Why Are Copiers So Expensive? [Considerations + Video]

Submitted by Bernie Schom on Wed, 03/ 02/ 22 - 09: 00 AM

Why Are Copiers So Expensive


As a dealer for several copier and printer brands, we often are asked the question, "Why are copiers so expensive when I can go to the retail store and get one for much cheaper?"

We love getting this question because it points to some of the misconceptions people have when purchasing a print device and offers an opportunity for us to educate. Like most things, the multifunction printer (MFP) you choose will largely depend on what you need it for and your budget.

Not much time? Skip to what you need:


Considerations for Purchasing a Copier/MFP

What About Service?



We get it. Printing costs can add up if you aren't careful, so it's important to make sure you consider all the factors before making your investment.

Most consumers will look at the surface level considerations between retail and dealer printer purchases, but this article aims to go a bit deeper so that you have a full understanding of the expenses that can accumulate with each choice.

Let's start with the different considerations for purchasing a multifunction office copier and then discuss the benefits of a service plan, briefly.

Note: We may use some terminology interchangeably. For the purposes of this article, printer, multifunction printer, and copier all reference a desktop print device that may be found at a local office retail store. These can range in price from about $30-$1,000+. 

Considerations for Purchasing a Copier/MFP

If you would prefer a video, we explore additional considerations for purchasing a copier/printer in our three-part video series:


When deciding if you should purchase a printer from a retailer or a printer from a local dealer, you need to consider the following:

  • Print volume
  • Number of machines
  • Budget
  • Downtime costs

Print Volume

One of the most important factors when determining the type of machine(s) you should purchase is the amount of printing you will expect your machine to do.

A small business owner that prints monthly invoices may not run their device more than 30 times per month. It is unlikely that person is going to need something more robust and can therefore likely get away with a retail printer. Additionally, they aren't likely to need service on their machine or run out of toner/ink for a long time. 

Print volume, though, comes down to two considerations: overall number of prints per month, and workload demand at specific times.

Example: If you are a church that prints very little throughout the week, and then prints 500 programs for its weekly service, you may need a more robust machine.

A more extreme example would be a B2B services provider who does most of its printing near the end of the month when they bill clients. This is a classic case of nearly zero demand through most of the month, and extreme demand in a single instance.

Smaller machines are often designed for more regular use, which means adding extensive workloads to them in isolated instances will likely strain the device and shorten the machine's lifespan. This will cause it to need maintenance more often, and if you purchased through a retailer, that maintenance comes in the form of shipping the machine off to be serviced or hiring an expensive break-fix person.

Number of Machines

Perhaps you have modest printing in your office, but you need several employees to have their own printers. Yes, it is possible to purchase quality printers at a big box retailer and outfit everyone with a sufficient product.

But what happens when someone runs out of toner? What happens when a machine needs service? As the manager or owner, how do you know each device is being used appropriately throughout the workday and print costs are being managed?

It's no secret that printing can be expensive and is often viewed as a "necessary evil" by many businesses. You may be shocked to discover how much printing waste happens within various departments, or specifically, with certain employees. A local copier/printer dealer would be able to manage those costs, analyze data that is being collected, and offer solutions for increased efficiency through managed print services.

Often, when a print device goes down in a smaller office, employees "double up" on a machine while the MIA device is being shipped off for service. This creates a huge strain on the machine doing double duty and often leads to multiple devices going down. The only alternative is to purchase a brand new machine as a back-up while the other is being serviced.

What about toner? 

When it comes to keeping up with toner supplies, organization's have a few options:

  1. Keep a surplus of toner on hand (the most popular option). This can result in waste, though, because printer toner and ink can both expire.
  2. Order toner as needed. Unfortunately, this is wasteful in another way and often results in printing being unable to be completed or resorting back to the "double duty" scenario where machines are being overworked.

Fortunately, some dealers provide automatic toner replenishment (ATR), which monitors your toner usage and automatically orders new toner in enough time before the old toner has run out. 

ATR offers the added benefit of freeing up the employee who is spending time monitoring toner levels and re-ordering when supplies are low.

Budget Considerations

You only have so much money to spend on print devices. If you have a small enough operation, a retailer is likely to be your best bet, however, if you are unsure, reach out to a local copier/printer vendor and see what they can offer in terms of total savings.

Often, it appears that professional service through a dealer is more money, but when compared to long-term costs, the savings may begin to add up for you. 

The key to saving on print devices is ensuring you aren't purchasing a machine that is beyond your needs or is unable to meet minimum requirements. A copier dealer can assist you with this and ensure you aren't down for extended periods of time.

RELATD: How Much Does a Printer Really Cost?

Downtime Costs

When you need to print something, it can be terribly inconvenient to have a printer on the fritz. But what if it goes beyond convenience? What if it extends to the ability to print your invoices, or important sales documents, or contracts?

If your business is not set-up or accustomed to offering these deliverables electronically, it may be difficult to pivot with a moment's notice.

This can create a number of hidden costs and even cause reputation damage with customers. Business owners aren't likely to risk the former scenario; so, if a machine is down, instead of waiting, they often run to the store and purchase a brand new device, or make their way to a print shop as a stop gap measure.

This is a costly solution that can cost thousands, but is likely cheaper than the alternative of being unable to print. Ultimately, working with a dealer avoids these scenarios.

Service is King

What About Service?

Service is the number one differentiator when it comes to price between retailors and dealers. With retail, you're purchasing a machine and that's all you get. That doesn't mean a machine purchased in this manner is unable to get service, but it does mean the service will be very slow and/or very costly. If were are talking about a desktop device, you will likely just opt to purchase an entirely new machine.

If that sounds crazy and wasteful, it's because it is... but it happens all the time.

Service with a dealer should include regular, preventative printer maintenance of your print fleet (however large or small) at a monthly cost that is easier to budget around. 

At the end of the day, if you get a great deal (price-wise) on a machine at a retailer, but with no service, it only remains a great deal as long as nothing happens to the device. If you have a handful of devices for a small business, it only makes sense to work with a dealer.

RELATED: Should I Get a Copier Maintenance Agreement?

We are, of course, biased, so before you dismiss this article, reach out to a dealer and get a quote. Run various scenarios through your head and crunch costs. If after some serious cost analysis you determine that retail is the better option for you, then you have your answer. 

If you have additional questions regarding the differences between dealers and retailers, feel free to reach out by clicking the button below:

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RELATED: Copier Dealers vs Copier Manufacturers: 3 Myths Busted


Posted by Bernie Schom


office copier