How Much Does a Printer Cost?

The answer depends on your printing needs

Pricing printers for a home office can be pretty confusing. Even inexpensive printers can be pricey to use and maintain, and no one wants to buy a printer that doesn’t suit their needs. It’s time to answer the basic yet mystifying question: how much does a printer cost?

Determining Your Needs

Printers come in a wide price range, so it helps to narrow the field by deciding what type of printer you need. Do you want to print colorful images, or will you mainly be printing black-and-white documents like contracts? Do you need a real workhorse, or are you just printing occasionally? Is a stand-alone printer adequate, or would you like a machine that combines multiple functions? Figuring out your printer’s intended use is the first step to choosing the right one.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers tend to be affordable, but the cost of ink makes them expensive over time. Some models have ink wells refilled from bottles. Depending on the brand and capacity, a standard ink cartridge should print approximately 200 pages before it needs to be replaced. While inkjet printers have up-front costs as low as $40, their high operating costs make them best for occasional use.

That said, there are some uses inkjet printers are perfect for. Laser printers can’t print on heat-sensitive paper, and they don’t produce bright, rich color. Inkjet printers can print vibrant color on basically any paper, including glossy photo paper and vinyl. Inkjet printers are the best option for printing high-quality, colorful images.

Some new inkjet printers use tanks of ink can be refilled from bottles. These printers cost a little more, but they can print more pages without requiring frequent cartridge replacements.

Laser Printers

Laser printers have a higher up-front cost than inkjet printers, but they cost very little to operate. They work by melting toner onto the page instead of spraying drops of ink. Toner cartridges don’t dry out, and they can print thousands of pages before needing to be replaced. Laser printers are much faster than inkjet printers, so they’re perfect for college students and home offices.

Monochrome laser printers can only print in black-and-white, but they are much cheaper than color laser printers. They’re an ideal choice for printing essays and research papers. Basic laser printers don’t have automatic duplex printing, or printing on both sides of the page. Automatic duplex printing is a common feature but will cost a little more. It’s possible to print on both sides of the page without this feature, but the process is easy to mess up.

All-in-One

All-in-one printers can be either laser or inkjet printers, but they have multiple functions to streamline productivity. The most functional devices can scan, copy, and fax, saving a lot of space in home offices.

Most all-in-one devices have functions like double-sided scanning or automatic document feeding. Automatic document feeding is a convenient feature which scans pages for copying or faxing. If you need to scan double-sided documents, make sure to get a device with duplex automatic document feeding.

Other Features

Any of these printers can include optional features that pair well with different office setups. Most new printers can communicate wirelessly or with Bluetooth. Printers enabled with Apple AirPrint or Google Cloud Print allow you to print wirelessly anywhere, even from your phone. Depending on your needs, some of these features are worth spending extra money for.

Buying a Printer

Once you know what kind of printer you want, it’s time to shop. Printers with lots of desirable features can cost hundreds of dollars, but our focus is on entry-level devices that would suit most home office needs.

How Much Does a Good Printer Cost?

While there are cheaper devices, you should expect to spend $120 for a reliable inkjet printer, and about $200 for all-in-one or tank printers. Some all-in-one printers can go as high as $1,500 but that's not the norm.

Color laser printers are more expensive than inkjet printers up front, but replacement toner is much cheaper per-page than ink cartridges. For a color laser printer, you’ll need to spend $250. All-in-one color laser printers are around $300.

Monochrome laser printers are an affordable option for people who don’t need to print in color. Even all-in-one devices can cost less than $150.

What Is the Cheapest Printer?

Taking operating costs into account, the cheapest printers are monochrome laser printers, such as the Brother HL-2320D for $100. These printers are workhorses that can quickly print black-and-white documents in high volumes. A toner cartridge comes pre-installed, so you’ll be able to print hundreds of pages before spending a penny more.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a 3D printer cost? It can cost anywhere between $40-$260 for a decent entry-level or hobbyist 3D printer, while professional ones can cost thousands of dollars. Check out Lifewire's guide to the best 3D printers for beginners for some recommendations. Looking to upgrade from a beginner model? Check out Lifewire's guide to the best 3D printers.
  • What is the best printer for home use? That entirely depends on your budget and what you plan to use the printer for. If you only print documents occasionally, you can maybe get away with a budget device like the Canon TS202. If you want to print photos, you may want to look at something like the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. Check out Lifewire's guide to the best printers of 2021 for more recommendations.
  • Is it worth it to fix a printer? If the cost of repairing your printer exceeds what you paid for the device, it's not worth it. If your printer is many years old, it may be better to upgrade it instead. But, if your printer is a newer model and you have a surplus amount of ink for it, repairing it might be the better option.
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