Why Is Printer Toner So Expensive?

Desktop printers are convenient. But sometimes, they can be cartridge hogs. And if you’re the one in charge of ordering new toner, you’ve probably found yourself asking, “Why is toner so expensive, anyway?”

The good news is you’re not alone. And you’re not imagining things. Printer toner/ink is one of the most expensive liquids on the planet. It’s worth more per ounce than gold.

So why is printer toner so expensive, and more importantly, how can you control your costs when buying those little black cartridges?

The Printer Ink Conspiracy

When we see the elevated costs of printer toner, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s all part of a dark scheme. There are sinister cabals of printer companies in the shadows, trying to get you to pay more for a product that shouldn’t cost that much. Are we at the mercy of a vast printer ink conspiracy?

Well… sort of.

Okay, there’s no seedy underbelly of toner cartridge crime families or anything. But it’s a bit of an open secret that when you’re paying for toner… you’re not just paying for the toner.

The Razor/Blade Business Model

If you’ve ever used a razor, you’ve noticed that the razor itself is fairly cheap. But then when you go to buy a replacement blade, you have sticker shock. That’s because the profit in razor blades isn’t in the initial product… it’s in the ongoing supplies you need to keep that product functional.

Now, think about the last time you shopped for a printer. Even if you bought a top-of-the-line unit, you were probably surprised at just how cheap some printers seem to run. Ever wonder why you can buy a brand-new printer for $150?

Well, it’s because the profit isn’t in the printer. It’s in the cartridges.

Paying For The Engineering

Toner and ink cartridges are specifically designed for printer models, and are constantly being phased out and replaced as new printer models are produced. There are likely two reasons for this:

  1. Printer companies price their devices very competitively, in order to entice customers into buying their products. This leads to a nearly microscopic markup, if any, on most printers. And those devices still require investment, time, engineering and resources in order to produce. So, to make up for it, manufacturers charge a premium for their proprietary toner cartridges, in order to recoup their investment.
  2. The longer a printer is in production, the more likely that 3rd party toner companies are able to produce a remanufactured toner cartridge for the unit, which they use to undercut the price of the original manufacturer’s toner. The manufacturer, if they want to continue making money off the toner, is incentivized to phase out that model and replace it with a new printer… with a new, proprietary cartridge design.

Aside from those two reasons, toner itself isn’t cheap, requiring petroleum products in it’s production. And cartridges are constantly being innovated and modified in order to improve efficiency and reduce ink and toner waste.

How To Reduce Printing Costs

There are a myriad of ways that your printer can be costing you money. And when ink/toner is one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, it’s important to understand what they are and how to reduce the costs that you have when printing.

What’s Your Toner Plan?

The main culprit that we see when it comes to printing costs? Not having a good plan in place to manage your printers on a day-to-day basis. Here are some of the elements that make up a great toner cost reduction plan:

Keep An Eye On Your Toner Costs

For one, most businesses don’t even pay attention to what they spend on toner. Why? Because it’s like putting gas in your tank. It’s a necessary expense that is out of sight, out of mind. But it’s impossible to control costs that aren’t measured.

Shop Smart For Toner

Not all organizations comparison shop for the best prices on toner, or have the right connections to find a good deal on quality remanufactured toner. This can result in paying top dollar for OEM cartridges, or accidentally buying low-quality ‘drill-and-fill’ products that aren’t efficient or effective.

Reduce Your Waste

In addition, most organizations suffer from waste. Whether that’s printing waste, or simply replacing toner before it’s really due to be replaced, every bit of inefficiency when it comes to toner directly impacts your bottom line.

Pick A Great Partner

At Applied Imaging, our PrintSmart program is designed to give you total visibility into your print environment, the tools to control those costs over time, and the support to keep your printer fleet running smoothly and efficiently.

If you’re concerned about whether you’re spending too much on toner, or if you’re worried about managing your print fleet, our PrintSmart program is designed specifically for you. In many cases, we’re able to provide supplies & service for desktop devices, for a similar cost to what they currently spend on toner alone.

Learn more about our PrintSmart program, and be sure to reach out to us. We’d love to chat about the ways that we can help.

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