How to Avoid Costly Mistakes When Purchasing Your Next Printer

Watching paint dry. Reading the phone book. Listening to your mother-in law's latest advice on Tupperware procurement.

What do all the above activities have in common?

They are all exponentially more exciting than talking about the printers & copiers in your office.

It’s a dull topic, I get it.

It’s not like I grew up with posters of HP LaserJet MFP's on my wall as a kid, staring at them every night as I fell asleep dreaming about efficient document imaging processes.

No, I have absolutely no passion for printers. I think that would be a strange thing to be passionate about, to be honest.

But, I do have a passion for being a Managed Print Consultant - because I love helping people improve their lives both professionally and personally. It’s very rewarding, and ultimately that is what I help people do every day when I show up to work.

Is the most simple, boring strategy often the best one?

I have often found that the keys to improvement in any area of life can be found in the boring, menial details. These small details are often so simple that we ignore them, instead focusing our attention on sexy, innovative ideas that grab our attention in the short term …but may not lead to meaningful long term results.

Sometimes the most meaningful progress is created by focusing your energy on the boring areas of your professional or personal life that are staring you in the face every day – these stones that are left unturned may have buried treasure hidden underneath.

Let’s think about some common self-improvement goals, such as losing weight or saving money. I’m sure at some point in our lives, we have all tried to shed a few pounds or put a couple bucks aside for a rainy day, right?

Sometimes you can get a little too excited...

If you are anything like me, when you first decide to take on these new challenges in your life, you are probably extremely inspired, filled to the brim with motivation and ready to take on the world.

You might start up the latest “gluten-free, zero carbs, thyroid stimulating Atkins-Paleo Hybrid diet” designed by a team of NASA engineers & Oprah - which will also save you money because you are only allowed to eat a head of lettuce and sniff a smoked ham twice per day. Talk about two birds with one stone, eh?


Of course, this works great for the first couple weeks. Your bank account is growing, your waist line is shrinking, the cute barista at Starbucks winked at you – realistically, it could’ve been a lazy eye, but you’re in a “glass half full” kind of mood from the delirium of mild starvation.

Eventually, however, your progress stalls as you run out of steam and inevitably crash.

The strategy to achieve your goals wasn’t thought about in a long term, strategic manner and you also did not account for how your own hard-wired human psychology would affect your plan – we all revert back to our primitive reptile brain when times get tough… you learn that the hard way when you wake up on your couch surrounded by empty boxes of Pop Tarts and melted ice cream adhering your face to the cushion… at least that’s what my friend told me happened to him once…

Ok, so what's your point man?

Guilt-ridden binge eating aside, what I am getting at here is that a simpler, “boring” strategy may have ultimately been a more effective route to the goal of weight loss, even if it is less exciting to fantasize about.

What if, instead of training like a Navy Seal and eating like a runway model, you just stopped drinking soda and made sure to walk 10,000 steps per day? Sure, the results won’t be as fast and it is not as cool to tell your friends about… but in the long run, you will actually achieve the results you are aiming for because they are easy to achieve, sustainable and measurable activities.

At this point, you could have thoughts running through your mind such as: “What does any of this have to do with Managed Print Services?” or “Where can I find some Pop Tarts?”

Let’s say that instead of the personal goal of weight loss, you have the professional goal of trying to increase the profitability, efficiency and overall effectiveness of your business. Sounds challenging – but what if the answer was so simple, and so boring, that it is literally staring you in the face.

What if one of the answers to helping you achieve those goals was taking control of your printing expenses and managing the overall “document imaging eco-system” in your office – in the form of a Managed Print Services program?

If you’re giving me the skeptical hippo eyes right now, with your finger hovering over the “Back” button, I totally understand.


Most people would never think that their companies’ printing costs could be that substantial, or that those out-dated copiers in their office could really affect the efficiency of their employees that dramatically.

Personally, before I worked for Datarite, I would often walk by printers in the office and never even realize they cost the company anything. At the time, they were just a piece of plastic furniture that people seemed to curse at frequently and kick occasionally, like the red-headed step child of the office space.


Authors note: as an actual, real life, red-headed step child myself, I am totally allowed to make that joke... and in case you're wondering, "kick a ginger" day is absolutely a real thing, I have the physical and emotional scars to prove it. But that's a conversation for my therapist and I, let's get back to printers, shall we?

How much are you really spending on printing costs?

Once I began to explore the printing costs of several companies, I was shocked at the results.

Due to the fact that printers and copiers are often ignored, their costs and inefficiencies are ignored as well. A printer breaks, a random staff member goes to pick up a new one at the store with no thought of the future costs of supplies, reliability or how that device fits into their overall printing environment - this is so common that most people reading this probably wouldn’t think it’s a big a deal - but that one incorrect purchase could cost their company thousands of dollars.

How? Let me explain in a little more detail:

So let’s imagine a printer in your office breaks and then an intern is sent to go pick up a new one to replace it. They pick up the least expensive model they can find as instructed. It seems to work well, comes with a cool touch screen and it was also the cheapest printer available, so why would anyone ever think twice about the purchase?

Well, because printers are not a one-time expense. Once you buy a new printer or copier, that is just the very beginning of the costs your company will incur. The real expense comes the first time an ink or toner cartridge runs empty, and you have to go back to the store to purchase consumables.

Have you ever bought a new printer, then had the toner run out in a seemingly impossibly short amount of time… only to return to the store and discover that the toner cartridge is MORE expensive than the printer itself?

How does that even make sense? What if you bought a car and the first time you went to fill up the gas tank it cost you more than the purchase price of the vehicle?

That’s the not so dirty little secret of the printer manufacturers… all the money is made on the consumables. So next time you see an insanely low price tag on a printer, alarm bells should go off in your head. The printer is probably on sale because they could really give you the printer for free and still make a profit relatively quickly if you just return to buy toner a couple of times. Before you purchase the printer, head over to the toner cartridge aisle and figure out the “Cost Per Page” of that device.

Better yet, ask a Managed Print Consultant for some free advice.

However, if you would rather do it yourself, you will be happy to know that my job is not that difficult.

Figuring out your “Cost Per Page” is super simple, and only requires 3rd grade level math skills… which is fantastic for me because 3rd grade was really where I reached my peak academically... I won a coloring contest AND a spelling bee that year.

That's great, Steve - But can you just tell me how to save money?

The first step is to figure out the price of the toner cartridge you are looking for. You can choose remanufactured or OEM ink and toner, depending on your needs. If most of the documents you are going to print will be black and white internal documents, a remanufactured toner can be a great choice to lower costs. On the other hand, if you print a lot of documents in color or require top-tier quality for presentations and client facing documents I would play it safe and stick with OEM products.

Remanufactured toner cartridges will have a failure rate of about 3-5%. The best OEM cartridges will have a failure rate less than 1%. OEM toners may also achieve a higher yield due to their ability to work seamlessly with the printing technology of the hardware. For instance, HP’s OEM toner is specially designed to have a lower melting point which results in faster printing speeds, less energy waste, and higher page yields.

Speaking of “page yields”, that is the next step in determining your cost per page. You can find the yield for any given toner online with a quick Google search, or by sitting beside the printer and counting how many pages it takes for it to run empty. I recommend the first strategy, but I am also not here to tell you how to live your life.

Ok, so you have found the right toner or ink cartridge for the printer you are considering. Next, you have decided between a remanufactured or OEM toner and discovered the price tag. Now that you are also equipped with the knowledge of how many pages that cartridge will yield until it runs dry, you have all the tools you need to unveil the elusive and treacherous “Cost Per Page”.

Brace yourself. The next step in the process involves a mathematical equation that has perplexed great minds and caused wise philosophers to question the meaning of their very existence. Here it is:

Price divided by Yield = Cost Per Page

Mind = Blown , am I right?


Now that you know how to calculate the cost per page for any given printing device, you have the knowledge the printing companies do not want you to know.

I’ll explain how calculating this cost per page relates back to the total cost of ownership for any given device:

So in our example a printer in your office broke and the intern ventured out to the store and bought a $100 printer with a cost per page of 6 cents, which is pretty standard for a low cost printing device. Now let’s also assume that it will print the average of 5,000 pages per year (studies have shown the average office worker will actually print closer to 10,000 pages per year, so this is a relatively conservative estimate). Let’s also assume the new printer lasts for 5 years in the office before it starts having mechanical issues.

Over that time span, that printer will have spit out 25,000 pages at 6 cents per page, for a cost of $1500 plus the $100 initial purchase = $1600 in total expenses.

Remember, this cost is for just one, small insignificant personal printer that was picked up without anyone in the office even noticing.

Imagine if your company’s employees had understood printing costs a little better before venturing out to make the purchase. They could have purchased a more expensive $400 printer with a cost per page of only 2 cents per page instead.

Let’s see how that would have played out financially:

25,000 pages x 2 cents per page = $500

$500 + initial purchase price of $400 = $900 overall expense

Even with the initial purchase price being 4x higher, your company still would have saved hundreds of dollars overall. Again, these are estimated costs for a small personal desktop printer, using ½ of the average printing volumes for a typical employee … you can just imagine how these costs can extrapolate quickly when we start discussing the MILLIONS of pages put through some copiers in large corporate settings.

That’s when we start discussing real cost savings that can move the needle for your company and increase overall profitability considerably.

That was way too much math... can we wrap this up?

So here is my challenge for anyone who has made it this far in the article without falling asleep:

Explore your printing costs for yourself, and see how the number makes you feel. You can contact your local Managed Print Services provider to perform a free analysis of your printing environment in a more timely fashion – or if you are the “Do-It-Yourself” kind of guy or gal then I will tell you how to perform a simple printing cost assessment on your own:

  1. Compile a list of all of your companies’ printing devices.
  2. Using the complex mathematical formula above (Toner Price / Page Yield = CPP), calculate your cost per page for every device.
  3. Next, print out a “Page Count” from every device, and mark the date on the sheet.
  4. Wait 1-8 weeks and print out another page count sheet– use this data to calculate the average printing volume for every device. The longer the time span the more accurate the data will be.
  5. Multiply the cost per page for every device by its average monthly page volume and now you know how much each printing device in your office is costing your company on a monthly basis just for supplies.

The results may shock you. Printing costs are usually grossly underestimated, and seeing the actual number on paper for the first time can be a little surprising for a lot of executives.

But, the first step towards improvement in any area is admitting to yourself that the particular area does, in fact, deserve some of your attention – so at least now you are beginning to travel down the right path.

Of course, if the above steps sound a little overwhelming, tedious, or generally just a waste of your time, you can always contact your local Managed Print Services provider to handle this first step for you as well.

Most of them can install a simple software that will automatically track your page volumes and toner levels, allowing you to perform analysis over weeks or months at a time to track trends and give you the best advice possible.

Ok, time for a shameless plug, I apologize in advance...

If you’re working in North America, you could consider reaching out to the company I work for: Datarite.

We’re a locally owned company based in Atlantic Canada that’s been in operation since 1983, and we love what we do.

We are committed to only using sustainable, environmentally friendly products and always doing the right thing for our clients. We aren’t the cheapest on the market, and I wouldn’t even necessarily say that we’re “the best” either… but I really do think that we care the most, and I take pride in our capability to step outside of the conventional paradigms of thinking in the industry, allowing us to give our clients personalized service big corporations simply can’t match.

We aren’t the biggest Managed Print Services company out there… but we’re quick on our feet and eager to please, like a failed tap dancer who had to get a job as a waiter to pay the bills… ok, that may not have been the greatest analogy ever, but you get the point.

Our holistic approach to business trickles down from our forward thinking management team, and allows us to focus on just treating the customer the way we would want to be treated – giving logical solutions to issues that arise quickly & competently.

This makes Datarite a very enjoyable company to work for, and in my incredibly biased opinion also a very enjoyable company to do business with.

If you would like to find out for yourself, you can start by registering for your very own Printing Cost Analysis, free of charge. We will generate reports for you showing your printing costs broken down by location, device, and individual user.

Not only that, we can also illuminate any bottlenecks in your document imaging processes and employ strategies to help you further reduce your costs on paper and other related consumables.

Finally, we can also point out any potential security threats in your printing environment that may leave your business vulnerable to cyber criminals.

If the overall printing expenses and efficiency of your operations sound like an area your company would like to explore further, please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

Steven Croft, Senior Consultant:
@SteveCroftSales on Social Media

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my latest post. If you enjoyed it, you can find more posts I’ve written on my profile page.

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