Looking for Some Info re Cost of a Printer & Ink

As strange as this may seem, I have owned a Windows PC for the past 20 years but have avoided the need to buy a printer until now.

I hardly do any printing - perhaps one or two pages per week; and almost all of that is B&W. I only need to print color pages perhaps once or twice per year.

During the past 20 years, when I have needed to print a few pages, I have either imposed on a friend or made use of the Public Library which is just across the street (ten cents per page for B&W). But now, I need to buy a printer.

The last person I spoke with about this topic was an old friend and he told me the cost of the ink is much more expensive than the cost of a printer. Believe it or not, I only need to print about 10 pages per year. This friend also told me that if you own a printer and fail to print something every few days, the ink will clot and you will then need to buy a new printer.

So, I hope someone can answer these questions:

Almost all my printing is B&W. I may want to do some color printing. But that would happen even less frequently than my B&W printing. So, the first question is:

  1. Should I expect the cost of a printer to be extrmely low compared to the cost of the ink?

  2. I know that some people who buy a new printer will spend many hours or days studying their printer manual(s) to learn all about their new printer. My attitude towards selecting a printer is, “the less I need to get involved, the better”. My preference is simply to select a file and then press the “PRINT” button. The files I need to print are almost always one or two 8.5" x 11" pages per file. It is extremely rare that I need to print any other size other than 8.5" x 11". It is also extremely rare that I need to do any other kind of printing. (such as color or landscape, etc.).

  3. Are the issues involved in printing color pages similar to those involved in printing B&W pages? Do I need to print a page every few days in order to prevent “clotting”? If so, how often do I need to print a page to prevent clotting and are there any pages that are recommended to prevent clotting?

  4. How much should I expect to spend on a small “entry level” printer and how much can I expect to spend on the ink (both B&W as well as color)?

  5. How often do I need to print a B&W page to keep the B&W ink from clotting?

  6. Same question as above but substitute “color” for “B&W”.

  7. I’m guessing a new printer comes with one color ink cartridge as well as one B&W ink cartridge. Is that correct?

  8. Is there any preferred brand name that you would recommend for me?

  9. If I want to be able to handle sending & receiving faxes, what kind of hardware will I need to buy and how much should I expect to spend? I do not need to send and receive faxes myself. There are many services that I can use to send and/or receive faxes and pay a very small fee to send and receive faxes. The reason I want to be able to do this now is because if I need to send/receive more than 5 or 6 pages per week, it becomes inconvenient to go across the street and let some service handle my faxes. There is also a privacy issue. I don’t feel comfortable having all my faxes available to people who use that same service.
    I’m posting these questions here because I would very much prefer to get the benefit of your advice before I walk into the computer store and have a sales person try to “advise” me.

There is one issue of which I am quite certain. That is: to avoid getting sucked into an “extended warranty”.

If I want to be able to send/receive faxes, what kind of unit do I need? Is it a printer? Or is is a photocopier that can be plugged into my PC? Or, perhaps it’s some other kind of unit? I have no experience with sending/receiving faxes. But, I’m guessing that some kind of copier would be more appropriate than a printer. Is that correct?

I didn’t read all your questions but here’s some answers anyways:
Ink jets will indeed dry up. You can sometimes resurrect them by cleaning the heads with rubbing alcohol, but you’d be wise to get one with the heads built into the cartridges.

My suggestion would be to get a laser printer. It only prints in black (which is what you’re doing), it doesn’t dry up so far I know and if you get your toner from monoprice . com, you’ll pay about a third of what you’d pay at Office Depot/Max. They end up being about $20 or $30 so even if something happens to one of them it’s not that you’re out a hundred dollars. Go ahead and check the price of toner (or ink) at monoprice before you buy a printer. It’s very cheap and I’ll vouch for their quality. The handful of times I’ve had issues with them they’ve sent out a new one right away. I think I’ve had two bad carts out of the 20 or so I’ve ordered. Considering how cheap they are, it’s very much worth it.

What he said. Laser might be better for the on and off user. But if you want color laser, it gets much more expensive.

Inkjet printers waste ink too, by running built-in head cleaning cycles that you can’t cancel. I’m told Brother printers are more economical in that regard than most brands.

Most printers for Windows are plug and play and require only a calibration to make sure the is flowing properly.

Depending on the brand of printer, the cost can be as low as $29.99 on sale. But the ink never goes on sale. A single ink cartridges costs $10 on up. Those cartridges may not have the ink capacity of some others, but it sounds like you won’t need it. The print quality of even a cheap printer is surprisingly good, even if they tend to break down or have paper handling issues.

I’ve seen laser printers on sale as low as $69.99, and then when I looked at replacement toner, those cost $69.99 as well.

Most printers do some sort of automatic “cleaning” to keep things working, but if you only print a page or two every few weeks, I think your cartridges will dry out eventually.

Some color printers have a single cartridge with red, blue and yellow (or more properly, magenta, cyan and yellow), some have separate cartridges for each color.

You can buy a multifunction unit that includes printer, scanner, copier and with some models, a fax.

I know there are on line services to send faxes via your pc. That’s assuming what you want to send is a file you created on your pc via a word processor or text editor. They may be able to receive faxes and have them appear as emails but I don’t know about that part.

Here’s one on line fax service https://www.hellofax.com/

i recently got a brand name b/w laser printer on sale for $80.

laser doesn’t dry up.

in Windows it install effortlessly using the included CD. works well immediately within applications.

if your computer has a phone modem then fax ability is likely. you may need to add that using your Windows install disc.

As for the cost – these days they basically give printers away and make their money on the ink/toner. I’d look mainly at the cost of refills, divided by the theoretical number of pages they print. Your printer will most likely come with “starter” cartridges good for maybe 100 pages or so before you’ll need to buy a regular capacity one.

How important is it that your printer do color? Would it work to print b/w, and still go out for the occasional color print? If so, I agree that laser is your best bet. If you really need color, it’s not likely that the extra cost of color laser will be worth it.

Color needs three colors of ink - printers vary on whether they come in three separate cartridges, or one 3-color cart.

For faxes, the ability to receive is a big factor. To send, all you need is a scanner & an online fax account; there are services that are free or nearly free, or charge strictly per-page sent. To receive through an online service, you’re stuck with a $5-$10 monthly fee to have a dedicated fax number. To avoid that cost and receive faxes over an existing phone line, you need a multi-function, all-in-one printer.

Wow! Thank you all so very much.

You have given me some great info. Very much appreciated and very valuable.

It looks like it will also save me a lot of time and trouble.

For example, seems to me I will be looking at a Laser Printer for sure.

About 20 years ago I bought a printer for cheap but then found the ink was clogged and the sales person never told me about that. They just sold me a new printer. Two weeks later … it also got clogged and that was the last printer I purchased until now.

That was so aggravating.

Anyway if you have any more suggestions or info, I would be most happy if you would post them.

Thanks again.

I don’t need to print in color hardly ever. I would be happy to go out to a service and have them print in color - even the public library will charge by the page and if the cost of B&W printing is any indication, it is likely to be very inexpensive.

I agree that inkjet printers are basically given away for free nowadays; I picked one up a few years ago for 30 dollars, thought it was a good deal, and then realized that the black ink cartridge was 30 dollars - and the price kept climbing!

Last time I checked black ink cartridges for my el cheapo printer were in the 50s.

POS. Quality was merely acceptable at best - nowhere near the crispness of laser - and each cartridge had the nasty habit of conking out very soon. Someitmes I ended up going to the dollar store and buying their refill kits - which consisted of a manual drill bit and a needle-tipped plastic container of ink. It worked exactly like you think it would - you used the manual drill bit to drill a hole into the ink cartridge and squirted ink inside. Worked fine. A bit messy but whatever.

I finally gave up on the printer though as I found it more economical to pay for printing.

You’ll start to use it more and more …

You can get a printer with automatic document feed, so you can copy or scan in many pages without having to swap them around.

You can start printing lists and letters instead of hand writing them.
You can start printing labels and templates (stenciles) instead of hand drawing / writing.

You can print instructions instead of reading it and hoping to remember.

You can print sections of the street directory for a place you are visiting… instead of taking an entire street directory.

You can copy receipts that are fading.
There are many many more uses…

Most people should look at the price of ink refills, but I think that the OP should focus on the printer itself. This is because it will be so very long until he needs a refill. The starter cartridges that come with the printer could easily last a couple of years. Why spend extra on the printer today, simply to get cheaper cartridges in the distant future?Better to get a cheaper printer today even if the ink will cost an extra $5 two years from now.

Re faxing: Here are your options- (1) Print your stuff and bring it to a store- this lacks security but it lets you put your signature on documents. (2) Via Internet- you can fax it from home but only pc output, nothing handwritten. And it costs money. (3) Get a fax card for the pc and connect it to a phone jack in your home- very secure and very cheap, but again only stuff from the pc which excludes signatures and other handwriting. (NOTE: 2a and 3a: If you have a scanner, you can print your document on paper, sign it with a pen, scan it, and fax the scanned image. )

Re faxing - Ooops, I keep forgetting that so many of the printers for sale today are actually combined printer/scanner/fax. This gets plugged right into your wall’s phone jack, with no need for a fax card in the pc. You can print your document, sign it, and then go straight from the scanner to the fax without saving the image as a file first.

Point not made: new printers normally come with a cartridge. And the cost of printer + cartridge may be similar or even less. But: the “starter” cartridge normally has a smaller capacity thus it is a false savings. Therefore I think that the cost of a cartridge is something to consider normally.

As far as more specific, we’d need to know your budget. And I’d recommend a laser; still not decided if color is necessary.

I have never experienced any major problems with clogging ever. And why would you need to buy a new printer at that point? You friend is exaggerating, or operating on 20+ year out of date info. I have heard Epson is good for less inkjet wasteage, but that was a few years ago so I don’t know the status now.

If you get a combo printer/scanner (or a separate scanner) I see no reason why you’d need to fax anything ever, or print anything for that purpose. The link above (or google “free fax website” or similar) can send pdfs to even those luddites who won’t accept an email. And if the site doesn’t convert, you can search for programs that print to pdf for free to convert Word, etc.

you need to look carefully at the features.

all-in-one units may not contain fax functions. a manufacturer will make models, including similar models, that might have fax or not.

Word from 2010 on has included pdf as one of the file type choices under “save as”. No need for a 3rd party conversion program or a save-printout-to-pdf pseudo-printer.

Thank you all very much for the excellent info.