THE price we pay is often the yardstick we all apply to our purchases. Price based on standard quantity, on supermarket shelves, helps us choose between brands. Price comparison websites help us navigate our way through more complex products, like insurance.
But what if no yardstick is available, as is the case when buying a printer and their cartridges? The scope for making a poor choice is enormous.
Some printers are loss leaders, encouraging us to buy a cheap printer in the knowledge that the profit will be made on the expensive cartridges we are then forced to buy. There is a huge price range in equivalent-performance printers but unless we understand that the cheaper printers usually come with basic ink cartridges and the more expensive with high capacity cartridges, then we will never be comparing like with like.
A bigger shock is still to come. The cost to buy the same amount of ink for the cheaper printer is often four fold that of the more expensive machine, meaning your initial perceived saving has actually cost you money – an additional cost that is repeated for the life of the printer.
You can save £4 off the high street price of £18 for a printer cartridge by buying off the internet. But as few cartridges carry volume information, you are unlikely to know that your saving could be substantially more for the same amount of ink – in a higher capacity cartridge. Printers that use combined colour cartridges can waste up to 80 per cent of their ink as the cartridge is effectively useless as soon as the first colour runs out.
The key to all this is the amount of ink in a cartridge, the most elusive information on the planet, even on printer manufacturers’ websites. Laura Seenan, business development management at Printerwise in Aberdeen explained: “Unless consumers have a meaningful price comparison they are taking a gamble.
“We specialise in selling printers that are cost-effective to run. We help our customers by using a yardstick based on the most common printing task – the cost of printing text on a pack of paper. Using manufacturers’ figures of five ml of ink to print 200 pages, we know that the current range of costs is huge – between £7 and £45.
“The cost of printing colour is so variable that an equivalent yardstick is not available. However, we would always advise buying a printer that uses separate colour cartridges to avoid the ink wastage issue.”
Next time you need to buy a printer, check the cost of printing a pack of paper; if you can’t get an answer you are taking an expensive gamble.