How To Budget for a Color Laser Printer

The key is cost per page

Although everyone, including me yesterday in a couple of my printer jokes, makes fun of the cost of ink jet cartridges. However, sticker shock for color laser cartridges may slap you like a dead mackerel to the face. Let's talk about color laser printer costs, both for acquisition and for ownership.

Like ink jet printers, color lasers need multiple cartridges. The needed colors are cyan (blue-ish), magenta (red-ish), yellow (yellow-ish) and black. Ink jet owners know these colors well, and may continue to make jokes about buying a new printer rather than paying $20-$50 per color ink jet cartridges. So when they check into a color laser, and realize they need four color cartridges, they're not surprised, at least until they check the prices.

Black laser cartridges, which get the most use, are the least expensive. Depending on the type of color laser, meaning whether it's light duty for workgroups or heavy duty cycle and high throughput for a large group, the costs can range into the hundreds of dollars. Colored laser cartridges cost more than the black, sometimes as much as $300 or more per cartridge.

Here's where we need to invoke higher level thinking skills in your managers, which can be tricky. If you pay, say, $900 for a color laser, and then have to pay $1000 or more to replace all the cartridges, you may think lasers are far more expensive than ink jets to operate. But you're missing a critical bit of information: the number of pages created by ink jet cartridges are in the hundreds, while the laser printer cartridges produce thousands of pages.

Yes, costs for color laser cartridges are higher than costs for ink jet cartridges. However, the cost per printed page for color laser pages is much lower. Usually, when comparing a decent ink jet printer to a decent color laser printer, the laser pages cost half or less than the ink jet pages.

Ink jet printers tend to be rated to print hundreds of color pages per month, while color laser printers have a duty cycle of thousands and thousands of pages per month. When you print that much, the cost per copy, not the cost to replace a color cartridge, becomes the important number to compare. Printing thousands of color laser copies per month will be far cheaper than ink jet copies, and almost certainly cheaper than sending the color printing out to your neighborhood print service.

When you budget for color laser printers, think pennies per copy. Just make sure your business will benefit from an investment in a color laser by accurately assessing your print needs and color copy volume per month.

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