Consumer Reports: Factor in lifetime costs when buying a printer

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As everybody gets back to school, you may be tempted to buy an inexpensive printer. (WLS)

As everybody gets back to school, you may be tempted to buy an inexpensive printer. But once you factor in the cost of replacement ink, you may not be getting such bargain. Consumer Reports breaks down what that printer will really cost over the next few years.

It's hard to resist a good sale, but when is a deal, not always a deal?

"Inkjet printers vary widely on how much ink they use. The price of a cartridge ranges anywhere from $12 to $120 by itself. So that printer you may have paid only a little bit for will cost you a lot more over time," said Consumer Reports Electronics Expert Rich Sulin.

And in a Consumer Reports survey, almost half of printer owners said they are "paying too much for printer cartridges." And more than a quarter of them said they have to "buy new cartridges too often."

Consumer Reports suggests researching ink prices and do the math to find out how much you're really paying for that printer over time.

The HP Envy will cost you $130 at first. It needed new ink after just five months. After three years, your total cost is up to $471. Five years, $735.

A Brother model is a little more up front at $225. It didn't need ink for almost a year. After three years, your cost is up moderately to $336. Five years, $444.

"Another option is a printer with refillable ink tanks. The tanks hold a lot of ink, so you go a long while before you have to refill them," Sulin said.

The $280 Epson EcoTank didn't need new ink for more than two years. After five years, its total cost is $315. That's less than half of what the bargain printer costs after five years.

"The drawback with the EcoTanks, including this models, is that text quality was only fair in our tests," Sulin said.

Consumer Reports has also been looking into generic or third party Printer Ink Cartridges. So far, our survey results seem promising, but using generic ink may void the warranty on your printer. You may want to wait until your warranty is up to try it.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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