4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a New Printer

Christian Cawley 14-12-2015

Printers don’t last forever. Ink splashes collect and coagulate, bits of paper gather, rollers wear out, and ink cartridges become ever more expensive. Buying a new printer every few years can become a bit of a pain, and that’s before you even start looking at the current prices.


But you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a reliable and versatile new printer.

By knowing exactly what you want, the features you need, the print quality you expect, and the budget you have; you’ll find that buying a new printer isn’t the money pit you thought it was.

A New Printer for the Price of Some Ink?

Unless you’re looking for a color laser jet printer for bulk document printing, it’s unlikely that a new printer will cost you any more than the price of a pair of ink cartridges. It’s a strange idea that the hardware that uses the ink through a combination of mechanical and digital processes should cost less than the total volume of ink needed to print, say, 250 sheets of paper, don’t you think?

This is largely due to the manufacturing costs of the cartridges, particularly from an environmental point of view, but there is, of course, an element of targeting customers with inflated prices.

Avoid Reconditioned/Fake Cartridges

Buying a new printer is a little bit like buying a car. You wouldn’t spend money on a new motor only to put the wrong fuel in, would you?


Similarly, it’s a bad idea to put reconditioned/refilled ink cartridges into your printer, new or otherwise. Although, of course, you should get as much use out of them as possible It's More Expensive Than Blood: How To Squeeze More Ink Out Of Your Printer Although things are getting better (some printer manufacturers have radically reduced the cost of ink) as far as the owners of many sub-$100 printers are concerned, the price of ink is staggeringly close to the... Read More !


While they might be more economical compared to official/approved ink cartridges, this is a false economy. Sure, some of these cartridges might work, but the following might also happen:

  • The cartridge leaks
  • Ink cartridge isn’t detected
  • Cartridge displays as incompatible

So, you’ve saved money – but you’re not printing (although our own Kannon Yamada has used recycled ink cartridges The Secret To Profitable Printing With Your Inkjet In Three Easy Steps Ironically, while printer ink costs more than champagne, cost-savvy consumers can actually make money using their inkjet. It just takes three simple steps—none of which lead to jail. In addition to saving consumers' money, selling... Read More without any problems).


Therefore, it is in your interest to purchase only the approved ink cartridges. It’s good to get these things sorted out, isn’t it? Let’s move on, then, to the task of finding the right printer, one that will give you the results you want without breaking the bank.

Laser Printer or Inkjet Printer?

While a laser printer is considerably more expensive than an inkjet printer (perhaps 10 times more), you need to ask yourself what print quality you expect, and what volume of printing you’ll be outputting.


Those laser jet printers that can be found in offices around the world are expensive, but they’re almost always network printers, serving two or three (or many more) users at a time. This saves space and money, and is therefore efficient.


You probably don’t need this type of printer at home.

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Additionally, some laser jet printers employ a secondary replaceable component, the imaging drum, which is an important part of the print process. These can be around twice the price of a replacement toner cartridge.

An inkjet printer will be far more affordable, and with cheaper ink, and no imaging drum.


Canon Office and Business MX922 All-In-One Printer, Wireless and mobile printing Canon Office and Business MX922 All-In-One Printer, Wireless and mobile printing Buy Now On Amazon $379.99

Black Ink or Color? Photo Printing Required?

Planning on any color printing? Want to print your photos 4 Tips For Printing Better Digital Photos From Your PC Read More ?

If you only want to print in black, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a black-only inkjet printer. While they do exist, you might find it easier to load a standard color printer with only black ink, which some manufacturers support.

For photo printing, you will often find that the device manufacturer specifies particular ink and photographic paper for success here. As before, it’s a good idea to stick to this advice; the wrong photographic ink and paper combination will result in quite poor quality photos that will fade.

Wi-Fi Enabled Printing or Cabled?

There was a time when choosing a wireless printer would set you back around twice the price of a standard device, but those days are long since passed. You can now purchase a wireless printer for well under $100, which is a difficult price to turn down (of course, you could always convert your old printer into a wireless printer How to Make Your Own Wireless Printer With a Raspberry Pi Want to turn an old printer into a wireless printer for your network? Here's how to make any printer wireless with a Raspberry Pi. Read More with the help of a Raspberry Pi).


With wireless printing, you gain the ability to print direct from your iPad, iPhone or Android device, as well as any PCs on your network. Because the printer connects wirelessly to your router, you’ll be able to print to it from a computer connected with an Ethernet cable or over Wi-Fi.

Put simply, if you have wireless devices, you need a wireless printer.

Do You Need an All-in-One?

It looks and feels high-tech, but do you really need an all-in-one printer/fax/scanner? Opting for such a device can double the price you might be expecting to pay at this stage, but if you don’t really need a scanner (a smartphone can be used instead How To Build Your Own Smartphone Document Scanner Have you ever tried to take a photo of a document with your smartphone camera, hoping to convert it using OCR software into a PDF or Word document later on? Perhaps you’ve attempted to take... Read More in most cases) then you can discount this from your plans.


And few people use physical fax machines these days, preferring instead to use the Internet fax services 5 Best Tools to Send an Email to Fax We show you how to send a fax from your email for free. We can recommend five free online email to fax services for the job. Read More .

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All-in-ones also have a key support issue: if a feature breaks, and you send it away for repairs, you’re without the rest of the unit. So if the scanner broke and went away for servicing, you wouldn’t have a printer any longer. It is certainly worth keeping this aspect of all-in-ones in mind before opting to purchase such a device.

Make Your Mind Up Time

So, you now know what sort of printer you need. All you need to do next is place the order, whether online via Amazon, or at your local, reputable, electronics retailer. Just make sure the printer comes with ink, and that it is compatible with your operating system.

Do you need help buying the right printer? Have you had trouble finding a printer, or are you still using a really old device with no sign of it breaking down? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credits: photokup via, andrey_popov via, Niki Love via, jannoon028 via

Related topics: Printing, Save Money.

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  1. Troy Blackburn
    December 22, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    I didn't ever realize that I didn't have to spend a ton of money to get a reliable printer. Like you said, by knowing exactly what I want, buying a new printer isn't a money pit! I've heard that there are printers nowadays that are able to print on both sides of the paper at the same time. That's pretty neat! I'll have to keep these great tips in mind as I try to find a great printer without breaking the bank!

  2. shaik shahid
    December 20, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    can any one suggest me a printer having all this features
    adf (automatic document feeder)must
    auto duplex scanning and printing
    scan to text
    color and black and white printing (separate categories for b/w and color)
    ant laser are inkjet
    compatible with ink tank system ( ciss ) must
    good if having paper loading tray.
    fax not necessary
    image printing not important only printing images with text together
    printing speed any

  3. Anonymous
    February 18, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    For home users, unless you're into photography as a hobby or really need spot color, get a B&W laser!

    Because I'm a light home user, my years old MFP laser is still on its original cartridge, whereas with an inkjet I would have had to replace the cartridges multiple times because they'd have dried out.

    Like some previous posters I find a scanner as a nice thing to have for inputting documents and even acting as a simple photocopier, no computer needed. If my current printer dies I'd get a new laser MFP with two sided printing facility. A small extra cost for the extra functions but nice little things to have.

  4. Anonymous
    December 16, 2015 at 4:51 am

    My HP C6300 sucks ink. Print one page on fast draft and it goes Pumpa Pumpa Pumpa x 4 on the cleaning pad, dumping ink into the well. Then ZIP goes the black text page.
    Scan a page? Sure but it has to do the same Pumpa Pumpa Pumpa x 4 to dump more ink before it scans. Turn it on? Pumpa Pumpa Pumpa x 4. I must put three times more ink into the cleaning sump than onto the page.

    Does anyone have a justification or is HP committed to wasting as much of the overpriced ink as they can?

  5. Agro
    December 15, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Um..."While a laser printer is considerably more expensive than an inkjet printer (perhaps 10 times more), you need to ask yourself what print quality you expect, and what volume of printing you’ll be outputting." What?

    I haven't owned an injet printer since the mid 90s. My last 2 printers have been wifi enabled lasers, the one I just bought has built in duplexing. I haven't paid over $80 for a printer since that last inkjet in 97.

    Get a laser. If you look around a little and don't absolutely NEED it today, you can get a good home-office laser printer for around $50-60. I don't understand why ANYONE would buy an inkjet in the current environment.

  6. Anonymous
    December 15, 2015 at 1:15 am

    First, lasers don't cost that much more - with your first two examples the laser is $5 extra.

    Second, don't underestimate the usefulness of a scanner, it makes paper copies and PDFs.

    Third, ask yourself how often you're going to print - ink jets clog and dry out when not used.

    Over two decades, I've tried both, first laser, then ink jets, and now back to laser for good.

  7. Anonymous
    December 15, 2015 at 12:31 am

    What I Demand In A Printer:

    A - Be Hardware And Software Backwards Compatible,
    A1 - Both Parallel And USB Ports,
    A2 - EPSON LQ850 Emulation,

    B - Laser ( Using Toner - Not The POS Overpriced Ink ),

    C - Monochrome,

    D - Allow 2 Feeders For Of A4 Paper,
    D1 - In An Horizontal Tray, For Multiple Sheets, And,
    D2 - In A Special Open Tray For Single Sheets.


  8. Steve
    December 14, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Epson is beginning to sell printers with REFILLABLE cartridges. Which means you'll no longer need to buy an aftermarket Continuous Ink System and refill ink. (And despite what this article says, there is superb ink--I prefer pigmented ink myself--out there at a reasonable price.) As someone who uses inkjet for graphic work, I applaud Epson. Now all they have to do is give us replaceable heads!

  9. Cephnet
    December 14, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Is it linux compatable could also be a starting point.

  10. Anonymous
    December 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    "You wouldn’t spend money on a new motor only to put the wrong fuel in, would you?"
    Using reconditioned or third party ink is not using the "wrong fuel." It is more like using fuel from Shell, Mobil or Hess rather than just from Total.

  11. paulri
    December 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    One strong point of disagreement. I have been using third party/aftermarket cartridges for years without a problem. List price for the OEM cartridges for my HP printer is $55 on amazon; I can get "refurb" toner on amazon for $15-20. The only time I've had a problem with ink has been when I tried to fill up the cartridge myself.

    In terms of quality, in the last few years, I have found that the cheap, $10 cartridges will poop out on me early. I have found, which sells Linkyo cartridges (found on amazon) to be a great combination of cheap and good--I am getting 1400-1800 pages for my HP laserjet p1102w on my cartridges from them. Regardless of how many cheap third party toner cartridges I got, I'd never go back to OEM.

    Another point that was mentioned was the drum. Some printers will require a replacement drum after 20,000 pages or so. One reason I buy HP is that you don't have to do this. Each toner has its own drum, so you never have to shell out another $150 for the drum. That is nice. I don't know if Brother has changed, but when I was shopping for my first laser years ago, Brother lasers did need it to be replaced. So my HP saves me some cash years on down the road.

    • Cassandra
      March 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      I agree! I've used remanufactured/refurbished cartridges before and had no problems at all. I think sometimes it can be a bit of scaremongering - putting people off perfectly good cartridges just because they're a bit cheaper.

      • Christian Cawley
        March 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

        There are very, very few articles on MakeUseOf in which writers have not drawn from their own experience. This is not one of them.

        I've tried after market/refurbished cartridges on many occasions over the past two decades with printers from different manufacturers and types, in a variety of scenarios (work, home, voluntary) and have results that are below average, at best.

        This isn't scaremongering, this is ensuring that people have a good printing experience that is not marred by poor output.

        • Cassandra
          March 21, 2017 at 3:44 pm

          Remanufactured cartridges are not refurbished cartridges, they are the original version that's been cleaned, parts replaced if worn and then refilled. If you buy cheap compatible cartridges from companies that import them from China then yes, expect a poor quality product in terms of print quality and overall performance, but compatible or refurbished is not the same as remanufactured and I believe that unfortunately people associate theses as all being the same thing. Maybe you've had a bad experience, but it's subjective, not everyone has a poor output using those types of cartridges.

  12. Anonymous
    December 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Let's make it easier: Is it a laser printer? Why is it not a laser printer? What's wrong with you?

    I like Brother laser printers because they behave. They have reasonable service costs and they hold up well when used at the upper range of their duty cycle.

    Another way that all laser printers are not created equal is mobile device support. It's almost always at least possible to make a printer function through Google's Cloud Print and most new network printers have some kind of app for Android printing, but not every printer has Airprint support for native printing from Fruit devices. This seems to come as a shock to Fruit device owners on a regular basis, but I assume it's because there's some kind of licensing fee that not every printer manufacturer wants to pay.

    A printer purchased in 2016 should have support for duplex printing.This really shouldn't even be optional.