Is laser printer ink cheaper than inkjet?

2 November 2023  |  Admin


The very very short answer is "Yes". However this article will also explain which type of printer is right for you and why. We'll look at the other things to consider when working out which is cheapest and which is best. Ask yourself; why do some organisations spend £1000s on large machines and why doesn't everyone just buy a £99 printer?  


First; a Definition of a Laser Printer and an Inkjet Printer

A laser printer (or laser copier) uses a dry ink powder called toner to produce prints. A laser makes an image of your page on a printing plate, this attracts the toner powder where it is needed and it's then transferred to the sheet of paper. Heat and pressure then 'fixes' the toner to the paper. The magical laser printing process is also known as the Xerox process, based on patent granted in 1942.

Laser Printers in their most compact versions, are the size of a microwave oven or smaller but the biggest ones are filing cabinet size and huge floor standing models are common. Colour or black only versions are available with all-in-one models that print, scan and copy.

An Inkjet printer uses wet ink. A very fine nozzle then sprays tiny droplets of ink onto the sheet of paper which dries almost immediately.

Inkjet printers vary in size too, from smaller than a shoebox size to a bread bin size, sometimes even larger. Inkjet printers offer colour printing and all-in-one models can print, scan and copy. The inkjet process is successfully adapted for wide format processes such as posters of plans. 

Many manufacturers offer both types of printer, aiming to capture a part of each market. Other technologies include LED printers and Ink Stick printers but these are not included in this blog.  


Importance of Ink Cost in Printing

I assume that you are reading this blog because you are either considering buying a new printer or looking to better understand what your costs might be. This blog article is about the cost of ownership, not just the cost of a cartridge refill. There has been many a buyer who complains bitterly about the exorbitant cost of their printing. Almost always this isn't just about the high price of the refills, but the frequency in which their replacement is needed!

The running cost of a poorly thought out machines purchase can be extreme, costing you massive amounts of money when added up over the machine's lifetime. Ignore the running costs pitfall and a £99 printer might cost several £1000s over its life if you print a lot.

All cartridges are different, so it is misleading to compare the price of a toner cartridge versus an ink cartridge in isolation. The most elementary exercise is to look at the page life, or yield, of the cartridge not just it's cost.  Divide one by the other to work out the price per page. For instance a cartridge that costs £15 and has a page life of 800 pages gives a cost per page of 1.875 pence per page. (1500 ÷ 800 = 1.875) 


How to choose the best machine for your needs

The golden rule is ; "the cheaper a printer is to buy, the dearer it is to run. Conversely, the more expensive a machine is, the cheaper it is to run".

Ask yourself; why do some organisations spend £1000s on large machines and why doesn't everyone just buy a £99 printer? 

There are a handful of valid answers to this question but the most significant one is of course the cost of ink or toner. But It's not the price of the cartridge but the price per page printed. 

You are hardly likely to spend £2000 on a flashy office grade printer just to run off a few emails or print out your shopping lists, but the thoughtless buyer who spends £99 on a machine from the local store and then tries to print out brochures for a mailshot or weekly timesheets for the 500 factory workers, is in for a nasty surprise. Probably a £2000 plus surprise. But that same £99 machine might be perfect for a student's homework or a salesman's report or a cafe menu.


Inkjets are more simple

To keep your inkjet running you just need to keep it replenished with ink cartridges, generally just the 4 colours ; Black Cyan Magenta and Yellow . There's nothing else to worry about.

But, colour Laser printers on the other hand have Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow toners and some other items that need to be replaced from time to time. The most significant ones are Drums (also known as Image Units or Photoconductors).


Comparison of Laser Printer and Inkjet Printer Running Costs

You'll need a calculator and a piece of paper to do a decent job of highlighting the true costs. Sorry but it's not a one line answer!

The real cost is worked out by the cost per page, multiplied by the number of print colours (one for black only or 4 for the colour pages), multiplied by the print quantity. The biggest dilemma of all ; how many pages will you print, per month or per year or over the machine's life.

Your hard work pays off when you add up these vital components. and repeat the exercise for the laser printer.    



The laser printer works out cheapest, in pence per page. Always. The price of the cartridge may or not be higher, just as a bigger car fuel tanks costs more to fill up, but the cost per page is less, often dramatically so. Of course there's the initial outlay for the inexpensive inkjet versus the more expensive laser machine.  For someone with light printing needs, just a handful of pages a month, the higher cost of a laser model will never be recuperated. But it doesn't take 1000s of pages to print before the laser machines become a clear winner.  The bigger the print quantity the bigger the savings are with a laser machine. 


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2 November 2023  |  Admin

A quick and Easy breakdown of the parts in a laser printer or copier, what you need to know