If there is one thing that technology has brought us it is choices. Printers are no exception. Though the days of daisywheel and dot matrix printers are far behind us, we are left with two major types of printers – laser jet and ink jet. Even though this fact does not seem to leave consumer with a lot of choices, choosing one that fits your budget, workload, and purpose can be like walking through a maze.

To best choose the printer for your needs, look at the available features in three major categories:


This should come first for a very simple reason – you cannot buy what you do not have the money for. It will definitely limit your choices while allowing you to focus on the other two categories. In determining your budget, you need to ask yourself if you will be using your printer as a money making tool instead of for personal, home or school use. Printing for profit means you can spend more depending on how much you expect to make from your printing venture. It is likely that the printer will pay for itself within one year.


A feature often overlooked when buying a printer is the workload or number of copies you expect to print each month. It is not about the expense for the paper and ink, though that can also be a consideration. Printers are engineered to print a maximum number of copies per month before they begin to get “stressed out.” Exceeding the monthly capacity will likely reduce the longevity of your printer. That means buying the wrong printer for your workload can result you buying two printers instead of one over time.

Another feature directly related to printer cost is printer ink. Some printers use far more ink than others to produce similar results, and the more ink you have to buy the greater the long term cost of the printer. Spending an additional $50 or $100 initially can save you twice as much over the course of a year in ink purchases. The greater your workload, the more money you will spend purchasing ink.


Purpose and workload often go together, but in some cases the quality of the printed page is of particular importance. Most people buy a printer for text and graphics to print such things as letters and pages from the Internet. Usually the quality produced by printers in an affordable price range will be sufficient for most people’s purposes. Color is nice but unless it is within your budget, keep it simple with a black and white printer. The exceptions where you may need a higher quality result should not be the basis of selecting your printer. Those types of jobs can be done for a small charge at a local printing store. Buy for your average need, not your maximum need.

When quality is a key issue, you should be aware of a few differences between printers. Ink jet printers are preferred for picture and graphics, while laser jets produce the best results for text printing. Color is almost a necessity when printing high quality documents, since now adding yellow ink often enhances the black color ink. Some printers and ink cartridges state this fact, so be sure to check and see if this is the case with your choice of printer. Speed does not always translate into quality, and vice-versa, so be sure to examine actual documents and photos from a printer before choosing.

A final word about printers that are often advertised as “all-in-one.” The functions usually associated with an all-in-one printer are faxing, copying, and scanning. As has been stated in the purpose section, while these features may be nice to have, unless you plan on using them on a regular basis including them will be paying for an exception to your daily use. A home business owner is more likely to need these features included than a simple private users.