Investigation: Ink-tank versus cartridge printers reveal shocking savings

Epson ink-tank printer in office
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Next time you are in the market for an inkjet printer, it might be best not to buy on price. A recent visit to Officeworks to compare ink tank versus cartridge printers uncovered that you can buy a cartridge printer for under $40. The cheapest ink tank printers start well into the $300 mark. So what do you get for your money, and should you spend as little as possible?

Which is cheaper in the long run?

GadgetGuy’s sister publication Small Business Answers has recently run the numbers, and the results were very surprising. We knew that ink tank printers were more economical, but the difference was much bigger than we thought.

An Ink tank printer can print 6,000 to 7,000 pages with the supplied ink bottles on purchase. On the other hand, cartridge printers may print as little as 100 pages per cartridge. Also, the cartridges that ship with the printer tend to be smaller and have even less ink.

Print-wise, the quality is largely the same regardless if it’s a cartridge or ink-tank printer.

The Small Business Answers comparison checked retail prices from Officeworks to compare a $38 cartridge printer with a $399 ink tank printer.  This was a difference of $361. New cartridges were priced at $30.88 each.

If you assume you use the cartridge printer over a 3 year period and printed 1 page a day (that’s 2 reams of paper over 3 years) in monochrome, the total cost is about the same at the $400 ink-tank printer. However, if you change to colour printing, the $400 budget can’t even print one full page a day for a year.

Suppose you made the same comparison over the life of the supplied ink bottles in the ink tank printer versus the cartridge model. In that case, this is where printing costs get crazy. The compared ink tank model can print 6,700 mono pages or 6,200 colour pages with the supplied ink at the printer’s total cost and included ink of $399.

For the $38 cartridge printer to print the same number of black and white pages would be approximately $1,698. Thus, you would be paying a premium of $1300. In colour, this cost blows out to $2520, a premium of $2,121!

So, the moral of the story is an inexpensive printer may seem like a bargain at the time of purchase, but as soon as you start printing, it will cost you a lot more. If you just need a printer for a few pages here and there, perhaps the cartridge printer makes sense, but otherwise, the more pages you print, the better value the ink-tank printers become. For all the details, check out our full story at Small Business Answers.