How Long Does Toner Last? [Everything You Need to Know]

Submitted by Karla Metzler on Tue, 02/28/2023 - 08:17
A person pulls a color toner cartridge with a blue lid out of printer.

When choosing printer toner, many people focus primarily on price. However, single-minded focus on the price of laser printer cartridges can lead to more unnecessary spending overtime because cheap or off-brand toner that is incompatible with your machine can cause damage to your printer.


Finding long-lasting toner for printers is important, and one of the keyways to optimize your toner’s lifespan is choosing high-quality toner that is made for your printer. While the cheapest option may seem best, cheaper toners are often full of dangerous materials that can damage printers and possibly cause serious harm to users.

Using non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) printer cartridge ink can also affect the functionality of your machine, so if you want your toner cartridge to last as long as possible, it is important to consider the brand and make of your printer, as well as the typical yield of your toner.

A toner cartridge is designed to last for a set number of impressions at a fixed percent of coverage per page. You need a basic understanding of printer toner, how it works, and what number of impressions your toner cartridge can produce based upon percent coverage area in order to figure out toner cartridge lifespan.

What is Printer Toner?

Toner is the substance that is applied to paper to create the image you are printing or copying. Most commonly, toner is a dry substance contained within a cylindrical cartridge for ease of use. A powder mixture, toner is primarily used in laser printers and photocopiers and comes in sets of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, (CMYK) which produces a variety of color admixtures for printers. Laser color printers can use different kinds of toner cartridges, but OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) toners are typically the highest quality and most reliable because they are made to work for specific machines.

However, OEM toners are not the only option. Newly manufactured compatible toners, like the Xerox Everyday Toner, generate and process cartridges that are suitable for printers designed by most major printing brands. This allows for consumers like you to use a slightly cheaper toner option to service printers from other brands, including HP, Brother, and Toshiba.

What is a Printer Toner Cartridge?

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Printer Toner vs Ink

The main difference between toner cartridges for printers and ink printer cartridges is the medium of material delivery; toner is a dry substance and ink is a liquid substance.  However, many people use the terms ink cartridge, print cartridge, and toner cartridge interchangeably when referring to the same item. Ink, print, and toner cartridges all do the same thing: make the image visible on paper.

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Figure 1. Xerox Toner Cartridge with Box


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Figure 2. Ink Cartridges

In terms of cost and yield, there are some key differences between ink and toner-based cartridges. Printer ink can be purchased for around $15, whereas toner cartridges cost around $50 on average. However, in this case, price is not a clear indicator of value: toner cartridges yield approximately 2500 pages of printed text, and ink cartridges yield only about 200 printed pages.

Another thing to consider when choosing between toner and ink cartridges is the longevity of the substance. Ink cartridges are prone to clogging or drying up when not in consistent use. If you are not using your printer every day, then your ink cartridge could dry out, which would decrease the possible page yield of the cartridge. If the ink dries out, then the cartridge becomes unusable, and you spend more money to buy a replacement ink cartridge sooner than expected. Toner, on the other hand, is already a dry substance, so its shelf life is longer, even if it is not being used consistently.

How Long Does Toner Last?

Page yield is the approximate number of pages that can be printed with a single cartridge of toner. Each toner cartridge has its own estimated yield, which is published by toner manufacturers so that consumers know how many pages on average they can print with a single cartridge. Until 2004, manufacturers did not have a set standard for page yield, materials used, or testing procedures, which made comparing products challenging. However, in the early 2000s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) published official yield standards for monochrome toner cartridges, color inkjet cartridges, and color toner cartridges, so that could know what to expect from their printer toner.

Despite these standards, the estimated page yield may vary based upon user experience, printer-toner compatibility, and type of toner cartridge used. While there are no secret ways to conserve toner or make it last longer than its approximated page yield, you can eliminate unnecessary prints, which decreases toner use overtime. Instead of frantically searching for anywhere to buy generic aftermarket laser printer toner locally, you could also consider purchasing a toner that is optimized for your machine. Using high-quality toner that is best suited to your printer and its needs also helps maximize page yield.

How Much does Printer Toner Cost?

Put simply, a toner cartridge’s page yield is the number of pages you could print if text or image covers only 5% of each page. The higher the page yield, the higher the price of the toner cartridge. Toner cost is varied and determined by the number of impressions a cartridge can produce to cover a fixed percent of coverage area. In the U.S., 5% is the set standard, and all toner manufacturers are required to publish the page yield of each toner cartridge based upon that standard.  

See the graphic below, from LD Products, for a visual explanation of what 5% page coverage looks like:

If you are printing many pages with large images or dense full-page texts, then you likely are printing at a page coverage rate much higher than the standard, which means you may not be able to print as many pages as the page yield approximates. For more information on page coverage and how it is defined, check out What is Page Coverage and Why Is It Important?  

 More Questions?

If you have a Xerox machine or are interested in the Xerox Everyday Toner, reach out to us, and we can help you find the toner that will best benefit your business! We have many options, including Xerox branded OEM and newly manufactured toners. Even if your printer is not Xerox branded, our experts can offer valuable tips to help you conquer the toner selection process.

Understanding your office supplies and how they work helps keep your business running smoothly, so to optimize your use of printer toner, we also suggest checking out our article, 4 Different Types of Printer Toners & How to Choose, which explains the four major kinds of toner and offers a step-by-step guide to choosing the one that is right for you.

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