The Inkjet Set

Cutting Costs

Laser printers are still the major office workhorses-for good reason. They're usually cheaper to keep up and have higher print volumes and heavy-duty cycles. Inkjets, while cheaper initially, can gobble ink cartridges faster than you can type "Staples.com." But when it comes to low-volume, personal-workstation use, an inkjet is hard to beat.

It's easy to penny-pinch initially. Lexmark's popular Z11 inkjet has a street price of $59 (street, after rebate). Even the most expensive inkjet in our table, the Xerox DocuPrint C20, at $430 (street), costs less than most black-and-white laser printers (not to mention, much less than a color laser). Comparison-shopping sites such as PriceSCAN and mySimon can help you track down the best deal.

The real big budget drain is the cost of inkjet cartridges. You can end up paying much more for new ink than you originally paid for the whole printer. For larger cartridges for the Hewlett-Packard HP DeskJet 970Cxi, a black one runs about $29 while color costs $60 from the HP online store. Most local stores will sport the same full retail prices. This is when bargain hunting pays off. Large online discount stores like Buy.com will usually knock at least $10 off retail. Just be sure to order and stock up in advance.

Another option is refill kits. Not surprisingly, inkjet manufacturers frown on this practice. It may even void your warranty. At its worst, a refill kit is a messy hassle that yields unsatisfactory prints. At its best, you'll save a lot of money and not notice any difference in quality. Is refilling your old cartridges complicated? Find out at MIS Associates, a site that rates the first-time refill difficulty of the kits they sell on a scale of one to 10.

For the HP 970Cxi, a black ink refill kit with enough for four refills costs $20. Other retailers include Refillink.com and GPG Inkjet Refills. If a refill kit sounds good, be aware that the Epson Stylus Photo 1270 has an electronic chip that won't allow such refills.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Inkjet Set.

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