Photocopier vs Printer

You need to create duplicates of a document but are unsure how to do this in the most cost-effective way. You are presented with two main solutions; you can print multiple copies of the same document, or you can photocopy the document. Businesses today are aiming to cut down extra costs wherever possible for maximum efficiency, but when it comes to deciding between printing and photocopying, a lot of the information out there is contradictory and unhelpful. So which one is actually the more cost-effective choice?

Many organisations are unaware of exactly how much is spent on printing per year – but a tech analyst firm [1] found that organisations spend an average of up to three percent of their annual revenue on printing alone. It can be argued that these monetary costs are a trade-off for saving time, but certain businesses would find that printing is costing a significant chunk of their budget. Especially when it comes to smaller quantities of materials, printing is not always the most cost-effective option. There are other advantages of printing – such as quality of the documents produced – but is the end result being more presentable really worth a larger investment?

You will hear different answers in regards to which is the more affordable option for your business, depending on who you ask. Of course, individuals have their own biases and preferences, but there are multiple factors that can affect the total expenses of printing compared to copying. The utilisation of the machine can make a difference, and the impact of upkeep and servicing on the overall costs cannot be ignored either. Printers have been found to accumulate higher ongoing costs in this aspect. Accounting for maintenance, usage and other cumulative costs (like servicing) gives you a more rounded view of what your business choice of machine really adds up to in the long-term.

As both types of machines become more sophisticated, the distinctions between them grow more subtle. However, if we look at the evidence, we can see that there is still a clear difference in regards to cost. An analysis by the Ascher group [2] compared the retail price of equipment, supplies and maintenance over 60 months for a leased photocopier and a leased printer. Well-utilised (making around 60,000 impressions a month) machines as well as under-utilised (around 5,000 impressions a month) machines were investigated. The models used were the Canon IR 5000 and the HP 9000MFP. They found that it cost twice the amount per month to run the printing machine if well-utilised. However, if under-utilised, the copier actually racked up more monthly expenses than the printer.

Laser printers will require refills of cartridges and this can certainly add up to a hefty amount, whereas photocopiers generally use toner powder. The fixed and affordable prices offered by photocopiers can quickly calculate how much it will cost for a specific amount of copies – this element of predictability is another upper-hand that the copier has over the printer. Latency, relating to time-effectiveness and by extension cost-effectiveness, is also a consideration; modern copiers are sophisticated enough that there is no need for preparation between uses, and you can use a copier without it being attached to a computer. On the contrary, printers still require initial pre-press work before you can start your printing job, which adds to the time it takes.

Based on this comparison, there are factors that can be affecting cost-effectiveness of the two different types of machines aside from retail costs. How well the machines are utilised and the amount of maintenance required play into this significantly. On top of that, each business will have very individualistic requirements, and if producing high-quality duplicates of documents is of higher importance than affordability, the extra investment of using a printer may have more benefits than drawbacks. Despite this, when we look at the data for machines that are heavily used, the indication is that using a photocopier works out cheaper in the long run.

Providing you can source photocopy machines cheaply when you exclude capital outlay they have impressive running costs compared to printers.[3]

Photocopier Laser Printer
Black and White – Coverage 5% 0.6p 3p
Full Colour – Coverage 20% 5p 8p




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