Buying A Printer Or Printing From Shops: Which Should You Choose While Working From Home

As many of us continue to work from home, regular access to office equipment remains an issue, especially as work ramps up. While we may be able to substitute crucial office facilities such as WiFi with better home internet broadband, meeting rooms via video conferencing software and stationery by purchasing our own, a printer tends to be one of the tools that we only realise when it is missing.

For anyone who requires printing paperwork, for invoicing or official purposes, or simply prefer the tactility of paper, especially for accounting, design and copyediting purposes, buying a printer may have crossed our mind. After all, we should not be restricted to the rigid operating hours of printing shops nor have to weigh the inconvenience of walking to the nearest one.

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For the privilege of on-demand printing at our convenience, we need to purchase a printer as well as ink cartridges and reams of paper to store at home. In this article, we break down the costs of owning a printer compared to going down to the printing shop each time.

#1 Average Cost Of Printing Shops

Charges of printing shops are fairly uniformed. Rates listed are not inclusive of bulk discounts and discounts from minimum orders.

Colour of PrintSingle PageDouble Page
Black and White (B&W)$0.50 $1.00

While there may be cheaper options, it may take some time to hunt down the most affordable option. It is also worth noting that prices may vary according to the print quantity – a 10-page print job will typically be more expensive per sheet compared to a 100-page print job. 

#2 Cost Of Buying A Printer

The cost of buying a printer can vary from less than $100 to several hundred dollars. We’re going to exclude more expensive models – that can cost several thousand dollars and may be quite bulky as well – that may be more suitable for the office.

Printer ModelAuto Double Page PrintPrice
Canon MG2570S Colour AIONo$59 
Canon TR4570SYes$149 

Source: Courts

In order to print in double page on the cheapest model, you would have to manually flip the paper. For the costlier models, the machine handles it for you. Both models in the example are inkjet printers, capable of photocopying, scanning, and printing in colour.

Most printers come with 2 years warranty. Assuming this lifespan, the daily operational cost would be $0.09 and $0.21 for the cheaper and more expensive model respectively. Assuming we print about 300 pieces of paper each month or 10 pieces a day, the cost of each printout – on the costlier model – is just under $0.02. Of course, the more pieces we print each day, the lower this amount becomes or may even be negligible. On the other hand, we’re not taking any servicing fees or risk of breakdown into consideration.

#3 Cost Of Printing Materials – Ink & Paper

We use Canon’s original ink cartridges (the XL variant) as reference, as the XL variant provides the best value per cubic centimetre (CC) of ink. It is also compatible with both models of printers. 

Ink CartridgePrice
Canon PG-745 XL (Black)$26.80

According to estimates from stores, the cartridges in the XL size are capable of printing 300 pages worth of content. Assuming that each cartridge is able to print the stated number of pages, each page will amount to $0.09 and $0.13 for the black ink and coloured ink. 

For the paper, we use the cheapest paper we found in NTUC, which is the Double A A4 paper at 70gsm, which retails for $4.90 for a 500-sheet pack, which amounts to roughly $0.01 per piece. 

The material cost (ink and paper) for each page of printout works out to close to $0.10 to $0.14.

We’re not taking any storage cost or electricity cost into consideration.

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#4 Cost Per Printed Page

The cost per printed paper can be achieved after adding the required resources for a print job. The table below shows the cost per page, for colour printing and black and white printing respectively. 

Cost of MaterialsColour PrintBlack & White Print
Printer Cost/piece$0.02$0.02
Total (single)$0.16 ($1.50 from outside)$0.12 ($0.50 from outside)
Total (double page)$0.31 ($3.00 from outside)$0.23 ($1.00 from outside)

If we are printing in small quantities, purchasing a printer looks to be the more affordable option, and likely more convenient option. If we are printing in larger quantities and in batches, we may be able to get a better price and hence prefer to use the printer shop.

#5 Print Quantity And Wait Time

Musa 24 Hours Printing Shop is one of the shops that offers a low price of $0.03 per page, even cheaper than buying our own printer. And as implied by its name, it is open 24 hours a day. 

However, in order to get the ridiculously cheap prices, we are required to fulfill a minimum order of $10 (equivalent to 334 pages in B&W, double sided) and pay $3 in handling charge (which will add about $0.01 to the cost per piece). 

Another requirement we would have to fulfill is a 3-day wait from time of ordering. Otherwise, the prices would be increased to $0.20 per page – which is still relatively competitive to buying our own printer which costs $0.16 per page. 

If our print job is not urgent and is worth more than $10, we will get a better deal in this print shop, compared to printing from home. When doing the same print job at home, it would amount to $38.41 (334 pages in B&W, double sided), which is more than triple of what we will be paying the print shop. 

Individual Printing Needs Matter Most When Determining Best Printing Option

From the discussion above, our individual printing needs will typically determine the best option rather than the actual costs. If we need to print many pages in batches, outsourcing could be the cheapest option. We could also go to a printer shop if we have very infrequent and low quantity printing needs rather than buying a printer.

On the other hand, if we are printing 5 to 10 pages a day and require the printouts at our own convenience, buying our personal printer may be the ideal and cheapest outcome.

In recent years, moving to digital in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint have reduced our reliance of printed copies. Many contracts and invoices as well as design and copyediting software have since moved online in the form of e-statements. This means printers are less utilised as compared to years ago. 

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