How Much Does Printing Cost Per Page?

Submitted by Daniel Gray on Wed, 10/ 10/ 18 - 12: 01 PM

Printing Cost Per Page


Virtually every business has a printer of some kind. Even with the evolution of scanning technology and more and more businesses transitioning to limited paper options, businesses simply need to print. If volume is high enough, they turn to multifunction copiers that have enough durability to be worked much harder than their desktop cousins.

But even those businesses have desktop printers, and if you've ever had to purchase an ink or toner cartridge, you may have noticed the page yield on the box (or maybe you never knew to look). Have you ever wondered what 5% page coverage actually means? More importantly, how much does printer ink cost per page, and at what point is it more cost effective to upgrade?

What Does 5% Page Coverage Look Like?

The answer might surprise you. I used to own an inkjet printer and I did a fair amount of printing on it. I'll be honest, it wasn't a very expensive printer (maybe $25), but I didn't need it for anything fancy. Just something that could print out my research papers for graduate school, important documents, and other random print jobs.

It didn't take me long to realize, though, that I was spending far more money on my ink cartridges than I ever did on the printer!

If you own an inkjet or toner printer, you've realized that cartridges can be very expensive. But who thinks about looking at what each cartridge costs when purchasing a printer? As an individual consumer, you might not, but in a business setting, those costs can add up significantly.

I started paying attention to page yield on the cartridge box. My cartridges typically claimed a 1,500 page yield, but I was sure I wasn't printing 1,500 pages between each cartridge replacement.

That's when I noticed the phrase "5% page coverage."

Printer Cartridge Box

What did 5% page coverage mean? A quick search informed me that it indicates an average number of pages that can be printed when 5% of a standard 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper is covered in ink.

5% didn't seem like a lot to me, but I had no idea how little it actually covered. At Standard Office Systems, we did a little experiment to find out what 5% page coverage actually looks like using a tool called the APFill Ink and Toner Coverage Calculator.

The results were pretty shocking. Below, you can see what page coverage looked like at 5%, 10%, and 22%:

Print Coverage Sample


If you're like me, you probably print closer to 10% than 5%, on average. No wonder I was having to replace my ink cartridges so frequently!

How Much Does It Cost Per Page?

Some simple math with let you figure that out. Use this formula and scan one of your documents into the ink and toner coverage calculator above to find out what your typical cost per page is:

Cost per page = Cartridge $ Total / [(Page Yield x (1-Actual coverage)]

  • Cartridge $ Total - the amount that you spent on your new cartridge at the store or online
  • Page Yield - the total amount of page yield claimed on the cartridge box (aka number of pages that can be printed at 5% coverage)
  • Actual Coverage - average ink coverage percentage (written in the form of a decimal - 10% = 0.1) from your documents after running them through the APFill Calculator.

Note: if you find that your page coverage is actually 5%, then use this formula:

Cost per page = Cartridge $ Total / Page Yield

How Can I Get a Better Deal?

Now that you're aware of the realities of printing (and how expensive it can truly be), you might be asking yourself, "Is there a way to get a better deal?"

The answer - - it depends.

If you're only operating a single desktop printer at your house, then you're probably going to have to accept the fact that your costs are your costs. However, if you have any kind of volume (like that of a business), then it would benefit you greatly to use the services of a local printer dealer.

With a local dealer, you can get better prices on machines, great service for when they breakdown (because they will at some point), better prices on your cost per page, and most importantly - less downtime!

All of this can be achieved through managed printer services. If you aren't sure what managed print services are, you can find out more by reading our article on: What Are Managed Printer Services?

If you don't have time to read another article right now, then the most important thing to take away about managed print services is that it is the best option for businesses that have any consistent volume on their printers each month.

With managed print services, you can save hundreds to thousands each month on the cost of your printing and better spend it on ways that help you grow your business.

Want to Learn More?

What Are Managed Print Services?
How Much Does a Printer Really Cost?
How Much Does a Copier Cost?

Get Your Questions Answered Now


Posted by Daniel Gray


printing cost per page