by Izzy Goodman
Read this to learn which printers will give you the best features, best warranty, best price and ink cartridges for free or close to it If you come across a deal you think is better, please email and let us know.
If you haven't joined Rakuten yet, I urge you to do so. This is a free service which will get you rebates on hundreds of online stores. There are no memberships, minimums, etc. All they ask for is your email ID and whenever you make a purchase at a qualifying store, a percentage is put in your account. Many big-name stores like Walmart are on the list. Approximately every quarter, your rebate is sent to you. You get $10 just for joining and making your first purchase. Please use my link so I get some credit as well: join Rakuten
Printers to avoid: Worst Printers
Inkjets and lasers fill different needs. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. The advantages of inkjet over laser are:
-lower costs up front, particularly for multi-function devices
-lower cartridge cost
-smaller footprint (usually)
-lower electrical costs and less heat output
-better quality for high-resolution photographs
When choosing a printer, don't forget to take the warranty as well as cost of ink into account. You can also get an extended warranty on any printer through a company such as SquareTrade.
Most warrantees only applies to printers bought from authorized dealers. Never buy a printer new or used from a second-tier shop such as an unauthorized seller on ebay. A customer bought a brand new Epson sealed in the box off ebay. It died in under a week. Epson is refusing to honor the warranty since they say the seller was not authorized to resell it. The customer is now pursuing the ebay guarantee. If that fails, she will attempt to charge it back on her credit card. Had she bought it from an authorized Epson dealer (Staples, Officemax, BestBuy, etc), she would have gotten her replacement the next day. There are also folks who buy a printer, remove the cartridges and then sell it on ebay without ink.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-line, professional photo printer, The Canon Pro100 (about $500 but you can usually find $150 rebate) prints in 8 colors to sizes up to 19 x 13. Cartridges are about $3.
If you are looking for a highly-rated photo-quality printer which can also be used as a regular printer and uses the cheapest cartridges at about 2.00, look at the Canon printers which use the CLI251 or CLI271 cartridges (though these printers have been discontinued). The newer ones use PGI280/CLI281 which are a bit expensive at $30 a set but prices are slowly dropping. The Maxify printers, like the MB2720, have become difficult to find but should you find one, grab it. It's a great printer with many features. It uses the PGI1200XL cartridges at about $5. These cartridges are triple the size of standard cartridges and yield about 1,000 pages, hence the Maxify name. Staples has it for $130 but usually in store only. Once in a while it is also available online. Amazon prices fluctuate between $130 and $180.
Beware the new Epson cartridges. Epson has tried a new tactic to prevent refilling and compatibles. They are putting serial numbers on the chips. If you put in a cartridge with a serial number you have used before, it will be rejected. This means you can't refill a cartridge. It also makes it more difficult for compatible manufacturers because they now have to program a unique serial number in every cartridge and that number must match Epson's format. This is the reason for the higher price.
Epson has gone even further. There was a time when several printers would be released which all used the same cartridge. Now every printer needs a new cartridge. They know compatible manufacturers can't go to the trouble of making cartridges which only fit one or two printers. If you buy a printer which which uses one of these cartridges (702, 802), you will be stuck buying Epson cartridges which cost as much as the whole printer.
Epson Ecotank printers: What about Epson's Ecotank printers which work with ink bottles rather than cartridges? As expected, these are a great deal for Epson and a terrible deal for you. Read Ecotank printers - the real story for details.
The advantages of laser over inkjet are:
-they print faster and sharper on text than inkjets
-because they don't have heads which clog or burn out, they tend to last much longer than inkjets (I have one over 20 years old still going strong)
-because they use dry toner and not ink, they don't clog or dry up. You can put a laser printer away for months and it will still work perfectly when you turn it back on.
-though toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges, they yield more pages, so the cost per page is usually lower. At $20 per 3000 pages, it is under a penny a page. Since toner doesn't evaporate or clog, you should get close to that 3,000 figure, unlike ink where the page count is like the MPG in a car advertisment.
When choosing a laser printer, you have to look beyond the cost of the printer to:
-the speed in pages per minute
-the cost of the cartridges AND the number of pages they yield to get the accurate cost per page. A $30 cartridge which yields 1,000 pages is not as cost-efficient as a $50 cartridge which yields 6,000 pages.
Some printers (HP in particular), often combine the drum and toner in one unit. You are forced to buy a drum with each toner, which raises the cost considerably. Some companies create a different cartridge for every model printer. Why? Because they know that compatible manufacturers will not make the effort to produce cartridges for a very small market segment. If every printer uses a different cartridge, no one will make compatible cartridges for it. This gives them a monopoly on that cartridge which allows them to charge whatever they want. So when looking for a printer, find one which uses a cartridge which also fits many other models.
This is why I recommend Brother laser printers. They are almost always cheaper than the competition. Unlike other brands where every model printer has a specific cartridge, Brother laser cartridges fit many models of printers. They cost as low as $20 and yield about 2,500 pages. Under a penny a page is as low as it gets.
Many years ago there was a sale on the Brother HL-2040 for $50. I bought two and a number of friends bought them as well. Most are still going strong and all they ever needed was $20 toner cartridges. I never even replaced the drums. Years later, a client bought a multi-function Brother laser. It uses the same $20 cartridges
Color lasers tend to be more expensive, larger, and need 4 toner cartridges. There are some models with $20 cartridges and some with $80 cartridges (per cartridge). Since you need 4, this price difference can be substantial, so check out cartridge prices before buying. Again, Brother tends to be the cheapest at around $20.
12/13/2021: Right now there is a sale on a Canon color multifunction laser printer for $200 from Walmart. Cartridges are under $20.