Desktop printers are convenient. But sometimes, they can be cartridge hogs. And if you’re the one in charge of ordering new toner, you’ve probably found yourself asking, “Why is toner so expensive, anyway?” The good news is you’re not alone. And you’re not imagining things. Printer toner/ink is one of the most expensive liquids on the planet. It’s worth more per ounce than gold. So why is printer toner so expensive, and more importantly, how can you control your costs when buying those little black cartridges?
The Printer Ink ConspiracyWhen we see the elevated costs of printer toner, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s all part of a dark scheme. There are sinister cabals of printer companies in the shadows, trying to get you to pay more for a product that shouldn’t cost that much. Are we at the mercy of a vast printer ink conspiracy? Well… sort of. Okay, there’s no seedy underbelly of toner cartridge crime families or anything. But it’s a bit of an open secret that when you’re paying for toner… you’re not just paying for the toner.
The Razor/Blade Business ModelIf you’ve ever used a razor, you’ve noticed that the razor itself is fairly cheap. But then when you go to buy a replacement blade, you have sticker shock. That’s because the profit in razor blades isn’t in the initial product… it’s in the ongoing supplies you need to keep that product functional. Now, think about the last time you shopped for a printer. Even if you bought a top-of-the-line unit, you were probably surprised at just how cheap some printers seem to run. Ever wonder why you can buy a brand-new printer for $150? Well, it’s because the profit isn’t in the printer. It’s in the cartridges.
Paying For The EngineeringToner and ink cartridges are specifically designed for printer models, and are constantly being phased out and replaced as new printer models are produced. There are likely two reasons for this:
- Printer companies price their devices very competitively, in order to entice customers into buying their products. This leads to a nearly microscopic markup, if any, on most printers. And those devices still require investment, time, engineering and resources in order to produce. So, to make up for it, manufacturers charge a premium for their proprietary toner cartridges, in order to recoup their investment.
- The longer a printer is in production, the more likely that 3rd party toner companies are able to produce a remanufactured toner cartridge for the unit, which they use to undercut the price of the original manufacturer’s toner. The manufacturer, if they want to continue making money off the toner, is incentivized to phase out that model and replace it with a new printer… with a new, proprietary cartridge design.