Monochrome Laser Printer TCO/Cost - Preliminary Results

I’m regularly asked by customers “Which laser printer should we get?” or “What’s the cheapest good laser printer?” Here’s an initial stab at answering those questions. I’ve been pulling together some numbers on the costs to purchase & run assorted monochrome laser printers. While there’s still work to be done on tracking down some items like maintenance kit part numbers and prices, none of the outstanding information is likely to lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a printer.

The preliminary numbers have surprised me quite a bit.

  • Brother – a company I’ve always looked at as being a good choice for a home printer – is hands-down the winner on a pure cost standpoint over almost the entire range of print volumes.
  • Hewlett-Packard/HP, which I knew would command a price premium, is never even within 15% of the best TCO, with toner costs in its low- to mid-range LaserJet printers more than twice most other manufacturers.
  • Lexmark, another brand that I expected to be somewhat pricey, was within 15% of the best TCO only with one low-end printer under very light loads typical of household use.
  • Dell, while the numbers are incomplete, looks like a very solid value for higher-volume printing or over the long term (300,000+ pages)

Read More for print volume numbers and some specific printers.

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Calculating Printer Costs and TCO

I’m currently working up an article on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for printers and choosing printers for your office, but while I work on the details (including researching costs for a variety of printers) here’s some information on the calculations involved. This is important for small to midsize offices because the variation in cost between different printer manufacturers and between low-end, midrange and high-end printers can add up to thousands of dollars a year in consumables.

Currently I’m only focusing on monochrome/black & white laser printers. The same calculations can be applied to color and multifunction/all-in-one printers as far as printing is concerned, but they don’t take into account the potential added value of the additional features (and volume of color printing will vary by office). I’m also not factoring in the cost of paper, since it’s effectively a constant – it’s unlikely that paper cost will vary based on which printer is chosen.

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Choosing Printers for the Office

For many small businesses, when it’s time to add or replace a printer in your office it’s easy to just go to an office supply store and buy whatever’s on sale. It’s also almost always a mistake.

It’s worth doing at least a little research when you’re purchasing technology items, particularly for items that you expect to last or that use consumables – specifically printers and fax machines. Because of the use of paper, toner or ink and possibly maintenance supplies, the up-front purchase price of a printer or fax machine is only a very small part of the total cost you’ll pay over several years of ownership. There may also be a surprisingly significant difference in setup costs between different pieces of equipment if you’re paying a third party to set up equipment and get it working for you.

This article leads off a series of occasional articles on purchasing printers for your office with a quick overview of some of the issues that I’ll examine in more detail in future articles.

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