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Lifetime cost of your printer

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Looking to buy a printer before your kid heads back to class? You may be tempted to buy an inexpensive printer. But once you factor in the cost of replacement ink, you may not be getting such bargain. Consumer Reports breaks down what that printer will really cost over the next few years.

Inkjet printers vary widely on how much ink they use. The price of a cartridge ranges anywhere from $12 to $120 by itself. So that printer you may have paid only a little bit for will cost you a lot more over time. And in a Consumer Reports survey, almost half of printer owners said they are “paying too much for printer cartridges.” And more than a quarter of them said they have to “buy new cartridges too often.”

Consumer Reports suggests researching ink prices and do the math to find out how much you’re really paying for that printer over time. The HP Envy will cost you $130 at first. It needed new ink after just five months. After three years, your total cost is up to $471. After five years, the cost is up to $735. The Brother MFC-J6520DW model is a little more up front at $225. It didn’t need ink for almost a year. After three years, your cost is up moderately to $336. After five years, the cost is up to $444.

Another option is a printer with refillable ink tanks. The tanks hold a lot of ink, so you go a long while before you have to refill them. The $280 Epson EcoTank didn’t need new ink for more than two years. After five years, it’s total cost is $315 -- that’s less than half of what the bargain printer costs after five years. The drawback with the EcoTanks, including the Epson model, is that text quality was only fair in the Consumer Reports tests.

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