How much does a printer cartridge cost?

Without a doubt, printer cartridges are an everyday commodity that comes with a high cost. But is printer ink really one of the most expensive liquids in the world, or do printer manufacturers simply want to maximize profits? To answer this question, one must first take a look at the cost of printer ink. Achieving uniform results is not that easy. After all, it’s not just the cost of black and color ink that differs. On top of that, the manufacturers themselves also set different prices.

Incredible prices per liter

If one takes a look at the liter prices for printer ink, one falls fast from all clouds. After all, a liter of black printer ink costs just under 2,000 euros. For a liter of colored ink, in turn, you have to spend 8,000 euros. When you consider that this is “only” ink, these sums really do seem considerable. However, it is misleading to quote prices for ink in liters. After all, a conventional printer cartridge tends to contain quantities in the low milliliter range.

Some printer cartridges, such as this one with black ink, contain just 3.5 ml.

But even here, you have to put up with high costs. How does this happen? Is it possibly because the printer manufacturers are pursuing their permanent greed for profit? Or are there typical market mechanisms that come into play in the pricing of printer ink? It will not be easy to find general answers to these questions. Possibly, the answer to this question lies somewhere in between.

A real high-tech fluid

Printer ink is anything but a conventional liquid. Rather, it is a sophisticated high-tech product that has been perfected over many years. One of the greatest challenges in the development of printer ink is certainly the combination of the many different components. A wide variety of organic and inorganic ingredients are used in printer ink. Each ingredient has a different function. The manufacturers’ goal is to combine these ingredients, some of which are very contradictory.

This becomes clear at the latest when one looks at the usual cycle of printer ink. It must be composed in such a way that it remains liquid in the cartridge itself. However, once it has made its way through the print head nozzles onto the paper, it must dry very quickly if possible. The optimum amount of solvent must be used here to meet all requirements. You can find out exactly what printer ink consists of here.

Don’t just keep production costs in mind

Despite the many components in printer ink, the prices still seem unjustified. After all, they are far higher than the production costs of ink. However, you should not only keep the mere ink prices in mind. With ink cartridges, other points also come into play. For example, print head cartridges have a built-in print head with independent nozzles. With these cartridges, you not only pay for the ink, but also for the technology around it. On top of that, you should keep in mind that the prices for printers have continued to drop in recent years. The prices for printer cartridges, on the other hand, remain constantly high.

When you buy print head cartridges, you’re not only paying for the ink, but also for an entirely new print head. (Image: HP)

Here, manufacturers have built a business model similar to those of wet razors with blades, for example. The initial device is comparatively cheap, but the consumables cost a lot of money. Thus, you can consider the high costs for printer cartridges as an extended purchase price of your printer. In this view, the purchase price is merely a down payment. One of the most important points is probably the special formula. Similar to the food industry, there is a lot of secrecy surrounding the composition of printer ink. After all, everyone wants to achieve the perfect balance of longevity, fast drying and color splendor.

The two different models

Basically, the following rule of thumb can be applied to the cost of a printer cartridge: The cheaper the printer is to purchase, the more expensive the cartridges will ultimately be. For example, ink cartridges for a low-priced HP printer like the HP Envy Photo 6230 cost just under 22 euros (color, 200 pages) or about 18 euros (black, 190 pages) in stores. This means you pay about 11 cents/page for the color cartridge and about 9.5 cents/page for the black cartridge. Conversely, if you want to save money on cartridges, you have to spend more money on the printer.

With the ink tank system, you really only pay for the ink. So in the end, you’re looking at far fewer follow-up costs here.

The Epson EcoTank ET-2720 costs almost three times as much as the HP printer. In return, however, the prices for the ink are also significantly lower. The reason for this is that Epson’s printer relies on a sustainable refill system. The print head is permanently installed in the device and the ink is filled into the special tank system. Thus, you only really pay for the printer ink in the end. A refill set costs about 35 Euros (color + black, 27,000 pages). This means that the costs per page are much lower than the HP counterpart at 0.1 cents per page. So, if you print a lot and want to save money in the long run, you should rather go for a slightly more expensive printer with an ink tank system.

What do you think of the topic? Click here for the comments!

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Berlin.

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