Total Cost of Printing

Put simply ...

... if it causes you to fork out money from your pocket so that you can print your documents and photos, it’s included in Total Cost of Printing!

Why then is this confusing?

Most often Total Cost of Printing is talked about as a Cost Per Page or CPP (for example in this article by PC Mag). But, sometimes this can be confusing, especially for consumers, because it is usually based on an average and on using a predefined test page. It is also generally viewed in rather basic or simplistic terms and expressed as the cost of the ink or toner only – and sometimes the cost of each colour of ink or toner on its own, which you will then have to add up. While this helps to compare one printer to another, it doesn’t help you to figure out how much money you will actually spend over the three years or so that you will actually use the printer.

Total Expenditure

Sometimes more helpful is to look at Total Cost of Printing in terms of projecting just how much money, as total £ / € / $ / ¥ / etc., will leave your pocket or bank account to keep your printer going over a given period of time (the importance of which is highlighted in this article by IT Pro). Believe me, comparing Total Expenditure can be a significant reality check when you are choosing a printer!

What Total Cost of Printing must include

Whichever method you find helpful, the calculation should obviously include whatever inks or toners you need as well as the cost of buying the machine in the first place. But, there are other things to include as well. Many laser printers also have a transfer belt or an imaging drum (colour laser printers may have four drums!) and a waste toner collector (yes, laser printers do waste toner just like inkjet printers waste ink – it’s a fact of printing life!). Some inkjet printers need to have print heads replaced every so often.

Then there is the cost of energy used over several years. This depends on how many pages you print, of what type, whether they are colour or black only and whether your printer is on for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year or whether you turn it off at night/weekend or turn it on only when you need it. Note: many printers cost much more in the long run if you turn them off every night or when you’re not using them, so beware and make sure you know which type of printer yours is!

These factors together represent the essential ‘hard’ costs of running a printer.

And what Total Cost of Printing can, or could, include

There are also multitudinous (whoops – lots) of other factors that are wrapped up in Total Cost of Printing. These include but are definitely not limited to: reliability – how often you need to sort out some kind of a failure and then reprint the page you wanted, even paper jams or ink leakages; life of consumables – how often you have to change cartridges (it takes time!); how far you have to walk to collect your print jobs – this can be seen either as time wasted or as much-needed exercise and social interaction; how big the paper tray is – again, affects how much time you spend fiddling with the printer; and whether the machine prints both sides of the paper or not.

What we avoid and why

One thing we tend not to look at in our calculations is the cost of paper. The reason for this is quite simple – there are so many types of paper out there that the choice of which to use is down to user preference and not the printer you choose. However, it is important to know whether your printer will print both sides of the paper automatically (‘double-sided’ or ‘duplex’). This obviously saves paper, trees, oil reserves and space – which leads us to the question of storage. Do you need a paper copy? If you didn’t keep paper copies, you would cut down on your printing costs and also avoid having to buy quite such a big filing cabinet that takes up quite so much space – space that you have to pay for.

It's personal

Total Cost of Printing is very personal and not a one-size-fits-all. Let’s take things on a step further. Total Cost of Printing is highly individual and no mathematical model can ever fully calculate the spend of any specific user. After all, in reality, you are not printing that test page mentioned earlier. Your documents and photos will probably have wide-ranging types of content and some pages will have very little on them while others have quite a lot and photos generally cover the whole page. It can be quite a shock when you discover how few prints you actually get from your cartridges if most of what you print is photographs!

So, what we do in our cloud-based software, tcprojector, is to make it possible for you to change some of the details relating to how you print so that you build a personalised profile of your printing habits. Now, you would find it extremely complicated if you had to change every possible setting to exactly what you think you print so, right at the moment, the solution is to make some of the most important changes to reflect the type of A4 office documents you print. It allow you to:

  • set the number of pages you print every day, month or year
  • set the proportion of different page types you print (choose from five illustrated page types and allocate percentages)
  • adjust ink coverage for each page type if required
  • set the proportion of pages you print in colour or black only for each page type

In the future we might also build in an adjustment to take into account photographs as well. However, at the moment, the app is intended to help with the cost of office type printing rather than photo printing.

Knowledge is power (not electrical!)

One hard fact that everyone buying a printer should take into account is that it will cost less in the long run if you can make a careful, and educated, choice of printer rather than rushing headlong into buying the cheapest machine that pops up in front of your eyes. In principle, pushing your budget just that little bit further on the purchase (within the same category of printer), carefully finding a machine that uses lower-cost consumables than the lower-cost machines use, will pay significant dividends in the long run.

Or, as we see in the example below, the choice of printing technology can be critical to the Total Cost of Printing.

What we have done here is to select two groups of multifunction printers. One group is made up of high-end business inkjet All-in-One machines, with print speeds between about 12ppm and 18ppm, and the other group is made up of colour laser multifunction machines in the range 20ppm to 25ppm. All machines are fax and wireless capable with automatic double sided printing as standard.

We have deliberately removed the model IDs from the table because there are so many machines we could potentially have chosen. However, these are genuine printers and all prices used in the calculations are genuine prices (Median Street Price including tax), sourced in Germany in December 2012.

Example chart

Note that for this selection of printers, the Total Expenditure over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of printing 70% of pages in black only and 30% of pages in colour; 5% page coverage for each colour;  is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase and the cost of power consumed, with the printer powered up 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.  All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

You will see from the table that the laser printers can cost as much as 2.7 times the cost of an inkjet printer. For a business, this represents extra expenditure of several thousands of Pounds/Euros/Dollars over three years - for every printer in the organisation - and this does include the cost of buying the printer in the first place!

Essentially, the more you print, the more you stand to save (or lose) by making a careful choice at the time of purchase.

Our goal

What we try and do at CharisCo Printer Labs is to provide information to individuals and business - bringing together as many factors as possible to keep them informed, thinking about plans and patterns of printing, and alert to factors that may be detrimental to their bottom line - that will help them to make these informed decisions and save money.

Happy (and economical) Printing!