Laser vs Inkjet Printer: Cost Comparison

12 July 2012

Many people automatically assume that inkjet printers are cheaper because, well… they are cheaper. But when it comes to the costs over the life of the printer, that could be another matter entirely. Here are some things to think about when you are choosing what type of printer to purchase:

Initial purchase price:

The cost to buy a basic inkjet printer ranges from around $30 for the cheapest model.

The cost to buy a laser printer ranges from around $70 (for the cheapest model).

As you can see,  basic laser printers are more expensive.  At least initially they are. The printer I bought recently is a Brother multi-function all in one (refurbished) for around $300.

Here are some other pros and cons of laser vs inkjet printers as it is not simply price that you should look at when consider one or the other:

PROS of Laser Printers:

Laser printers print documents quickly and smudge free.   They can do this in high volume too.

PROS of Inkjet Printers:

Some inkjet printers can print colour more easily than laser printers, some inkjet printers can print photos (provided you have photo paper), and they are smaller and more easily portable.  They are cheaper to manufacture than laser printers.

CONS of Laser Printers:

Laser printers are pretty bulky and heavy, some with a large footprint.   Not a great idea if your office is small or there’s nowhere to put it.

According to Now Toronto, a study done by Queensland University of Technology, certain laser printers may give off ultrafine particles that may be equivalent in terms of lung damage to inhaling a cigarette.

Also, Now Toronto states that certain laser printers use at least over 30 times the electricity when compared to an inkjet printer for the same job.  They are energy zappers, that’s for sure (unless you get an Energy Star one).  But they use the same amount of energy as an inkjet printer when in idle mode.  Best idea is to turn off your powerbar when you’re not using your printer to save electricity.

CONS of Inkjet Printers:

Inkjet printers may run out of inkjet cartridges fairly quickly which means you’ll likely be buying cartridges quite regularly.  Inkjet printers print things s-l-o-w-l-y so if you’re the impatient type, inkjet printers might not be for you.

Maintenance purchase price:

For inkjet printers, you need to buy inkjet cartridges.  According to PC World Business, the price per page of an inkjet printer is $0.20 for colour printing or $0.07 to $0.08 per page for strictly black and white.  It might be cheaper if you ensure that you re-use your cartridges and just go to an inkjet place to refill the cartridges.

For laser printers, you need to buy the toner cartridge.  Also according to PC World Business, the price per page for a laser printer is $0.06 per page.

A 3 toner pack of cartridges can be bought at Costco for about $187 including tax, or $62 per cartridge.  I have been using my refurbished Brother MFC laser all in one printer for almost one year and have printed off stacks and stacks of paper for school.  So far, I have used one cartridge (the one that came with the printer) and am on my second cartridge (which I bought at Costco).

Conclusion?  Inket or Laser?

Since the cost per page is pretty similar in terms of maintenance costs (6 cents for inkjet vs 7-8 cents for laser), there are many factors to consider here, including important factors that don’t only involve initial cost or maintenance cost.  If your printing needs are pretty low volume, you like the options of printing photos, and you would rather be kinder to the environment, then the inkjet printer may be for you.

If you print high volume stuff and need the speed of a laser printer, this may be for you, but you need to remember that the electricity a laser printer uses can be very high.

For both, we need to be cognizant to remember not to simply throw away toner cartridges or inkjet cartridges in the garbage because they leak chemicals that aren’t good for us… chemicals that we don’t want to be drinking as part of our water.

Bargainmoosers, do you use Inkjet or Laser and which one do you prefer?

TOPICS:   Computers


  • Jay
    Costco is refilling inkjet cartridges now which drastically reduces the cost.
  • Clare
    @Jay- Thanks for sharing, Jay! There are numerous places that can refill inkjet cartridges which reduces the cost and can make the inkjet cartridge the preferred (and super-eco friendlier) option of the two :)

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