When Is It Time To Buy A New Printer?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 04/06/21 •  9 min read

What factors will help me determine when it is time to replace my printer?

You can definitively know when it’s time to buy a new printer by answering these 3 questions:
1) Does my printer meet my needs?
2) Is my printer performing like it did when I first bought it?
3) Can I afford to maintain my printer?

Both laser printers and Inkjet printers do have a lifespan. Gone are the days where you could buy something that would last you 10-20 years, (especially when it comes to technology). Realistically, you need to be thinking more in line of 3 to 5 years when it comes to replacing your printer.

While laser printers will generally last much longer than inkjet printers, if you maintain your printer and take care of it, it is possible to extend the life of your printer for up to 5 years, perhaps even longer if you purchase replacment parts.

Does Your Printer Meet Your Needs?

The first question you have to ask when considering replacing your printer is, “Does this printer meet my needs right now?” When you purchased your printer, it probably did meet your needs. But does it still meet your printing needs?

Your printing needs will change over time, and that’s OK. For example, you may have kids that need a printer to print out school projects today, but even the printing needs of your kids will change over time. You may have purchased an inkjet printer to complete a given project, but now that you have completed that project, it may not suit your needs now.

The bottom line is that you need to honestly assess your needs, (and the needs of your family), to determine if your printer is currently meeting your needs today.

Is Your Laser Printer Still Performing Like it Originally Did?

Things wear down with time. Does your printer run as well as it did the day you first purchased it? Let me help you answer that question by asking you this question: Do you find more “issues” with your printer that you need to deal with now, than you did the day you first purchased your printer?

Does your printer drum need to be replaced?

There are primarily two things that need to be maintained on a laser printer.

  1. You will need to replace the Printer Drum.
  2. You will need to replace the toner cartridge when needed.

Keep in mind, however, that if you rarely use your laser printer, you may never need to replace the printer drum. The more you print, however, the more likely it is that you will need to replace the printer drum with time. You can easily determine if your printer drum needs to be replaced by answering the questions listed below.

Does your printer leave streaks on printouts as shown below?

Courtesy of inksaver.co.za

Does your laser printer leave faded white areas (known as ghosting), when printing?

Courtesy of inksaver.co.za

Does your printer leave random dots when printing?

Courtesy of Brother

If your printer prints pages that look like any of the images displayed above, you will need to replace your printer drum. If you have replaced the partner toner cartridge, and you still see poor printing output, you should replace the printer drum. Additionally, you should replace your printer drum if your printer display tells you to replace the drum.

Is Your Inkjet Printer Still Performing Like it Originally Did?

Do your printouts look like someone used a highlighter on your paper?

If you find that your printouts look like someone took a highlighter to your printout, you may need to recalibrate the printhead using the printer software utility that came with your printer. Doing this, in conjunction with utilizing the cleaning utility that your printer software provides, will usually resolve this issue.

Is the print-head all gummed up?

A printhead that is all gummed up occurs when ink is dried on the printhead itself, and if used, it can cause even more damage to the printhead.

If you are well under the 1.5 – 2 year mark, and your inkjet printhead is behaving as I have indicated above, it may be that you simply need to clean the printhead. Cleaning the printhead is beyond the scope of this article, however, if you like, you can learn how to clean your printhead by watching the 3 minute YouTube video below.

Does the Print Head need to be replaced?

Inkjet printers need to be regularly maintained. Ironically, the best way to regularly maintain an inkjet printer, is to use it. In order to prevent the printhead from gumming up, the printer will actually clean itself by running once per day. However, if you rarely use your inkjet printer, and utilize the built-in self-cleaning mechanism by enabling that feature, you will find that by flushing ink through the system to prevent ink from drying on the printhead may use ink itself, and over time, waste ink.

You should not have to replace the printhead on your inkjet printer until you have been using your printer for close to 2 years. Of course, this also has a lot to do with how much you print in a 2 year span. The printhead does wear out over time, and if the afore-mentioned solutions do not work, you may need to replace the printhead, itself, which can be purchased at any office supply store, or online.

Can You Afford to Maintain Your Printer?

When we speak of the “Cost”, we are not only referring to the initial cost of the printer, but also the cost to maintain the printer. Inkjet printers tend to require more maintenance than laser printers, and in the long run, are far more expensive than laser printers.

The Cost of Maintaining an Inkjet Printer

Personally, I find inkjet printers very expensive, and difficult to maintain, but that’s because I rarely print. For example, I might print a few pages a month. As such, I would spend way too much time maintaining the printer than using the printer. For me, the decision to use a laser printer is a no-brainer. I don’t have time to maintain a printer I don’t use. However, your needs are entirely different than mine.

If you find that you need color printouts, (and don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a color laser printer), an color inkjet printer just might be the right fit for you.

Keep in mind, however, that some inkjet printers have an all-encompassing ink-tank, meaning that all the ink is house in one unit. If you use all of the black ink, and the other colors still have plenty of life left in them, you will necessarily need to replace the entire ink cartridge (the whole unit). Other printers allow for individual ink cartridges, and you will need to replace them as needed. In fact, if you were to run out of the yellow color, your inkjet printer would probably not print, even if you were trying to print something that does not require yellow.

Inkjet printer cartridges have a habit of needing to be replaced at the most inopportune time. Again, something to keep in mind.

The Cost of Maintaining a Laser Printer

If you are the proud owner of your first laser printer, you may have found that you needed to replace the toner cartridge sooner than you have expected. The big surprise, however, is just how much a toner cartridge can cost.

A cursory look at toner cartridges found on Amazon.com will show toner replacement cartridges ranging from just over $20 to nearly $400! The more pages your printer can print on one toner cartridge, the more money it will cost to replace that toner cartridge.

Printer drums vary in price, and can range anywhere from $25 to $170 or more, depending on the printer in question. Chances are, that if you find that your printer drum needs to be replaced, it is because you have been using your printer a lot. Replacing the printer drum will usually cost less than it would to replace the entire printer, so that is definitely something to keep in mind.

You may just find that it easier to simply replace the entire printer. How difficult will it be for you to replace the printer drum? Where will you get it from? Assuming you can’t pick the printer drum up at your local office supply store (perhaps an office supply store like Staples), are you able to purchase it online? These are just a few questions to consider.

Which Type of Printer is More Reliable, an Inkjet or Laser Printer?

When it comes to reliability, laser printers win, hands down. They require far less maintenance, and you will never be surprised by your printer telling you that it won’t print because you are out of ink. Even if the laser printer runs out of toner, it will still print a faded printout.

With laser printers, there are less things that need to be maintained, and not as many things that can go wrong with it. With a laser printer, you will either need to replace the printer toner cartridge, printer drum, or fix a paper-jam. With an inkjet printer, it can get messy and expensive, and may not function for you at the most inconvenient time.

Closing Thoughts

The Frustration Factor

Let’s be honest here. Sometimes, we purchase a printer out of frustration. We need to print, and we need to print now, because there is an impending project deadline that must be met. May I suggest that you take your printing project to your local office supply store and ask them to print it for you? If you do, you can take your time in assessing your printing needs and will almost certainly make a wiser decision in determining which printer you should replace it with.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.