Technology

Pay Less to Print

Before you buy a new printer, figure the cost per page.

Manufacturers of inkjet printers have long used the razor-and-blades business model: The machines often cost $100 or less, but the ink cartridges can add up to two or three times that much in just one year. Now, however, increased competition and consumer outrage are writing a new chapter.

Over the past year, both Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard have run ad campaigns touting low ink prices, notes Andrew Lippman, a printer analyst with Lyra Research. And Eastman Kodak's latest turnaround strategy is based largely on cheaper cartridges for its printer line.

For example, Lexmark now sells a $5 black ink cartridge, the 105XL, which prints an estimated 500 pages. That's 75 pages more than Kodak's $10 10B black cartridge, which itself is considered a value compared with similar cartridges that cost $13 to $20.

Grab your calculator. The best way to get your money's worth is to figure out what it will cost to print per page, says PCWorld magazine senior editor and printer guru Melissa Riofrio. Start with a printer model you like. Then go online to find out how much you'll pay for cartridges and how many pages each cartridge will print. (Manufacturers and reputable online vendors, such as Amazon, often list page yields along with the cartridge's technical specs.)

Now divide the cost of the cartridge by the page yield. For example, the HP Photosmart C4780 uses the HP 60 black ink cartridge, which costs $15 and yields 200 pages. Cost per page: 7.5 cents. By comparison, the Kodak ESP 3250 uses Kodak's 10B cartridge, which has a 425-page yield. Cost per page: 2.4 cents.

More may not be less. But high-capacity cartridges may not be for everyone. "If you don't print very much, a high-yield cartridge that sits for months and dries up isn't necessarily a good thing," says Riofrio.

You'll need to run the numbers for color ink cartridges, too. Printers that use a single tricolor cartridge -- which has cyan, magenta and yellow ink tanks in one unit -- cost more in the long run. That's because once one tank runs out, you have to replace the entire cartridge, which typically costs $30 to $40.

Once you've compared printing costs per page, you still have to decide whether the most economical printer has the features you want. And you should compare print quality with that of pricier models. Visit a local retailer and put the printers through their paces.

One good choice for affordable home printing is the Canon Pixma iP4700 ($100). This inkjet model produces sharp, clear photos and documents, and it can print on both sides of the page (another money saver). Its inks are reasonably priced; the five individual ink tanks -- black, cyan, yellow, magenta and photo black (for pictures) -- are priced from $13 to $15 each.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021
15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices
real estate

15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices

Home prices have rocketed higher across most of the country, but housing costs are acutely painful in these 15 U.S. cities.
October 20, 2021

Recommended

How to Haggle for Almost Anything
Smart Buying

How to Haggle for Almost Anything

These strategies will help you negotiate a better price for just about any product or service.
September 30, 2021
Extending Broadband to More Americans
Technology

Extending Broadband to More Americans

The infrastructure bill would provide billions to improve internet access to rural and low-income households.
September 29, 2021
New Buy Now, Pay Later Options
Smart Buying

New Buy Now, Pay Later Options

If you’ve been considering a BNPL plan, make sure the credit card in your wallet doesn't already have you covered.
September 29, 2021
36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021
Smart Buying

36 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2021

Get your money’s worth by taking full advantage of your $119 Amazon Prime membership. Here’s a list of the best Prime perks to use for the rest of 202…
September 29, 2021