There will come a time when your printer eventually succumbs to an irreversible blocked print head, annoying paper jam or mysterious error message. It's time for a new printer, but which manufacturer, how much is your budget, how cheap are the cartridges and what features do you need? I take a look at some of the printer buying pitfalls we should all look to avoid.
Most of the non technical buyers will probably head straight to a leading electrical chain where they have a number of 'experts' on hand to guide them in the right direction... or sales assistant assassins, trained and waiting to pounce as you enter the store! Most have basic product knowledge training which will get them by in most situations, but more importantly they also have advanced training to sell exactly what the company wants them to sell!
The basic process is as follows... Manufacturers offer incentives to the electrical stores based on sales of specific products. This money is then made available to staff as a bonus when they sell that specific product from said manufacturer. Therefore, the sales assistant is more likely to want to sell you a £30 printer that earns them a £5 bonus, over an £80 printer with no bonus, regardless of what they really think about the product.
Result = Sales assistant is happy to have made a bonus, meanwhile the customer thanks the sales assistant for saving them money, for now.
Whatever you do, research what you want before going to the big electrical chains. In our experience, they will invariably try to sell you a very cheap printer knowing you'll be back to spend big on replacement ink cartridges. This is what makes the manufacturers happy as they make more profit from ink sales than printer sales, especially as your friendly sales assistant is likely to point you in the direction of OEM genuine cartridges (probably mentioning that third party cartridges might invalidate your warranty and could break your printer).
Such printers are available for under £40 and can usually be found stacked high on the end of an aisle. They are most likely to use the more expensive black and colour 2 tank cartridge system which is very inefficient for a number of reasons.
The major reason for the excessive cost is the fact that you are paying for a new print-head (situated on the cartridge) every time you buy a replacement, as opposed to the more efficient and wallet friendly individual cartridges that are installed into a permanent (or semi-permanent) print head within the printer.
A set of replacement ink tanks can cost as much as, and in some cases more than the initial cost of the printer. People have been known to buy a cheap printer, use it until the cartridges are empty then just purchase another printer.
You usually get a low capacity set of inks with a new printer so another large outlay of cash is just around the corner. In addition, the colour ink tank capacity is split between 3 colours (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow) so for example, whilst 18ml of ink looks quite a lot, it's only 6ml of each colour. Printing a high proportion of prints heavy in a certain colour will inevitably lead to wastage and having to replace the ink tank when just one of the colours has run out.
A cheap printer is also cheap for a reason, often lacking the features, print speed and build quality of more expensive models. The well known phrase "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice" is definitely the case here!
So... What should I buy? Obviously the choice is yours but I definitely recommend spending that little bit more on a better quality printer that takes individual ink cartridges, where you can immediately start reaping the rewards of saving on ink cartridge costs. It needn't be a massive initial outlay and sometimes spending £20 or £30 more can be the difference between a good printer choice and a bad printer choice!
For example, stepping up to a £70 printer may mean that your first set of compatible replacement cartridges costs £8 instead of £35. So after one set of replacement cartridges have been purchased you're not far off spending a similar total amount, but with the following benefits;
- Ability to replace cartridges individually when they run out, preventing wastage
- Most individual compatible cartridges have clear casing - See when cartridge is empty
- Save money every time you need to buy ink
- You now own a faster, better quality printer for a similar initial outlay
If you mainly use your printer for mono prints such as documents, invoices, dispatch notes etc. Then maybe it would be more beneficial to buy a mono laser printer. Starting from as little as £50 for a small home laser printer, you can then buy a 1,000 page yield (@ 5% coverage) toner cartridge from as little as £20, making each copy roughly 2p/page.