How to choose the best printer for your business

By Anthony Caruana

We've been promised the paperless office for a couple of decades, but the reality is that most small businesses are printing more than ever before. So how do you choose the best, most efficient printer for your business?

I walked into the local office supply store the other day and looked through the printer section. There were literally dozens of makes and models to choose from, ranging from $40 to over $1000. All looked like they could be what I need for my office. So how do you choose?

1. Decide what you actually need

When you're faced with a huge choice, it's important to start with a list of what you need so you can make a wise selection. The key things to consider are:

  • Do you need colour or is mono suitable?
  • How many pages do you plan to print each month (this is referred to as the "duty cycle" by some manufacturers)?
  • How much space do you have available?
  • Would a multifunction device that can photocopy, fax and scan be useful?

2. Set a budget

Walking into a store with no idea of your spending limits is not a great idea. Particularly when the range of choices and potential pushiness of commission-based salespeople can convince you to spend a little more than you had planned. Set a budget and stick to it.

3. Look at running costs

Although the upfront cost of your printer is important, the ongoing costs are probably more significant. Once you get down to a shortlist of potential printers that will suit your needs, you should calculate the ongoing running costs. To do this you need:

  • An estimate of your current print volume (you'll also need this when considering your options so you get a printer with a duty cycle that matches your needs).
  • The prices of consumables for the printers you're considering and how many pages each cartridge is rated to print. This is critical. Although some printers offer cartridges that cost just $20, they may only print 250 pages, whereas a $60 cartridge for a different model might print 1000 pages.

Armed with that data you can make an estimate as to the printer's running costs. For example, if you print 1000 pages per month you could end up with the following to consider. Note that the figures are indicative only and are designed to illustrate the process.

Printer 1

Printer cost: $1000

Toner/Ink: $400 per 5000 pages ($0.08 per page)

Paper $6 per 500 sheets ($0.012 per sheet)

Three year cost: $1000 + $2880 + $432 = $3312

Printer 2

Printer cost: $300

Toner/Ink: $120 per 500 pages ($0.24 per page)

Paper $6 per 500 sheets ($0.012 per sheet)

Three year cost: $300 + $8640 + $432 = $9372

So, even though Printer 1 cost three times more than Printer 2, the cheaper printer ends up costing three times as much over three years.

When you hit the stores now you can make a smart decision about what's going to be best for your business.


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