Printing Costs: How To Accurately Calculate Your Printing Cost Per Page

Posted by Rob Errera on 20th Aug 2019

Printing Costs: How To Accurately Calculate Your Printing Cost Per Page

Printing costs is something that you can’t afford to ignore regardless of what business you’re in — medical, legal, government, education — you count on your printer to deliver clear, sharp prints.

But how much does it cost to print?

Let’s take a closer look at this.


What Is Cost Per Page and Why It Is Important?

If you’re in charge of ordering office supplies, or managing a print budget, you need to know how much does it cost to print one page of text or graphics on your office printer.

Printer and cartridge prices can be misleading when you want to know your real printing costs. Quite often cheaper equipment and cartridges can turn out costing you more than expensive ones depending on your circumstances. Therefore, to accurately control your printing expenses printing cost per page is the most important metric to focus on.

Printing budgets have a way of bloating and becoming unmanageable if they’re not closely monitored. Printing cost per page will tell you the average cost to print a page on your printer which is very helpful in keeping your printing costs in control.

Thankfully determining your average cost to print a page is quite simple. If you can’t wait until the end of the article, here’s the not-so-secret formula you need:

Cartridge price / Page yield + paper cost = Cost Per Page

Now let’s take a separate look at each component of this formula.


Cartridge Price: The High Cost Of Replacement Cartridges

This is a no-brainer. Cartridge price is the cartridge price. It’s the amount of money you pay to buy your printer cartridge. As simple as that.

What is not simple though is the price of a printer cartridge. Replacement cartridges are expensive!

It doesn’t matter if you’re using ink or toner (though ink is going to cost you more) — replacing the cartridges in your printer is the most expensive part of owning a printer.

Cartridge prices vary greatly depending on printer brand and model, but the same formula for determining printing costs applies.

Cartridge price / Page yield + paper cost = Cost Per Page

Learn it. Live it. Love it.


What Is Page Yield?

Simply put, page yield is the number of pages your printer can produce before needing another replacement cartridge.

Every replacement cartridge — both ink and toner — comes with a projected page yield rating.

You can usually find the projected page yield on the back or side of the package your ink or toner came in:

This box of Samsung toner, for instance, displays its 1,000-page project yield pretty clearly.


This Brother toner box displays its 3,500-page projected yield in rather a small type.


Some boxes of ink and toner, like this box of HP toner, don’t display the projected page yield, but suggest you can find the information on the company’s website.


Usually, you can also check your printer’s (or cartridge) user manual for more information on page yield.

Keep in mind, however, that these page yield ratings are based on prints with only 5% page coverage. That’s about one-third of a page of double-spaced text. That’s not much. If you print text-heavy or image-heavy pages, expect your actual printing prices per page to be much higher.


How Much Does A Piece Of Paper Cost

Don’t waste paper! It doesn’t grow on trees! Oh, wait...it kind of does.

But that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive. A standard cost of printing paper is between half-a-cent per sheet to two-cents per sheet, depending on weight and paper quality. Premium and specialty paper, however, can cost 10-cents per sheet or higher.

We love Mother Earth, but some recycled printer paper is garbage. This is especially true if you’re using an inkjet printer. Paper made for inkjet printers is designed to capture and hold the droplets of ink until they dry. Cheap paper allows ink to run, and the colors bleed into each other. Sure, you saved a penny, but your prints look like they fell in a puddle, and got run over by a big truck!

Here’s the formula to determine your paper cost per sheet.

Cost per ream (500 sheets) / number of sheets = cost per sheet

A ream (500 sheets) of 20lb-stock printer paper costs an average of $5. This factors out to a cost of 1-cent per sheet.

You can bring the cost down by buying in bulk, but don’t try to save a buck by purchasing a lower grade of paper. Paper with a low printing papers price can deliver cheap results. Remember the puddle and the big truck!

In order to accurately calculate print costs, you must factor in printing paper cost as well as the cost of the toner or ink you consume.


How To Calculate Printing Cost Per Page

So, we already know what exactly are the three main constituents for calculating your printing costs. Now let’s see how to use those constituents and calculate your printer cost per page in practice.

Let’s look at that Cost per page formula again:

Cartridge price / Page yield + paper cost = Cost Per Page

Let’s say you need to know how many pages you can print from one HP toner cartridge. If you bought an original HP 12A black toner cartridge from HP for 87.99, and it hits its projected page yield of 2,000 pages, the average cost of printing per page comes out to slightly more than 5-cents:

87.99/2000+0.01=0.054

If you were really smart, you bought that cartridge from Toner Buzz for only $78, lowering your print cost per page closer to 4-cents (including cost of paper). Every penny counts when you’re estimating cost per page to print!


Calculating The Color Printing Costs

Ready for some more math! Put on your thinking cap, and break out the calculator.

Here is the not-so-secret color cost per page formula!

(Black cartridge price / page yield) + ((Color cartridge price / page yield) x 3) + paper cost = Color printing cost per page

  1. First, determine the cost per page of the the black cartridge by dividing the cartridge price by the page yield.
  2. Next, determine the color printing cost per page by dividing the cost of the color cartridge price by its page yield.
  3. Now, take this number and multiply by three, since you’ve got three color cartridges in your printer. (In general, different color cartridges will all have the same page yield.)
  4. Finally, add the black cartridge cost per page and paper cost to the color cartridge cost per page to determine your overall color printing cost per page.

Make sense? Hope so.

Here that’s formula again:

(Black cartridge price / page yield) + ((Color cartridge price / page yield) x 3) + paper cost = Color printing cost per page


Color Print Costs vs. Black and White Printing Costs

Generally color print costs are higher than black and white printing cost.

Furthermore, less expensive printers generally run at a higher cost per print.

For example, a $100 printer might have an average black and white cost per page of 5.5-cents, and an average color printing cost per page of 8.9-cents.

A $1,000 printer in contrast can produce those same pages for around 3.9-cents for black and white, and 8.1-cents for color. This is because higher-end printers are more efficient, consuming less ink and toner.


Is It Cheaper To Print At Home Or Store?

Do you need to print 1,000 color copies?

For a job that size, you’ll get the best color printing pricing at a print store. They have heavy duty commercial printers that should be able to crank out your job in a matter of minutes.

The cost of color copies can vary, so shop around. Anything under a couple hundred pages, your home printer should be able to handle.

For small jobs, it is cheaper to print at home. Big print jobs will require, at a minimum, an office-grade printer. If big print jobs become the norm, then it might be worth investing several thousand dollars into a high-end printer to offset the cost of color printing. Until then, you’ll get better printing prices if you design and test on your home printer, but take big jobs to a local office superstore or copy shop.


Laser Printer vs Inkjet Cost per Page

This is one of the most important questions when it comes to printing costs: what is more cost-effective laser printers and toners or inkjet printers and ink cartridges?

Let’s see what the numbers say:

Cost Per Page: Inkjet

The printer costs per page of inkjet printers is generally higher than laser printers. This is because page yields are much lower with ink cartridges.

Cost per print varies between printer brands and models. In general, inkjet printers have a higher average cost per page of about 20-cents for a colored print, and 7.5-cents for black and white.

If you’re buying a new inkjet printer, stick with one that uses separate ink cartridges for each color. This will save on your overall cost.

At the same time, inkjet printers with high-capacity ink tanks can also help lower your printer ink costs per page.

How Many Pages per Ink Cartridge On Average You Can Print?

How many pages can you print with one ink cartridge?

According to PCMag, a standard ink cartridge will print an average of 220 pages, (with 11 ml of ink). A high capacity cartridge prints an average of 350 pages, (its tank holds 16 ml of ink).

Let’s say you bought an original HP 94 black ink cartridge for $40.89. The HP 94 has a page yield of 480 pages, producing a cost per print of approximately 9-cents. The HP 95 tri-color ink cartridge has a page yield of 330 pages and cost of $49.89 on amazon. This brings the cost per page in at slightly over 15-cents per page. (Hey, save more than 2-cents on every page you print by shopping a Toner Buzz!)

Are you a Canon user? Pick up a Canon PG-50 high capacity ink cartridge for $46 at Toner Buzz. This will yield 500 pages for a cost per page of approximately 9.2-cents. The PG-40 costs $31, but only yields 330 pages for an average cost per page of 9.4-cents.

Everybody is looking for the cheapest cost per page printer. Factors vary widely, but many inkjet users praise the HP OfficeJet 8720 All-in-One Printer, which delivers black and white prints at around 1.8-cents per page, and color prints for about 9.7-cents apiece.

HP OfficeJet 8720 All-in-One Printer is an inkjet printer that delivers a low cost per page.


We’ve got a great deal on a set of HP 952xl high yield ink cartridges! Other low cost per page printers include the HP DeskJet 2135 All-in-One:

The HP DeskJet 2135 All-in-One is another inkjet printer that offers good cost per page value.


and the Canon PIXMA MX922:


Critics and users alike praise the Canon PIXMA MX922 inkjet for its cost per page value.


Cost Per Page: Laser Printers

Toner cost per page is usually lower than inkjet cost per page. The average cost to print a page on a laser printer is around 5- to 8-cents for black and white, and between 12- and 15-cents for color laser prints. However, the cost of color print can rise as high as 60-cents per page for photos and heavy graphics.

What Is The Average Number Of Pages A Toner Cartridge Can Print?

The page yield of toner cartridges ranges anywhere from between 2,500-4,000 pages for standard cartridges, to 10,000-12,000 pages for high capacity cartridges. Check the side of the cartridge box; the page yield should be listed there.

Keep in mind, however, that page yield is based on only 5% page coverage. This is about a third-of-a-page of double spaced text. If you print text-heavy pages or graphics, expect your actual page yield to be about a one-fourth of its official rating. A cartridge with a page yield listed at 4,000, may run out after less than 1,000 pages in real world conditions.

Looking for a laser printer with the lowest cost per page? The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdw, with a cost-per-page of 8-cents, is considered an average performer among multifunction color laser printers.

The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdw is a dependable laser workhorse that operates at a reasonable printing cost.


The Brother HL-L2350DW, however, is the lowest cost per page laser printer we’ve found, coming in at around 3.3-cents per page.

The Brother HL-L2350DW, however, has a sweet cost per page of around 3.3 cents.


How To Save On Cost Per Page

In a perfect world, everybody’s average printing costs would be zero, and printing would be free and easy. But the world is far from perfect. Your toner clumps, and your ink dries up. It is known.

It might be easier to tell you how to NOT save on the cost of prints.

  • Don’t refill ink cartridges! It’s messy and your print quality will suffer.
  • Don’t use compatible cartridges! Compatible ink and toner cartridges have little to no quality control or manufacturing oversight. While priced cheaper than OEM ink and toner, compatible cartridges deliver less pages than original cartridges, and produce weak prints.
  • Don’t use cheap paper!

The above methods seem like good ways to save on printing price, but your print quality will suffer. Is it worth saving half-a-penny per page if your prints are smudged and blurry. The puddle! The big truck!

For the best quality prints at the lowest cost per page, stick with high-capacity, brand name ink and toner cartridges. The page yields will be more accurate, the quality higher, and the operation trouble-free with genuine cartridges.

PS — While you’ve got the top popped open on your ancient machine, you might as well take a few minutes to clean your laser printer!


Online Printing Cost Per Page Calculators

For even more advanced printing costs calculations you can use printing costs calculators that are freely available online.

For example, Kyocera offers a Printer Total Cost of Ownership Calculator that Kyocera users may find helpful.

Others may want to try PC World’s Printer Cost Calculator which compares different printer models.

There are also these downloadable spreadsheets which serve as a printing cost estimator.