How to calculate your printing costs

A woman is using a calculator to work out the cost per page of her printer

John Sollars, managing director of printer consumables superstore,, explains how to calculate your printer running costs

Forecasting and maintaining your printing costs is not easy, yet it's an important task if you want to limit the amount you spend whilst still getting an office printer to suit your needs.

Over a printer's lifetime, the running costs will generally dwarf the upfront purchase price. So, if you're looking to buy a new printer, it's important to work out what it will cost to run the printer before making your purchase.

Having said that, it's more important to find the right printer for your needs. So, start by deciding what features you need, and forget about limiting costs for now. You have to meet your office requirements, so you might as well address those first.

  • How much printing will you do?
  • What will you be printing?
  • Do you need colour printing?
  • Do you need to print on both sides of the paper?
  • Do you need a printer that can collate and staple?
  • What is your budget?

Printer running costs, ink and toner

Once you've determined your printer requirements and have some models in mind, you can start investigating printing costs. Begin by checking the cost of ink or toner cartridges. Manufacturers make their profits on these, so cheaper printers often have higher running costs.

To roughly calculate the cost per page, divide the price of an ink or toner cartridge by the number of pages the manufacturer says it should cover. However, these figures can be unrealistic. Printer manufacturers base their figures on 5% of each printed page being covered in ink. In reality a full page of text is usually closer to 10%.

The same problem affects any 'cost per page' figures that manufacturers quote, so always take these it a very large pinch of salt.

Calculate the printer's cost per page

If you know the format and layout of pages you will be printing (such as a company letterhead or marketing brochure), you can use page coverage software like APFill to predict the cost per page for printing in your company.

This will help you find the best value printer for your business' needs – no matter whether you need to do lots of colour printing, or need standalone, high-volume black cartridges for more general printing. Combine the running cost with the initial printer purchase price to build a clearer picture of how much the printer will cost your business overall.

Monitor your printing costs

Once you've bought your new printer, see if it comes with printer maintenance or counting software to monitor how many pages you actually get from each ink or toner cartridge. With time, this will allow you to predict when you need to buy replacement cartridges. Some printers will automatically re-order ink before your printer runs out.

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