Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

Summary: It's common knowledge that inkjets are the Gillette razors of the personal tech industry: They sell the printers cheap and then gouge us with high-priced ink cartridges. To help provide more transparency into the true total cost of ownership for an inkjet printer, the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI), a non-profit consumer research organization, recently released a new tool for estimating ink costs.

TOPICS: Printers, Hardware

It's common knowledge that inkjets are the Gillette razors of the personal tech industry: They sell the printers cheap and then gouge us with high-priced ink cartridges. To help provide more transparency into the true total cost of ownership for an inkjet printer, the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI), a non-profit consumer research organization, recently released a new tool for estimating ink costs. The super-simple tool asks you to plug in the number of black-and-white text pages, color pages, and 4x6 photos you print in a week and spits out three lists of printers sorted by total costs over a three-year, five-year, and seven-year ownership period.

It's a great idea, but the tool is limited in usefulness for at least two reasons:

1) The results are based on test data from QualityLogic, an independent imaging and telecom testing lab, and is limited to the list of printers the lab has tested (currently only about 20, tested in October 2008). So, for example, none of the printers listed on QualityLogic's published list were currently available at

2) The tool only provides results for three-, five-, or seven-year periods.  Given that the majority of the printers listed sell for well under $200, I have a hard time imagining that anyone will be using them for more than three years. Most mainstream inkjet printers will be lucky to have a lifespan of even three years, much less five or seven.

Having said all that, as QualityLogic points out in its printer and MFP testing blog, as more printer manufacturers begin to report yields using ISO Yield Standards (which QualityLogic bases its testing on), there will likely be better data and more calculators popping up to help you sort through the inkjet print price conundrum.

[Via The New York Times Gadgetwise blog]

Topics: Printers, Hardware

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  • The money pit.

    I could tell early on that inkjet printers were the golden geese for the printer manufactures. If I hadn't owned an old dot matrix printer I might have fallen into their trap. Those things would go on forever and not need anything. The ribbon cartridges were cheap too. I don't use my printer that much, so little that if it was an inkjet the ink would have dried up. I use a small Samsung laser printer and it has always been there for me without fail for the last four years. No toner replacement either.
  • Broken link to calculator...

    ...tool for estimating ink costs... link is broken
    • Copy the link and put an "h" in front of it . . .

      It works.
      Basic Logic
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    Actually, my family has had most of our printers for WELL over that amount of time (3 years). One is nearly 7 years old, the other is coming up on 5.... we aren't going to get a new one until they croak.
    • Exactly, who buys a new printer every 3 years?

      These are printer not windshield wipers.
      • My experience...

        ...has been that many modern ink jet printers don't last much longer than their warranty. Besides, for what it costs to buy cartridges for the older printers, you can buy a new printer that is faster and has better print quality.

        That being said, I threw away my last ink jet at home and replaced it with a color laser. We are employing the same policy at work.
        • No Respect for Paying customers or The Planet

          Each time you replace the ink cartridge you are installing new print heads and getting fresh printer quality.

          Thats until the planned obsolescence, of the countless plastic gears kicks in.

          On the other side if you don't abuse the printer and keep it reasonably clean, it may last many years.

          But... If you refill your cartridges, for some unknown reason they have a tendency to empty themselves into the head cleaning printer absorbent pads, when parked and if they don't do that...

          Some manufacturers (HP) force the printer to go through a printhead "CLEANING" process each time the printer is turned on, and whenever the printer software feels like, to keep all nozzles clean and Oh how convenient to deplete the ink in the cartridges too (too bad).

          Sometimes I think that the software uses the printer's page counter and the older the printer gets the more ink it literally DRINKS with the "cleaning", until one day you find a big puddle of ink under your inkjet, like a heaven's sign to toss it.

          Or if you are mechanically inclined; to take it apart to play and fight with the ink monster for a while just to see if you can savage it.

          TOO MUCH WORK. what a pitty we all fell in their game, out of IGNORANCE, and now we keep doing the same out of CONVENIENCE.

          This and many other tricks are hitting bottom with this financial crisis, and I belive that the manufacturer that realizes that, and gets rid of the IMMORAL planned obsolescense, and produces a decent, good quality, durable and reliable printer, with no hidden agenda and stupid consumerism TRICKS; That manufacturer besides of staying in business (compared with the dissappearing brands) and will prevail at the end of the financial crisis.

          I'll be there to support him.

          NOW... to the MANUFACTURERS...
          This applies to everything that you manufacture

          You can sc..rew one person one time
          You can SC..rew many people many times
          BUT you absolutely, can NOT sc..rew
          ALL the people ALL the time.

          and if you try you will pay the price.
          Look at the Wall Street guys.

          Much of the same applies to Laser printers and cartridges, about pricing, refills, durabilty, reliability, printer OS updates to improve performance/features within the mechanical/electronic limits; almost non existent), bad design/quality plastic gears and design, also known as planned obsolescence or shody quality.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    Maybe if you print heavily on a daily basis you would wear out the printer within 3 years.

    My own printer(s), are 4 & 8 years old respectively. The ink cartridges are approximately the same price and haven't increased much in that time.

    Speaking of my own printing habits. I only print stuff if it is absolutely unavoidable, usually printing to PDF is my preferred choice these days.

    The cost per A4 sheet is 3.9 pence (~7 cents).

    The eight year old printer is a portable one, and it's more likely to need replacement batteries before it expires completely. The thought of throwing it on the scrap heap, doesn't make any sense, when we're supposed to be thinking about the [B]environmental cost[/B] of such a decision.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    in hong kong and bangkok you buy continuous inkjet printing systems that fit epson and HP printers. they hold a half pint of each color and costs only $40USD for the whole system. load it and print all month, beats the hell out of regular cartridges. dont understand why they arent available here. in usa we are getting ripped off royal.
  • continuous ink systems

    these things are the answer to cartridge cost, i stand corrected. goto and see the ink systems. i have used both bottles systems and refillable cartridges, both save a lot of money if you print a lot. the bottle systems can be messy but refillable cartridges are great. epson puts a microchip in cartridges that prevent them from being refilled and thats what costs you money.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    The best answer is to refill your cartridges. Inkjet ink in bulk form is a little more than Gallo Hearty Burgundy. Put it in an inkjet cartridge and its 10x the price of Dom Perignon. A cartridge is usually good for about 4-5 refills.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    The way to go now is to replace the inkjet with a color laser. Sure, the initial cost is more, but the toner lasts longer, and the price per page is way lower. Also, no more clogged print heads with dried ink.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    I have gone laser, one color (HP) and one AIO black(Samsung) .
    I will never go back to inkjet now.
    I do use a Canon inkjet for DVD printing only, and it works great (much better than my former ink eating Epson!)
    I actually refill my Samsung laser cartridges myself for only $15 a refill. Very inexpensive. The printer was $99. The HP color laser was $165
  • calc website dead

    It seems the calculator web site is off the air at this time...
  • Consumer level VS. Business level

    I just finished a total cost of use survey on printers. What I found shocked me. Consumer level all-in-one printers were up to twice the cost over a 4 year period than much higher initial costing business level printers if leased over a 4 year period. Reason was the cost per page for business level printers was at most 1/3, usually less than that of the cost of consumer level printers. Printing a few thousand pages a month, and you can save yourself a lot of money, have a higher producing product and faster throughput too. But, that's only if you have over a couple thousand pages per month volume in printing on a single device.
    • I noticed the same

      On my home network I have a shared HP LaserJet 4MV which cost around $5k over 15 years ago. The cartridge costs around $165 to replace and we get around 10,000 pages per cartridge. My wife teaches and she often prints several hundred pages of handouts, quizes etc. The printer has a powersave mode and uses a bit less than 20 watts in standby. I have looked at replacing many times, but the cost per page of this printer still does not warrant replacing it. We also used to have an HP DeskJet 2500 colour Inkjet which we got rid of after I discovered that the print heads and ink would be refused by the printer after the expiry date printed on them! Not sure how they do this, but after wasting nearly $400 of ink and heads (because we stocked up) we got rid of it and bought a pair of little all in ones. We print less colour now and use a service for any large colour jobs, but in the end nothing comes near the large (17 page per minute) laser.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    So based in the info, which printers are the best to buy in order to pay less for ink? I have an Epson, and like the other posters, agree that Epsons swallow one's ink. I had a Canon awhile back and loved it! Thanks.
  • RE: Estimate your real inkjet printing costs

    it is about time that someone start looking out for the consumer!The current ink cost is a rip-off!!! Kodak comes out significantly lower - almost 50% lower for ink. When is the free enterprise marketplace going to begin offering some real competition?
    • Be careful...'s not only the cost of the ink. Most HP printers have an integrated print head, which you replace when you change the cartridge. Not all printers have this (Canon does on most of their printers now, I suspect Kodak does not). Some of the higher end "business" HP inkjet printers (at least my DeskJet 2500CPS did) have replaceable print heads. The ink cartridges were about $50 each (4 colours) and then the heads were about the same. The smaller unit I have now has two cartridges and the head is replaced each time you change the cartridge. I remember an old Canon I had that they wanted $150 for the print head (but that was a long time ago).
  • Look closely at the ink cartridge before you buy

    anytime you are about to buy an ink jet, look closely at the ink cartridges it uses. Example: I had "smaller office" HP All-in-One ink jet that took a cartridge that could print about 200 pages for $19.99. I traded that printer for a "larger office" HP printer L7780. The printer costs about $100 more to buy, is faster and has more features. It's ink cartridge prints 2,300 pages for $21. The devil's in the details.