Money-saving printers could cost you more in long run

Consumer Reports tests home printers

SAN ANTONIO – Looking to buy a new printer before the kids go back to school?

It may be tempting to buy an inexpensive printer, but once people factor in the cost of replacement ink, they may not be getting such a bargain.

So what are costs of printers over the next few years?

"Inkjet printers vary widely on how much ink they use,” said Rich Sulin, an electronics expert with Consumer Reports. “The price of a cartridge ranges anywhere from $12 to $120 by itself. So that printer you may have paid only a little bit for will cost you a lot more over time."

In a Consumer Reports survey, almost half of printer owners said they are paying too much for printer cartridges and more than a quarter of them said they have to "buy new cartridges too often."

CR suggests researching ink prices and doing the math to find out how much you're really paying for that printer over time.

The HP Envy will set people back $130 and needed new ink after just five months.

After three years, the total cost was $471 and after five years it was $735.

The Brother MFC model is a little more up front, at $225, but it did not need another ink cartridge for almost a year.

After three years, its cost was more moderate at $336 and $444 after five.

"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."

The $280 Epson Ecotank didn't need new ink for more than two years.

After five years, its total cost was $315.

That was less than half of what the bargain printer costs after five years.

But Sulin said there is compromising with the refillable tank

"The drawback with the ecotanks, including this model, is that text quality was only fair in our tests," he said. 

Consumer Reports also looked into generic or third party printer ink cartridges.

So far, its survey results seem promising, but using generic ink may void the warranty on your printer.


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