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Why A Cheap 11" x 17" Printer = Waste

Shopping for a printer is rarely fun.  It’s even less fun when it costs too much money.  A cheap 11×17 printer is a waste of money for contractors.

The only time most people are excited about a new printer is when they are ready to go full “office space” on their current one.  Though the printer played a small role in the movie, it is one of the most memorable scenes because we can all relate.

Offices with printer problems have one thing in common – the problem could have been avoided.  Buying decisions should be based on more than ink vs. toner, can it fax, and does it print both sides.

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In cases where 11×17 printers are required, the price of toner printers jumps up considerably.  Understanding a few key points can prevent a lot of headaches for your staff.

1 – Employee time

Someone, likely you since you’re reading this, is responsible for researching and buying a printer/copier.  We will talk about buying criteria in the next step, but for now, let’s stick with how printers rely on human interaction.  No matter if you are buying online or shopping at a big box store, someone is getting paid to shop rather than do their job.

Companies without an IT person or department will require an employee to put the new printer into service.  An employee installing a printer isn’t earning revenue for the company.

When it mysteriously stops printing, can’t find the computer, needs ink or toner, needs 2-sided pages from a single side printer (more on that in the next segment), or is always needing the paper tray refilled, someone is off task and troubleshooting.

Your printer should be looked at as an employee, not an expense.  The right printer can automate manual tasks and save employees time.  The next section will help you determine what is the right printer for your office.

2 – Knowing what to buy

The biggest mistake made when purchasing printers is simply buying the wrong one.  Decisions tend to be made on price (you were searching for a “cheap 11×17 printer”) and inventory rather than time-saving functions and workspace need.

Helpful tip – the cheaper the printer, the more expensive to operate.

Big box stores carry a limited selection.  The price tag influences the decision and features are sacrificed to save a few dollars.  Certain printers can eliminate wasted ink/toner and paper by sending and receiving faxes without printing.  Others can scan to a variety of locations by pushing a single button.

Some features eliminate manual tasks that normally create bottlenecks and slow your office down.  Lastly, the wrong printer makes companies overuse an underpowered device, causing it to fail sooner than a right-sized printer… back to step 1 (and back to the store).

Now that we are past productivity and efficiency (the “soft costs”), here’s where the dollars and cents go. This is a game of many small wins.  We split pennies that quickly turn into dollars

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3 – Page yields

If you feel like you are constantly buying ink/toner, it’s because your cartridge has a low yield.  For those interested, page yields are normally based on a 5% or 6% coverage of an 8.5” x 11” page. See our blog on understanding page yields to start buying less toner.

11” x 17” pages instantly cut the cartridge yield in half (and a double-sided 11” x 17” = 4 pages).  For cartridges with a low yield (300 – 500 pages), 2 – 4 ink cartridges may be needed for 1 single ream of paper.   Suddenly that cheap 11×17 printer isn’t so cost-effective.

To calculate the cost per page, divide the price by the number of sheets.  Do this for the ink/toner cartridge and the ream of paper, then add the two numbers together.

Helpful tip: toner yields are higher than ink.  The price of the cartridge may be more, but the cost per page is typically lower.

4 – Cost of ink/toner

For ink, the main thing to keep in mind is the number of milliliters (ml) in the tank.  Small inks (even the ones labeled XL) are the reasons why you’re always buying ink.

Again, The smaller the ink/toner, the higher the price per page.

  • Ink with a 350-page yield and a $19.99 price tag means each 8.5” x 11’ page costs about 5.5 cents (11 cents for an 11×17 page).  *you need at least 2 of these cartridges per ream of paper (see section 5 for more info)
  • Toner cartridges with a 2100 page toner that sell for $80 have nearly a 4 cent per page cost. (12,000-page yield sells for $144 has a cost per page of just over a penny).

To make comparing easier, download our toner tool to see what the real cost of your printer will be, both now, and in the long run.

If you are considering “compatibles or refills” to lower costs, remember – lower price = shorter life and higher costs in the long run.

5 – Cost of paper

Paper is sold in reams of 500.  A case of paper usually has 10 reams (5 reams for 11” x 17”).  You can find deals on paper if you buy in bulk or save coupons.  Refer to section 1.

  • 3.5 center per 11×17 sheet (paper) + 11 cents (ink) = 14.5 cents (total cost per sheet for B&W 11×17)

6 – Multifunction

In many cases, a multifunction device can save time and money.  Combining uses between departments can be a costly mistake.  Consider how often the printer is going to be tied up with regular office functions.  The cost per page is much higher on a cheap 11×17 printer, so a separate, more appropriate office printer might be a better option.

Bonus tip: pay attention to the speed of printing and scanning to prevent bottlenecks

7 – Still outsource big stuff

Many contractors reduce plan sets to 11×17 for bids or shop use and avoid the trip to the local print shop.  Smaller plan sets can make numbers harder to read, increasing the risk of mistakes on the bid.

Outsourcing larger prints have associated costs like delivery, staple, and scan/copy fees.  Print shops can range from $0.75 – $4.00 for a 24” x 36” black and white drawing.  Color plans usually start around $3 per ft2.

A more cost-effective option than a cheap 11×17 printer may be to consider a large format printer that can do all the above, has a larger ink tank, large paper rolls, auto stacking/cutting, and multifunction capable.

Though the initial cost is slightly higher, the lower cost per page on 11×17 and the ability to print larger size plan sets make a large format printer the more attractive option.  For companies looking to keep costs low, leasing might be a smart choice as well.

The most important takeaway is to buy a printer that fits your office.  If it can’t order its own supplies or requires employee time and attention, it’s the wrong printer.  Make your printer work for you instead of the other way around.

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.

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