What are the true life cycle costs of laser printers?

More important than the price of the printer is the life cycle cost of the printer. It’s no wonder companies today give away printers with the purchase of a computer or why they offer an email-in discount that will return practically the full original purchase price.

Believe me when I tell you it’s not because they figured out how to make these devices free I can assure you. These manufacturers rely on the after-market revenue generated every time you print a document.

I’ve seen companies flush hundreds of thousands of dollars down the toilet by failing to understand and control the operating costs of their laser printers. It is my passion to help you discover and understand the true financial impact printers can have on your operating budget.

The toner cartridge is the largest contributor to the total life cycle cost of your printer. Not only does it cost a significant amount – especially when compared to the printer’s original purchase price – it is also the item that is replaced most often. Sometimes with the right discounts or specials, it’s even cheaper to replace the printer than to buy a new cartridge, aside from the soft dollar cost of the time spent replacing the printer.

The second most common cost component for a laser printer is the Preventive Maintenance Kit or “PM”. This kit usually consists of the fuser unit, secondary charge roller and paper feed belts.

To properly calculate the minimum life cycle cost of a printer, you need to know the cost and life of these two components. There are statistics on almost every printer ever made from a number of different sources. The one I use the most is Buyers Laboratory.

The information you need is:

  1. The stated yield and cost of the toner cartridge.
  2. The stated revenue and cost of the maintenance or “PM” kits and parts.
  3. The manufacturer’s monthly recommended duty cycle.

The manufacturer’s monthly recommended duty cycle is always far out of proportion to what the device can actually handle. A general rule of thumb is that the printer can handle about 20% of the manufacturer’s recommendation. This information is also important when you are trying to customize a printer that meets your needs.

Let’s take an example from the real world. I am not going to name the make and model of the printer, but I will say this is the most popular “Department” format printer on the market.

We will start first by looking at the toner cartridge. The cost of this cartridge is $ 224 and will yield 20,000 printed pages. That means the cost per page is $ 0.0112.

Next up is the PM Kit. The cost of the PM Kit is $ 375 and accounts for 225,000 pages printed. The cost per page for the PM Kit is $ .0017.

The final cost of using the printer is the service cost of replacing the PM kit. In this example, a 1-hour service call would be required for $ 100. Divide this cost by the revenue from the PM Kit and that would equate to a cost per page of $ .0004.

This means your minimum cost per printed page is $ 0.0133. It is very unlikely that you will not have additional service calls during the life of the printer due to malfunctions or poor image quality. I am not going to attempt to estimate your other operating costs that you will incur while using a laser printer. You can rest assured that if everything works flawlessly, it will be the most optimistic operating costs you could experience with this printer.

Remember when I said a general rule of thumb for monthly volume is 20% of what the manufacturer recommends? This particular printer has a recommended monthly volume of 250,000 printed pages. This means that to obtain maximum results from this device, you should not produce more than 50,000 printed pages per month.

Most companies expect a printer to last about 5 years. I calculate that the total number of pages that will be produced over a 5-year period will be 3,000,000. Multiply 3,000,000 pages by our total cost per page of $ 0.0133 and you get $ 39,900. For most of us, we’ll have to add tax to this figure as well.

That’s right, in 5 years you will buy 150 toner cartridges, 13 PM kits and a minimum of 13 service visits to replace the PM kits. This device happens to be one of the most cost efficient devices offered by this manufacturer. Normally, laser printers cost twice this amount to run, so you have to be very careful not to flush your hard-earned cash down the same toilet like many others.