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Experts: Factor in ink costs to judge printer value

Posted August 16

Looking for a new printer for yourself or a student?

It’s hard to resist a good sale, but that deal on a printer, may not be worth it. Inkjet printers vary widely on the amount of ink they use, which adds significantly to the cost.

"The price of a cartridge ranges anywhere from $12 to $120 by itself," said Consumer Reports' Electronics Expert Rich Sulin. "So, that printer you may have paid only a little bit for will cost you a lot more over time.”

Consumer Reports recommends researching ink prices. Do the math to find out how much you’re really paying for that printer over time.

Here's a look at the difference:

The HP Envy costs $130, but it needed new ink after just five months. At three years, your total cost is up to $471. At five years, it would cost $735.

A printer from Brother is a little more at first—$225—but it didn't need ink for almost a year. After three years, the cost would be $336, and five years down the road it would cost $444.

Experts: Factor in ink costs to judge printer value

“Another option is a printer with refillable ink tanks," Sulin said. "The tanks hold a lot of ink, so you go a long while before you have to refill them,” Sulin said.

The $280 Epson EcoTank doesn’t need new ink for more than two years. After five years, the total cost is $315, which is less than half of the bargain printer’s cost after five years.

But there was one drawback with it: In tests, the print quality was only fair.

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  • Andy Hairston Aug 17, 11:42 a.m.
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    My Brother MFC240C uses cartridges that don't have any electronics or print head - it's just a tank with a (magnetic?) float. Amazon sells aftermarket cartridges for it - $9.50 for a 12-pack. (NOT a typo!) The paper costs more than the ink! Quality has been excellent.