobile device. The Brother HL series also uses a competitively priced black toner cartridge. The Brother brand TN760 High Yield Toner offers a yield of 3,000 pages and goes for $79.99, making the total cost around 2.6 cents per page. If you go with the LD compatible TN760 for at $34.99, the total cost is just .99 cents per page.
Brother® MFC-L3710CW – Buy on Amazon
If you’re looking to add some color to your office documents, the MFC‑L3750CDW from Brother is a great choice. Get speeds of 29 pages per minute for in black and 22 in color, paired with top of the line scanner/copier and fax functionality. Though cartridge replacements can be expensive, this is a good model to go with if you regularly require professional grade color prints. To keep running costs low, we suggest using compatible toner cartridges are a fraction of the cost of an original Brother toner cartridge. LD Products sells the high yield compatible TN227 cartridges for just $35.99 each.
Even with dozens of printers to choose from, it’s easy to make a smart purchase once you’ve familiarized yourself with your options and weighed them against your needs. Keep in mind the total cost of the printer, not just the initial printer price, and you should be able to buy a machine you a completely satisfied with.
*Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices and printer brand (OEM) cartridge prices effective as of June 27, 2022 on www.LDProducts.com. All products are reviewed independently. As an Amazon associate, LD Products earns from qualifying purchases through links on this page. OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.