Looking for a new copier/printer and want to know the difference between an inkjet and laser printer?
This article will discuss the pros and cons of both types, the initial cost, the cost to maintain post-purchase, and which printer is right for you.
After reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of which type of printer you should be considering.
Let’s dive into inkjet printers first.
What is an inkjet printer?
An inkjet printer is a printer that sprays liquid ink onto paper and dries naturally. There is no heat involved in the process, as opposed to laser.
Those looking to print photos at home will need to look for a photo inkjet specifically.
Due to the ink used, photo inkjet printers are more expensive than a regular inkjet printer but will be more suitable for those with the want or need to print photos at home.
Pros of an inkjet printer
- Affordable initial cost of the printer
- Easy to move due to compact size
Cons of an inkjet printer
- Generally, lesser quality prints
- If you want high-quality photos, you’ll have to spend more on a photo inkjet printer
- The ink can dry up if left unused for an extended time
- Ink smears if the print didn’t dry properly
- Replacing the ink is expensive
While these printers are affordable to buy, they are costly to maintain. For example, we’ve seen customers purchase a brand-new machine when their ink ran out because the cost of replacing the ink cartridges was about the same as a brand-new machine.
Additionally, if you overuse an inkjet printer, it’s likely to break. Since these machines are often bought from retail giants like Staples or Wal-Mart, service technicians will be hard to find. If you happen to find a technician, they are typically expensive, and the issue will likely arise again. Your best bet will be to purchase a new machine.
What is a laser printer?
LaserJet printers use electrical currents to attract toner “dust” to a piece of paper and then fuse that toner to the paper with heat. Laser printers = toner, not ink.
These machines are durable, fast, and built to handle high printing volumes. You’ll experience fewer service issues than an inkjet printer, and on average, laser printers have longer lifespans.
Due to their advanced printing ability, if you are looking to invest in a copier for business needs, you’ll likely want to look at laser printer options.
Pros of a laser printer
- Built to last, fewer service issues
- Produces fast, quality prints
- Toner will not dry up or smear on prints
- Reliable due to robust construction
- Easier to repair when needed than inkjet printers
- Cost per print/copy is usually cheaper
Cons of a laser printer
- It’s a larger machine
- Uses more electricity
- Without a maintenance plan, toner is expensive
When investing in a laser printer, we recommend purchasing through a copier vendor so that you can add a maintenance plan/service agreement.
This service agreement provides you access to highly tenured local service technicians, training, immediate phone support, and the assurance that you’ll always have a working machine.
Cost of inkjet vs. laser printer
Inkjet printers are generally less expensive upfront, but costly to maintain. Vice versa, laser printers are typically more upfront (unless leased) and less expensive to maintain.
Cost for home use
If you were looking for a printer for home use, the HP DeskJet Plus 4155 can be purchased on Amazon for around $100 plus tax.
However, if you are using your printer for anything more than personal use, we do not recommend buying a printer from retail giants like Amazon or Wal-Mart. They are not built for high usage.
A laser printer for home use, like the Xerox WorkCentre 6515, will cost around $350 plus tax and the service agreement (if you buy from a copier vendor).
This may be a bit higher than the inkjet, but laser machines will last longer and provide higher quality and power for your printing needs. However, if you only print a few times per month, this investment may not make sense for you.
Cost for business use
If you are looking for a copier/printer for business use, you should be looking to invest in a laser printer. While inkjet printers are less expensive upfront, if you attempt to use them for business needs, they will cost you more money in the long run.
Ink vs. toner cost per copy
Cost per copy is how much you pay per print/copy based on how many pages your toner (or ink) cartridge produces before running out.
While the cost per copy fluctuates widely based on the different cartridges available, when it comes to ink, you’ll typically be spending more per print on B&W copies than you would with a laser printer.
Below is an example that compares toner and ink cost per copy.
Xerox laser printer toner
.017 per print
.11 per print
HP inkjet printer ink
.070 per print
.11 per print (for a tri-colored ink cartridge)
Tri-colored ink cartridges vs. separate ink cartridges
From the graph above, we can see color printing for inkjet and laser are the same for this example. However, this was calculated from a tri-colored ink cartridge, which contains the three ink colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow, in one cartridge.
When buying a tri-colored ink cartridge, you’ll likely need to repurchase the set more frequently than those who purchase the colors separately.
For example, if you run out of cyan, you must repurchase the whole set, even if you still have an abundance of magenta and yellow left. This leads to frequent purchasing and wasted ink.
Additionally, if left unused, the cartridge will dry up, and you’ll be forced to purchase the whole set again.
Service and supplies for inkjet vs. laser printers
Purchasing an inkjet printer from retail giants like Wal-Mart doesn't include a service agreement, meaning you must find, and purchase ink as needed and fend for yourself when the machine has a service issue.
Finding service technicians for these printers is difficult and costly.
Purchasing or leasing a laser printer from a local copier vendor will provide you with the service agreement. Service agreements remove the stress of finding and purchasing toner and fixing service issues, at an affordable monthly price.
However, if you buy the laser printer from a retail giant, you won’t have this option.
Which printer is right for you?
Deciding which type of printer is right for you depends entirely on how many people will be using the machine, how much you print each month (your volume), and what additional features you need.
If you need a printer for home use and can’t justify the $350 laser printer for home use, then an inkjet will work fine for your needs. On the flip side, remember not to use the machine too little, because the ink can dry up when unused.
However, if you are printing anything more than a handful of times each month, and more than a few people are using the machine, a laser printer will be better built to handle your needs. Even home-office use is enough to warrant investing in a laser printer.
Additionally, if you need extra features such as a high-capacity paper feeder or productivity apps and tools to help your office, a multifunction laser printer will be the best fit for you.
If you are a business of any kind, you should be considering which laser printer is right for you, not if a laser printer is right for you.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, you should invest in a copier/printer that matches your home or business needs, not whichever is going to cost you the least amount of money.
As you’ve hopefully realized today, printers that are inexpensive to buy are costly to maintain and use.
You should always discuss your needs with a business consultant. They will evaluate your printing needs and determine whether an inkjet or laser printer will be best suited for you.
For more information on how much a copier/ printer will cost, click below to read our page that breaks down the cost for small, medium, or large teams.