This is not the usual question that I see here, but What topics can I ask about here? says:

Personal Finance and Money Stack Exchange is for people who want to be financially literate, find ways to save money ...

So, in my question asking for a cheap printer, I said

I imagine that, as usual, it will come with half-cartridges. But, frankly, I am coming to see that buying a new printer is cheaper than buying ink, so will probably continue to do so in the future. If I buy a dedicated scanner, or just keep this printer to use its scanner features, then I can buy even cheaper printers in future, with no scanning capability.

Try DuckDuckGo-ing for printer ink is more expensive than and you will see that it is more expensive than gold, champagne, human blood (do vampires even use printers?) and much, much more.

Why Is Printer Ink So Expensive? compares printers and ink to

the razor model — sell a razor cheaply and mark up the razor blades. Rather than making a one-time profit on the razor, you’ll make continuing profit as the customer keeps buying razor blade replacements — or ink, in this case.

I could go on, but you get the picture and are probably well aware of it in any case.

My question is, morality of scrapping working printers aside, on a cost basis, am I better off buying a new printer every time the ink runs out on my current one? As I said, once I have one with a scanner, I can retain it for scanning and buy rock bottom models with no scanner.

It seems to me that I can always find a cheap printer that costs less than refill ink, but perhaps I am missing something?

  • 1
    Have you taken into account third party ink refills? Printers where you refill just the ink rather than a whole cartridge?
    – glibdud
    Mar 26, 2020 at 11:28
  • 1
    I have had problems with those. Just bought from a few different sources & ended up paying more than cheap printer for ink that did not work :-(
    – Mawg
    Mar 26, 2020 at 11:55
  • Right now I can imagine a scenario where that may make sense: you are now in home office and will need to print over the next weeks, but the starter cartridge (or maybe starter + one refill) will get you over that home office time. After that, you don't have to print any more at home. For most situations with "ongoing" printing requirements, I suspect it is worth while looking into your precise requirements and compare printing options with these in mind. Mar 26, 2020 at 14:28
  • First question: how much printing do you actually need to do? If you're like me, the ink cartridges would dry out long before they were empty. Solution was to ship my printing off to the local public library at 25 cents/page.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 26, 2020 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


Yes, you are missing something. Missing is the fact that 'starter' cartridges have a fraction of the ink of the full, new cartridge. Say the new printer on sale is $100. And the set of replacement cartridges is $120. It's not the same volume of ink, searching shows it's about 1/4 or so. The new printer contains $30 worth of ink, and is only worth buying if the old printer is in need of updating anyway.

Yes, we've all thought of this.


You are falling for the coca-cola fallacy. When buying smaller container of CC you pay more per ounce than buying large container, so the higher price must be due to desire to push people to buy bigger ones. Here it means that Printer with Ink is cheaper than Ink itself then it means company want to sell the printers.

So you assume that selling more is better for the seller becuase they sell more. So you assume that amount of ink per $ paid is better with a printer (even if there is less ink in cartridge overall).
Plus you get free printer.

A)the amount of ink is not even close to 1/3 of normal catridge. For example in my old HP Office Jet (Pro Premium all-in-one) regular color catridge was 17 ml. Starter was 3 ml.

B) if you want to save consider refills or what is called "constant flow" which require change to your printer so it work more like plotter.

C) change a method of printing

When printing you don't calcualte cost of materials. You calculate cost of printing one page. Or what is called PPP (price per page). Let's say that cost of machine is for now, non existing. Cost of paper don't change (so for any technology avaiable to you you would use same paper). What is left is how many pages you can print with one "ink". For example laser printer toner might cost four times the price of in but you can print 5 times the amount of pages. Also it "shelf-life" is much longer than ink.

  • 1
    And tests and comparisons for price per page for ink-jet and laser printers exist that even give the numbers depending on roughly how much you print. Mar 26, 2020 at 14:18
  • 2
    The phrase "the Coca-Cola fallacy" has been used by different authors to refer to different things; what do you mean by it? Mar 26, 2020 at 18:05

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