The Printer Showcase, Inc., Computers  Supplies & Parts, Marietta, GA
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How much does your printer really cost? The purchase is only the beginning

When it’s time to shop for a new printer or MFP what do you look for? If you’re like most people the first thing on your list is purchase price. How much does it cost? What is available in my price range? How much machine can I afford? These may be the questions or thoughts that will most likely pop up first. Then you may consider other factors. If you need color you’ll probably be looking at print quality or print resolution and RAM. If you’re shopping for a B&W machine you might be focused on speed or pages per minute. After that you might consider paper handling capability. How many paper feeders do I need? What is the paper capacity and what sizes of paper can this new machine accommodate? It’s a lot of numbers to digest. If this sounds familiar you’re not alone.

If you are a more experienced or savvy shopper however, you will zero in on a much less sexy number. TCO or total cost of ownership. It’s not a number that you’ll find on a typical spec sheet and in fact it’s a number most manufacturers would prefer you ignore so you’ll have to do some digging or even worse. You may need to do some homework and manufacturers know you probably won’t do that. In fact they’re banking on it.

One of my favorite proverbs is about statistics and here it is: “Statistics are like bikinis. They reveal a great deal that is interesting but often conceal what is most vital”. The same can be said about spec sheets. They will have pretty color photos of happy productive people smiling and using the products. They will emphasize how great the machine prints or how fast it produces that eye popping presentation that will surely get you promoted. They will boast about apps, functionality, and beat you over the head about productivity. But buried in the back of the spec sheet, usually at the bottom and in small print, will be a list of all the consumables and maintenance kits that you’ll need to keep buying in order to continue using this great printer. Next to each one of those items will also be a rated yield or expected life. Those numbers, along with the prices of each supply, are the numbers we use to calculate cost per print which is the most underrated of all specs.

Here is another statistic for you. On average over the life of a printer you will spend five times more on supplies than you did on the actual printer. That’s an average so people who print a lot will spend way more than that. Add all those numbers together and you get your total cost of ownership. That’s how much you will spend on that machine over its life which includes not just the purchase price but also all the money spent on supplies and maintenance kits. Another very unfortunate and somewhat ironic reality is that the less expensive printers will actually be the most expensive to own and operate. If you are one of those people that keeps buying low end printers and find that you must constantly buy supplies almost every time you want to use it, then you are familiar with this death by a thousand cuts scenario.

So what do you do now that you’re armed with this knowledge? For starters you can be a much smarter shopper. When comparing printer supplies don’t focus merely on the price. Look at their supply yields as well. The higher yield supplies are generally going to yield the lowest cost per print though there are exceptions. A $50 toner that is rated to yield 1300 pages, for example, is not a good deal at all. Compare that to a toner that sells for $135 but is rated to yield 12,000 pages. That difference over time is HUGE! Ask questions about TCO if you have the luxury of talking to a human. If you’re shopping online you may need to do some math as cost per print is not published by most manufacturers so it’s not found on specs sheets.

One exception is Printer Showcase where we do the math and include our calculated cost per print on all of our side-by-side printer comparisons. On most comparisons we also display a TCO chart based on total number of prints so you can see what a specific machine will cost you to own over time. In the thirty three years we’ve been specializing in printers, it’s probably one of the things our customers truly appreciate and consistently point out in their reviews. 

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