Cost Per Page Comparison: Laser Vs. Ink Jet Printers
By Douglas Hassell
Choosing between inkjet printers and laser printers often comes down to price, but there's also the question of the long-term cost per page. Even when you find that cost, there's more to consider than just those numbers when shopping for a printer that meets your needs.
About Laser Printers
The first commercial laser printer arrived in 1976. These machines used a method similar to the photocopiers of the same era. The "dry ink," or toner, used for laser printing is relatively inexpensive. However modern laser printers include the transfer drum inside the toner-cartridge, increasing the cost. Steadily streamlined manufacturing coupled with more efficient technology has brought that cost down over the years.
About Inkjet Printers
Just a few years after production began on the first commercial laser printers, inkjet printers appeared. The liquid-based pigment used for inkjets is more expensive to produce than toner, but it takes less to make a similar mark on paper. While ink cartridges are cheaper to produce, even high-capacity ink cartridges cannot compete with the large capacity of a competitive toner cartridge.
Cost Versus Price
Ultimately, the question of inkjet versus laser is a combination of two factors: initial investment and cost over time. Laser printers are typically higher priced, but deliver lower cost per page despite having more expensive cartridges. Inkjet printers are typically cheaper to buy, but become more expensive to own as the ink cartridges are replaced again and again.
Another factor in cost comparison is the typical duty expected of a printer. Business forms, memos and letters are lightweight and cost much less on a laser printer, even with touches of color. Full-page, full-color layouts and spreads take their toll, but an inkjet printer is be easier to replace when it breaks down.
Both types of printers have a page yield listed for the replacement cartridges. This is a standardized measure of how many pages the unit is expected to produce without losing quality. Cost per page is found by taking the price of the cartridge and dividing it by the page yield. Some cartridge packaging shows a calculated cost per page for you.
In a cost-per-page analysis, laser printers usually come out ahead, but inkjet printers are cheaper to buy and replace. In the end, it comes down to a strategy that fits your needs, both in the short and long terms.
Douglas Hassell has been writing throughout a career that spans more than 20 years, specializing in step-by-step instructions and turning complex concepts into simple language. He holds an Associate of applied science in graphic design and multimedia.