The holiday season is now officially upon us – although I swear my local mall was playing Jingle Bells in September – and the most wonderful time of the year can also quickly become the most expensive time of the year for many consumers and businesses between presents, parties and traveling.
So over the next two months, the staff of PrinterComparison will be doing its part to help our readers save some money this holiday season with our weekly showcased deals, top money saving printer picks and special pieces on getting the technology you want without spending a bundle.
To kick off the release of our much anticipated Holiday Buyer’s Guide, I’ll be sharing some of my secrets on finding the best printers for cheap.
As in past years, major manufacturers like Canon, Epson, HP and lexmark continue to improve their products making purchasing a new printer more exciting (Yes, I know it’s not a new iPhone) but also more confusing than ever. These new sleek devices all claim to be the best – most compact footprint, fastest print speeds, best features etc. – but the truth is that many of these manufacturers are now putting incredibly similar products meaning the customer can save big if they know what they are want, which leads me to my first secret.
Secret #1: Know what you want
Ok, so maybe that’s really more sound shopping advice than a secret tip, but it’s true. You can save loads of money if you make a list of what you need. Believe me, it will keep you on track when an overzealous sales person tries to sell you a more expensive model or you get distracted online by slick marketing with promises of the “best” features.
First, I would suggest deciding where you plan on setting up the printer (home, office or dorm). This is important because it will help you decide on size, connectivity and type of device. For example, if you know you’ll be setting up your printer on your average size desk in your home office and you’ll be the only one using it, it might make sense to target an ultra compact single function device with basic connectivity features. Wireless AIOs are all the rage, but you’ll get the best results (and the best price) from a single function printer set up over a high speed USB connection.
Or say you decide you need to be able to scan or fax signed documents and contracts fairly often and you want to save on consumables. Then it might be better to consider a wireless all-in-one with mobile/cloud printing capability. These models might be more expensive but because you know what you want, you can start narrowing down your search to a few models and then find the best price.
Secret #2: Do not pay the suggested retail price
I guarantee you can find any printer released in 2011 on sale over the next month and a half. First, print manufacturers run deals year round because they introduce new products several times a year. Second, we are in a tough economy. Retailers and manufacturers alike are scared of not hitting their numbers in Q4 – but in the business world, who isn’t – and will discount products to get people in their stores and on their websites.
Obviously, Black Friday (and Saturday and Sunday) are great times to find deals in the stores. You will find incredible discounts on select merchandise so this is where Secret #1 really pays off – you can scour ads on TV, newspapers and online to find your model’s price on Black Friday. Not into dealing with the headache of crowded parking lots, long lines and rude people that is associated with the blackest Friday of the year? Think Cyber Monday. All the major electronics retailers – and some non technology related ones – offer excellent deals online on the Monday following Black Friday. And usually if you spend between $50 and $100, depending on the retailer, they’ll throw in free shipping to boot.
Of course, you can come to PrinterComparison with help finding deals. We’ll be sharing a top weekly deal for the rest of the year as well as our listing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that will be continuously updated over the next couple of weeks.
Secret #3: Think long run
So you are at a Big Box chain buying your loved one a new computer and they offer to give you a brand new printer for $50 or – even better – free! Be wary. Printers, especially inkjets, are notorious for having a low initial cost but an extremely high operation cost. As the saying goes, nothing in life is free. And believe me, ink cartridge refills will make you sad especially if you print at high volume.
Again, going back to Secret #1, think about what you need. Do you really need to print in color? Do you really need to print glossy photos? If the answer is no, then don’t bother with the free/discounted inkjet printer, but instead consider a single function monochrome laser printer. A single black toner cartridge can run from $30 to $150 (depending on the model, capacity) but will easily print 1,000 pages or more. A set of ink cartridges will also run from $30 to $150 (again depending on model, capacity) but will never yield 1,000 consecutive pages. Maybe 750 pages from some high capacity black cartridges but we’ve tested a variety of inkjets over the years and yet to see that happen.
And to top it all off, the initial prices are falling on laser printers. Several manufacturers including Brother, Samsung and Xerox have released laser-class models for under $200. Check out our reviews section to see full testing results for a variety of inkjets, laser-class and dedicated photo printers.
The big take away? Ask about the cost per page. If that information is unavailable, run away. If it’s a really good deal – free – then at least consider the standard cost for a set of replacement cartridges.
For more holiday advice…