Inkjet Printer-Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost Of Ownership

I’ve got a finance background and love MS Excel. Combine this with my addiction to refilling inkjets and here’s what you get:


Please take a look and let me know what you think.

The main items to look at are:

• The choice to use OEM carts, generic carts, and/or the choice to refill.
• The number of pages per cycle (per cartridge) based on numbers from the manufacturers and real world tests.
• Compare the costs of inkjet to laser printing.

Here is a partial screenshot:

You can download the file here:

Discuss this article here in the new Inkjet Stuff Forum

UPDATES: Below are some comments I received that I really like that are in regard to my total cost of ownership article. I’ve incorporated them into the Inkjet Total Cost Of Ownership Spreadsheet above and have made comments about them and other items below.

Printer Cost Per Page / Duty Cycle (photos):

Most of the work on this worksheet was based on standard 5-10% coverage which is where I got the duty cycles, ink usage, etc. for the printers. I’ve updated the cost of the printer for each print based on the comments I’ve received, for example, “I have probably printed 500 4x5s and 100 8x10s since I got my i960. 225 8×10 equivalents.” Based on these numbers, one could expect their printer to last for at least 900 4×6 (give or take) prints. Of course, this assumes that you only can get 900 4×6 prints and that you don’t use your printer for anything else. Fiddle with the numbers in the Inkjet Total Cost Of Ownership Spreadsheet to determine how many prints your printer can handle (hint, look at the duty cycle per month and the warranty for the printer).

Regarding “Duty Cycles” : The numbers I’ve seen have mostly been for a monthly duty cycle. I usually multiply this number with the number of months the printer’s warranty covers. This gives me the “minimum” expected lifetime duty cycle.

For example, I got an email reply from Canon that said, “The duty cycle for the i560 printer is approximately 1000 prints per month which would include a combination of text documents and photographs.”

So, my Canon warranty is for 12 months…. 12,000 prints should be my minimum Duty life… but this is based on 5% – 10% coverage.

Now, on my HP LaserJet 4 I’ve got a duty cycle of… ready for this… 20,000 pages per MONTH! I’m way out of warranty, but a year warranty would have been a quarter of a million pages! I love that the LJ 4 keeps track of the number of pages it has printed in its life.

I got my LJ4 with 35,150 prints on it two years ago and have only put 1400 pages on it in that time.

Too bad all printers don’t keep an internal memory of the number of pages printed (regardless of the owner / system). This makes it hard for any of us to determine the real duty cycle / life span of our printers.

Pages Per Cartridge:

1) The numbers of pages per cartridge are usually per color and nobody uses the same amount of color for all their documents all the time.
2) Photos use much more ink than what we see printed in the manuals which is based on 5% or 10% coverage.

Here’s a question I sent to Canon:
“One question regarding the Specifications in the manual for the i560: It gives approx. capacity in pages for each cartridge. What percent
coverage are these numbers based on?”

Their Reply:
“General ink yields for Canon ink tanks are based on a 5% page coverage. Also, the ISO/JIS-SCID N5 pattern is basically a standard image pattern that covers 5% of a page. Canon bases all of their ink yields from this pattern.”

Here is what I found on the Canon site, especially regarding the ISO JIS-SCID No 5 image.

Ron Cohen said the following:
Because I purchased my ink in 1 pint bottles (480 cc’s) that works out to 2880 cc’s for a set of six bottles. I can usually print about 40 full coverage 8.5 x 11 sheets before needing to refill when the first low ink warning pops up. At that time I install my entire #2 set of cartridges and then refill the entire set #1. Two of the cartridges will usually take 5cc’s to top off the ink reservoir, 3 will take 3 cc’s and one takes 2 cc’s. This is a total consumption of 21 cc’s. I paid less than $70 U.S. incl shipping for the six pints which works out to about 50¢ per refilling session after printing 40 sheets. My net cost is approx. 1.2¢ per sheet. Ink purchased in smaller quantities will cost more per ounce, but by any estimate it is a great cost savings.

My response to Ron’s great comment:
If I use your ink consumption numbers correctly, I can assume that for a 5 cartridge printer I would get 432 4×6 prints per “set” of cartridges based on 15cc per cartridge, right?

I got this number by taking 15cc per cart x 5 carts = 75 cc. 75/21 to get 3.6 (the number of times I can print 40 full page 8.5 x 11
prints on 75 cc of ink). Finally 3.6 x 40 = 144 full page, or 3 x 144 = 432 4×6 prints?

So, the number that I’m using for photos in the Inkjet Total Cost Of Ownership Spreadsheet is 432 4×6 prints per “cartridge”. Of course your numbers will vary based on the number of cartridges in your printer and the amount of ink in each cartridge.

Okay, so, should you print your photos professionally, or at home?

I can see how printing from Costco would be a good idea for people’s standard 4×6 prints if:
1) You use only OEM cartridges
2) You use expensive paper (more than $0.10 per 4×6).
3) Your printer works out to give you prints that will be more than $.03 per print (price of printer divided by # total 4×6 prints)
4) You won’t be using your printer for other types of day to day printing.
5) The ones at the lab will last longer than the ones your printer / paper / ink combination will provide.

…but, print at home if
1) You refill your cartridges or use non-oem
2) You use the decent / good paper like the stuff at Costco
3) You bought a great printer and take good care of it.
4) You use your printer for all kinds of stuff
5) You like the convenience of printing whatever pictures you like, when you like, the size you like.
6) You want the flexibility of adjusting the color and the exact way your photos are printed.

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4 thoughts on “Inkjet Printer-Total Cost of Ownership”

  1. i hope that someone can help. i have done a good bit of research myself on jetink printers. i thought that i had decided on a model then i read a review that the ink refills were expensive…and small.

    what i am looking for:

    an affordable, reliable printer that produces crisp copies

    easy to use

    lcd screen

    double sided copies

    affordable refills

    can be hooked up to a computer or wireless

    sd slots

    capable of any most sz paper as well as postcards and all envelopes incl. lables

    perhaps most importantly easy to use….

    i know that all of this is a lot guys but i hope that someone can help. i really do not trust salespeople.


  2. Despite the additional cost, it’s great to be able to adjust your photographs to get maximum quality prints from your home printer. I’m sure it’s not as economical as having your prints produced at a place like Costco but I know from working at a printing company that not much effort goes into adjusting the color and density of most prints, only because a print shop quickly begins to lose money on a print job if many proofs or prints of varying color/contrast are made. It tends to be a one-shot deal at print shops. I prefer to print my photographs at home just so that I can be sure to get the images that I want. I think that makes it very worthwhile to pay the additional costs for toner and paper.

    I like your spreadsheet idea. I’ll have to sit down and figure out what my machine actually costs me.

  3. I need a printer : colour, laser, continues ink system, usb sd slot, three in one printer,
    double sided copies, wireless, lcd screen (opt), for home use.
    not very expensive. low price.
    Can someone tell me what printer to buy…urgent.

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