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Why is printer ink so expensive?

1 February 2023

Printer Ink Black Gold

Anyone who has ever owned a printer and has had to buy replacement ink cartridges will know how expensive they are – even the unofficial compatible copies

Sometimes they are even more expensive than what it cost you to buy the actual printer!

But why is this? Why do they cost so much? Is there anything that you can do to bring the cost of printing down?

Let’s take a look.

Ink is REALLY expensive!

Here are two facts about printer ink that will absolutely shock you:

5 factors impacting printer ink prices

When faced with raw facts like that it’s not difficult to see why the manufacturers charge us so much for printer ink. But let’s get into some finer details…

1. The printer manufacturers make no profit from the printer

This is one of the worst-kept secrets in the printing industry. Printer manufacturers play it crafty by selling the printer for peanuts because they know that once you’ve bought it you’ll have to keep coming back to them over the lifetime of the printer to buy their ink cartridges. This is the primary reason why printer ink is so expensive; to offset the loss from the printer.

Supermarkets use the same tactics; they’ll often make a tiny amount of profit (or even a loss) on some items because they know you’ll always buy additional items once you’re in the store, and this makes up for the loss.

2. R&D costs

Research and development cost money. Like, a LOT of money. Printer manufacturers Hewlett Packard reportedly spends $1 billion every year on ink research and development. Ouch! They currently hold 9,000 patents relating to printing technology and just under half of those patents are related to ink and printer cartridges.

So why does it cost so much? HP say that

“Typical ink development might have five PhD chemists working on it for several years and of course; an army of technicians.”

So now you know where some of those high printer ink prices come from.

3. Manufacturers only make cartridges compatible with their own machines

Further adding to the manufacturers’ craftiness, ink cartridges are developed specifically to only work in certain printers, namely, their own. So, for example, an HP cartridge will not work in a Lexmark or Canon printer or vice versa.

Cartridges are often fitted with chips that are read by the printer upon installation. If the printer doesn’t like what it reads, you’ll have to buy even more ink. To compound this, many printers have cartridges that work in tandem. This means that the printer will only work when all 4 colours (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black) have ink in them, so you can’t just plug in a black cartridge because you never print in colour to try and save money that way.

4. Cartridges aren’t built to last

This is a fairly modern trend and it’s definitely not exclusive to printer cartridges. Modern electronics are designed to have an in-built shelf life so you’re forced to upgrade to the manufacturer’s latest model every few years. That’s one reason why printer ink dries up so quickly, clogging up the printer heads.

5. Supply & Demand

Try and imagine, for a moment, how many printers there are being used on a daily basis; schools, offices, legal teams, homes, warehouses, doctor’s surgeries – it’s a big old list. That’s a lot of demand for printer ink. As a result, ink manufacturers can keep prices high because they know consumers have no other choice. Yes, there are compatible and remanufactured cartridges on the market, but the ink is of a much lower quality that can damage your printer.

But, what can I do to reduce my printer ink costs?

Other than using your printer at least once a week to stop the printer heads from drying up, there’s very little you can do to reduce your ink costs – except for taking out a printer lease hire agreement with DMC.

Our managed print services provide you with everything that you need to keep your printer running – including the ink. As a result of ink being part of your overall package, you could potentially pay less for it over the lifespan of your agreement.

For more information on this or any of our other printer services, speak to our expert team today by calling 03300 552 874.