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Get best printer for your money

About Clark Howard

Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at ClarkHoward.com.

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Printers are the kind of purchase that people make based on price sensitivity. Few understand that the real cost of a printer is not its upfront expense, but rather the cost of replacement ink over its lifetime.

Most printer manufacturers have adopted the Gillette shaver business model. Gillette takes a loss on every handset and makes it profit on replacement blades. Hewlett-Packard — the dominant printer company — exemplifies this approach. They lose on every HP printer they sell just to make a handsome profit on ink cartridges.

Consumer Reports recently took a look at printers and recommended the Brother DCP-J140W for $80 as one of its Best Buys. Among the other things the magazine said to keep you saving money with every page you print:

Choose draft mode when you print. This is a lower resolution mode that still looks great. You can drop cost to just under a penny a page.

Buy third-party ink. Printer companies hate it. The reality is some third-party inks aren’t good. Others are just fine. You have to experiment.

Choose high-yield cartriges over standard cartridges. You may pay 20 percent more for these kinds of cartridges, but you can get double the prints. Not all printers can use high-yield cartridges.

Some time ago, I read a TechWorld.com report about how manufacturers of the cartridges we all use in our printers give you a notice that your cartridge in empty when nearly 60 percent of the ink is still left. If you throw it out at that point, more than half the ink you pay for goes unused!

So when your computer tells you replace to the cartridge, instead just pull it out and shake it. You’ll probably get several weeks more use out of it. After all, manufacturers have a clear financial incentive to shortchange you and make you buy more of their product. What you pay to print per page skyrockets if you throw that cartridge out or recycle it too early.

Multi-ink cartridges are the worst because they have individual ink banks for up to three or four colors. Any one of them can run out before the others do.

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