What Is Page Coverage and Why Is It Important? 

Submitted by Karla Metzler on Fri, 11/18/2022 - 09:00
Dimmed-out pages stacked on top of each other

Page coverage, which is the amount of toner or ink on a page, is one of the most important things you can learn about your printer/copier.  

It is a huge determinator of how much you will spend on printer cartridges throughout the lifespan of your machine.  

But, in all honesty, it’s a confusing concept for most to understand. However, the importance of page coverage cannot be overstated. 

That’s why we want to use our expertise to tackle the topic of page coverage in a simple and easily digestible way. 

Because after almost 40 years in the printer/copier industry, we’ve accrued the knowledge to break down what page coverage is and why it plays such a central role in your printing costs. 

We’re going to be going over and breaking down the concept of page coverage, what 5%-page coverage means, an example of page coverage and why it is important to understand. We’ll also be providing tips on how to make your printer cartridges last.  

What Is Page Coverage?  

Simply put, page coverage is how much of a page is covered with ink or toner. Easy, right? 

But you might have noticed while looking at your new supply of printer cartridges that it says something along the lines of this cartridge can print up to “52,000 pages at 5%-page coverage.”  

5%-page coverage? What does that mean? 

Let’s expand on that point in more detail: 

What Does 5% Page Coverage Mean? 

The 5%-page coverage standard was set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and is comprised of national standards bodies that set standards for the development, manufacturing and supply of products, such as printer cartridges.  

The purpose of the 5%-page coverage standard is to let you know the maximum number of pages, defined as page yield, that you could print with that specific cartridge if you printed at 5% of the page every time. 

What does 5%-page coverage look like? See the graphic below, courtesy of LD Products, for a visual representation of how toner or ink covering 5% of the page looks compared to other percentages: 

Notice the differences? The pages with the lowest amount of toner or ink have just black-and-white text and are pretty straightforward.  

But as the prints become more colorful and graphic, the page coverage increases significantly because more toner or ink had to be used in the process of making the prints.  

Let’s look at an example to show this more practically: 

Page Coverage Example 

Since we specialize in Xerox products specifically, we’re going to use a machine in Xerox’s catalog, the Xerox VersaLink C405, as an example. This a smaller desktop printer that can print documents in color and black and white. 

Picture of the Xerox VersaLink C405, courtesy of Xerox: 

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Since it’s a color printer, the printer cartridges it takes will be CMYK, or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). Each of those four cartridges has a page yield of around 6,000 pages at 5%-page coverage. 

But think about the documents you print: Would you say that every one of them looks like the document with 5%-page coverage in the previous section? 

Odds are, you will be printing documents with a lot more page coverage than 5% regularly, which means the toner you bought will not be able to print close to that 6,000-page maximum limit per cartridge that it states on the box. 

This is where consumers get confused sometimes. Just because the toner or ink says it can print 6,000 pages before running out doesn’t mean that you should expect your supplies to last that long. 

It is simply letting you know the maximum amount of volume the toner would last if you printed at 5%-page coverage every time. 

This is especially apparent when printing photos or printing in color. The more graphical your print is, the more ink or toner from your printer cartridge is being used to make that print. 

That’s why the contents of your prints largely determine how long your printer cartridge will last.  

Page coverage can also be affected by the age of your printer, how often you print, the font you use and if there are certain internal parts that need replacing.  

Why Is Page Coverage Important? 

Now that you know what page coverage is and what the 5%-standard is set for, why is it important?  

There are multiple reasons why page coverage is a crucial aspect of printing. The main ones are: 

  • It determines how long your printer cartridges will last.  

  • It plays a role in the type of toner or ink you need to buy for your machine. 

  • It can play a major part in why you’re paying a lot of money for your supplies for your machine. 

That last part is crucial because toner and ink cartridges are the most expensive part of printing and coverage is what drives how much you're spending on printer cartridges.

Learning about page coverage is important, especially if you’re independently managing your machine. But there is a way that you can take the burden of page coverage and which toner cartridges you should buy and put it on to somebody else. 

It’s by opting into a service or maintenance agreement with a vendor that offers automatic toner shipments. Let’s talk about that more in the next section: 

Is a Printer Service Contract Right for You? 

Most consumers that run a business don’t want to worry about constantly buying supplies for their machines. Especially when the machines they have are larger units built for bigger workgroups.  

That’s why many vendors that sell printers offer, and sometimes require, that you opt into a service agreement. For some vendors, this means they will be able to ship your toner automatically as you need it, which will take the issue of buying supplies out of your hands. 

Automatic shipments of toner work by installing software on your network to read the toner levels on your printer. Once toner levels are low, the software will alert the manufacturer of your machine that you need a new shipment of toner cartridges. They will then be automatically shipped to your door. (Note: Toner is the only supply item that can be automatically shipped) 

Most service offerings that include automatic shipments of toner will save you money in the long run because page coverage is removed from the equation, which eliminates a major consumer cost variable. 

If you do opt to include a service agreement as a part of your machine, they will typically cost around $12 a month plus your price per page. 

Smaller workgroups that don’t print often likely wouldn’t be a fit for a service contract. But if you use your printer often and find that you are overpaying for supplies or printing costs, then a service contract could be a solution for you. 

Read our blog comparing automatic shipments of toner vs. buying your own to see which one would be better for you.  

How Can You Make Your Supplies Last? 

All of this talk about supplies begs the question: How do you make your supplies last so you’re not constantly having to go to the store to replenish them? Here are a few insider tips on how to make your supplies, specifically toner or ink cartridges, last: 

  • Analyze your printing behavior—are there documents that you’re printing that don’t necessarily need to be printed? Pro Tip: Save documents, like letters or invoices, to a hard drive instead of printing if you find that your current printing bill is too high.  

  • Change your font to use less ink or toner. The print quality might suffer a bit, so use it on internal or less significant documents.  

  • Don’t go out and replace toner or ink cartridges right when you get an alert that says it’s running low. They will be able to last quite a bit longer, even after the low toner alert. You paid for the supplies: Make sure to get the most out of them. 

  • Buy a new printer. If your printer is over five years old and you use it almost every day, service issues could increase, as will the need to buy new supplies for the machine.  

  • Opt for a service contract with automatic shipments of toner if you are managing multiple machines or a larger machine on your own.  

If you’re also curious to learn some tips on how to make your printer itself last a long time, read our eight tips to increase the lifespan of your printer/copier

Watch the video below to learn more about e-Valet, which is our maintenance plan here at STPT (more on this in the next section):  

Interested in a Printer Service Contract? 

Page coverage is a complex, albeit crucial part of getting supplies like printer cartridges for your printer. 

Because supplies are one of the main areas of over expenditures when owning a printer, you need to make sure you understand the concept of page coverage if you’re managing your supply purchases.  

Understanding page coverage will not only net you the toner or ink that you need, but it will also make you more cognizant of what you’re printing and how you can cut back on making unnecessary prints. 

As we mentioned previously, if you don’t want to worry about page coverage or buying the right supplies, vendors that sell printers/copiers typically offer service contracts or maintenance plans that could be a solution for you.  

As an accredited vendor ourselves, we offer a maintenance plan called e-Valet that could be a fit for you if you need a better service and supply solution. 

Read our blog on our maintenance plan, e-Valet and/or watch the video above this section to see the benefits of e-Valet and if you would be a fit for it.