How to Estimate a Printer's Cost per Page

Know how much copies cost before you buy

Inkjet printers and laser printers incur an ongoing cost of consumables, either in ink or toner. Each page you print costs something in terms of the amount of ink or toner the printer distributes over the paper. Before you buy a printer, know how to estimate the printer's cost per page.

The cost of consumables used with a printer typically outruns the printer's cost in a couple of years. Depending on how much printing you expect to do, the cost of consumables may affect your purchasing decision.

A business manager collecting prints from a printer.
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What Is CPP?

The cost of the small amount of ink or toner on a printed page is known as the cost per page (CPP). A printer's CPP is an important consideration when buying a printer. Two factors are necessary to determine the CPP: cartridge page yield and cartridge cost.

Cartridge Page Yield

An ink or toner cartridge's page yield is calculated by the manufacturer using standards set up by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). A cartridge's page yield is the number of pages the manufacturer claims a cartridge prints. The ISO publishes standardization for many products, not only printers. The ISO guidelines determine the methods that all major printer makers use to estimate page yields.

In many cases, a printer uses ink made by the same manufacturer. For example, with an Epson printer, look for the Epson cartridge page yields. In many cases, different cartridge sizes are available with different page yields.

Page yields are available on the manufacturer's website. However, you must know which ink or toner the printer requires and which size cartridge you plan to use with the printer to determine the CPP.

Cost of Ink or Toner Cartridge

The other value used in calculating page yields is the cost of the toner or ink cartridge. After the work you do to determine a cartridge's page yields, finding the price is easy. It's usually listed on the manufacturer's website and at any office supply seller of printer ink and toner.

How to Estimate a Printer's Cost per Page

To come up with the CPP for a monochrome printer, divide the cost of the black cartridge by the page yield. Assume that the black ink for an inkjet all-in-one printer costs $20 and that the cartridge's page yield rating is 500 pages. To get the monochrome (black-and-white) CPP, divide $20 by 500:

  • Black Cartridge Price / Page Yield = CPP

or

  • $20 / 500 = $0.04 per page

How to Estimate Printer Cost for Color Printing

Color pages require a more complicated formula because these pages use more than one cartridge. Most color printers use the standard four process colors, consisting of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. However, some models use only two cartridges: one large black tank and one cartridge that contains three wells for the other three colors. Some printers, such as Canon's high-end photo printers, use six ink cartridges.

In any case, to estimate a printer's color CPP, first, calculate the CPP for each individual cartridge. On printers that use the standard CMYK model, the three-color ink tanks usually have the same page yields and CPPs. So, for example, say that the CPP for the printer's three-color cartridges is 3.5 cents. To estimate the color CPP, multiply the color tanks' CPP by the number of cartridges, and then add that total to the black cartridge's CPP, like this:

  • Color Cartridge Price / Page Yield = Cartridge CPP x Number of Color Cartridges + Black Cartridge CPP

Assuming that the color cartridges yield 300 pages and cost $10.50 each:

  • $10.50 / 300 = 3.5 cents x 3 = 10.5 cents + 4 cents = 14.50 cents per page

Additional Factors Affecting Printing Costs

Page yields are usually estimated using ISO standardized business documents where the ink covers only a percentage of the page, usually 5% to 20%. On the other hand, photos can cover the entire printable area, or 100% of the page. As a result, color printing usually costs more than printing single-color document pages.

A fair cost per page depends on the type of printer. Entry-level (under $150) photo printers typically have higher CPPs than high-volume business-centric printers. The type you buy depends on several factors, including your projected print volume and the type of printing you plan to do most of the time.

What About Paper Costs?

Photo-quality paper costs more than a ream of typical copy paper. However, the paper cost doesn't vary between printers, so it shouldn't affect your purchasing decision.