How to Calculate Cost-Per-Print and Reduce Printing Costs

By: Dan Larkin
April 11, 2019

Unmanaged printing expenses can add up to be between 1-3 percent of an organization’s total revenue. And according to Keypoint Intelligence, 90 percent of companies fail to track their printing costs. This means many organizations are missing out on the significant savings associated with print costs and environment management.

Gartner has found that many companies could potentially reduce their printing expenditures anywhere from 10-30 percent. And it all starts with understanding your print costs.  

Print Costs Infographic

Calculating your current cost-per-print provides a starting point for your organization’s overall print costs for each copier. It will provide a snapshot of how much it costs you to print on each device, and it will provide a baseline for understanding how much your organization pays to print (on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis, depending on your calculations).

The easiest way to determine your cost-per-print is to work with a print provider and install software on your network to track prints, real-time. This method will produce the most accurate results. The alternative option is to manually gather the information needed and do the math. Here’s how…

How to Calculate Your Cost-Per-Print in 4 Easy Steps

1. Determine Your Printer Manufacturer and Model Number(s)

Cost-per-print calculations vary by printer and manufacturer. So determine this information before beginning your calculation. These details can be located directly on your printer, within the manual or your computer’s control panel.

2. Determine Your Yield-Per-Cartridge

Most manufacturers share their page yield figures on their website and, often, on the side of their toner cartridge packaging. Different page yield figures are provided for black and white and color printing, and most manufacturers run a variation of the following tests to determine these figures:

  • To calculate black and white page yields, manufacturers print a text document that uses toner to cover about 5 percent of the page over and over again until the toner cartridge is empty.
  • To calculate color page yields they print a document that combines text and graphics, using toner that covers about 20 percent of the page, until each cartridge empties.

3. Determine the Price of Each Toner Cartridge

If you are calculating your exact cost-per-print you will need to identify the cost of the cartridges you are using. You may need assistance from accounting or purchasing to obtain these details.

If you have difficulty obtaining this information, you can use average retail prices for the toner cartridges you use. You can find these figures on print manufacturers’ websites or on office supply sites.

To determine black and white cost-per-print you will only need the price of the black toner cartridge. For color, you will need the cost of all cartridges: black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

4. Calculate Cost-Per-Print

When you have gathered all of the above information, you can calculate your cost-per-print; for black and white cost-per-print you will divide the cost of the toner cartridge by the page yield.

Black-and-white example:

Toner Cost Cartridge ÷ Page Yield = Cost-Per-Print
X ÷ Y = Z
84.99 ÷ 2200 = .038

A simple method to determine color cost-per-print would be to use the above calculated black and white cost. Additionally, assuming all color cartridges are the same price with equal page yields, you can determine the cost-per-print of one color cartridge (as done above) and multiply it by 3. Finally, add in the black and white cost-per-print.

Color example:

[((Toner Cartridge Cost of 1 Color Cartridge ÷ Page Yield of 1 Color Cartridge) x 3)] + Black and White Cost-Per-Print = Color Cost-Per-Print
[(A ÷ B) x3] + Z = Color Cost-Per-Print
[(119.99 ÷ 2600) x 3] + .038 = .176

Additional Factors that Impact Cost-Per-Print

Upon first consideration, you might think all print expenses are obvious: equipment, service and supplies. However, these expenses only paint part of the picture. True print costs also include the soft costs: employee burden rates and lifecycle of the equipment. Let’s take a quick look at each of the expenses that make up your true print costs:

  • Equipment: cost of acquisition, which may be a purchase price, lease or cost-per page agreement.
  • Supplies: ongoing expense that includes toner, developer, paper and other print media, staples and more.
  • Service/Maintenance: monthly service agreements or one-time maintenance charges.
  • Burden Rates: the time spent for employees to fix equipment, order supplies, schedule maintenance, etc.
  • Lifecycle of Equipment: depreciation plus the availability of new, better technology.

Gathering this information can be time consuming, but it is essential for understanding exactly what you pay for printing every month.

Next, let’s look at each of these areas in greater detail.

Equipment and Supplies

Image of a multi-function printer where the toner compartment is open and you can view the machine's interior.The base price of your printer is one of the expenses that makes up your true cost of printing. This expense may be in the form of an initial purchase price, lease payment or cost-per-page contract. Your accounting department and your print provider will have this information.

Paper and toner cartridges make up a significant business expense. When print supplies disappear surprisingly fast, the cause can be anything from inefficient use to printing personal documents and misplacing supplies. 

Some strategies for efficient use of print supplies are: 

  • Making two-sided printing mandatory
  • Using black ink instead of colors whenever possible
  • Monitoring printer use within the office

Service and Maintenance

If the printer your office uses is outdated or not functioning properly, it can increase print supply use and negatively affect employee productivity. Older print devices can cause numerous problems, and when the costs of maintaining and repairing an old printer start to stack up, it may be worth investing in a new machine. 

Regardless, some level of printer repair and service is inevitable, and your true cost of printing should reflect that. Repairs and service can be performed by a number of people:

  1. Your employee(s)
  2. The device manufacturer
  3. Your print provider

The complexity of the problem likely determines whether one of your employees can handle it or if an expert needs to be called in. Each scenario has a cost associated with it, ranging from employee time (for fixing the issue or scheduling the maintenance), to the cost of your service contract or maintenance agreement.

Employee Burden Rate

A hand pressing buttons on a multifunction printer. Employee burden rate is essentially the cost of paying your employees. Between paper jams, connectivity problems, replacing toner and everything else, printer care can take up a lot of company time. And if your employees are tied up with a printer issue, that means they're unavailable in other areas.

Issues like printing low quality documents and having a printer that's not staying connected to your network can negatively affect employee productivity. In small businesses, these printing costs can add up quickly in terms of productivity. Oftentimes, there is not a dedicated IT/print specialist and an employee with some technical skills is tasked with the extra responsibility. Additionally, print-related issues can cause missed deadlines and employee frustration. While you won't find these issues itemized on a budget, they do affect your bottom line.

Lifecycle of Equipment

One final factor that makes up your true cost of printing is the lifespan you can expect from your printer. You can usually determine how many pages you can expect to get out of a printer. By knowing how many pages you print a month, you can get a good estimate of how long your printer will last.

Beyond how you use your equipment, the evolution of technology increases a printer's rate of depreciation.

Knowing your true cost of printing is an important first step in determining ways you can save. Once you've identified all these extra costs, you can determine areas for improvements. After all, you can't manage what you don't know!

Next Steps: Implementing Cost-Saving Print Tactics

In most organizations, some things have to change in order to lower printing costs. Here is a list of ideas, big and small, that could help you decrease your costs:

  1. Ask, “Is it necessary?”
    Decreasing the number of prints – especially unnecessary projects – can positively affect your print costs. Simply encourage your users to ask themselves if they actually need their document printed. Other related tactics include adding a “green” message at the end of your emails requesting recipients to only print if necessary, or installing software that requires a user to scan an ID or enter a number when they retrieve their prints (cutting back on prints that are sent to the printer but never picked up).
  2. Set Efficient Defaults
    Image of a personal printerWhen configuring your printers and user access, default settings to print black and white and double sided. Decreasing the amount of color toner used and cutting paper usage in half can significantly affect your total printing costs.
  3. Eliminate the Number of Personal Printers
    Personal printers can encourage “print everything” habits, simply because the printer is within arm’s reach. If the closest printer is a few steps or even a few offices away, employees will consciously weigh their options – to print or not. Not to mention the additional supply inventory needed to provide for all of these devices.
  4. Install Print Tracking Software
    When you use print tracking software, you'll know exactly the types of jobs and the volume of prints each printer is taking on. The data provided by print tracking software will help you determine areas for improvement.
  5. Initiate an MPS Program
    Managed Print Services (MPS) is a program offered by print service companies that manage all aspects of your business printing devices, including printers, scanners, faxes and copiers. The optimization of these devices enables businesses to save money, produce less paper waste and increase efficiency. For additional benefits of this solution, click here.

Cost-per-print is an important factor to take into account when determining which printer to purchase. It can also be used to monitor the efficiency of your machine and supply usage. If you are like 90 percent of organizations that don’t track their print costs but want to get started, check out our Print Costs Calculator. It’s a free tool that will help you gather your necessary expenses and plug them in to be calculated. 

If you’d prefer to have print professionals determine your organization’s current cost-per-print, request a print technology assessment today.

What Do You Currently Pay for Printing? Download Free Costs Calculator

Topics: Copiers & Printers