Printer-Buying Saga

Like most people who have dealt with or worked on computers for any length of time, I have been through quite a saga when it comes to

“Which printer should I buy?”

There are hundreds and hundreds of printers on the market, each trumpeting why they’re the one you should buy.

Sorry, I can’t tell you which printer you should buy, but I can share with you the “Printer-Buying Saga” I went through, in the hopes that it will save you some of the hassles I endured.

Why This Post?

The impetus for this posting came from a question I received this morning from an acquaintance in an online group in which I participate.  There had been a discussion in the forum about large-format printers, and he asked me, “What printer do you use now?”

I’m afraid my answer might have been more than he bargained for. Here’s what I told him. After this, I’ll wind up with my recommendation.

Hi, Len,

Your question elicits a somewhat funny story: About five years ago, I looked around the room I use for my office and realized I had SEVEN printers. I figured that was just too darn many printers, so I went out and bought another one. (Rim shot here.)

But that is the truth. I had an old HP-895 that was great for color inkjet copies, and the ink cost wasn’t too bad because I was buying remanufactured cartridges for about $12 each. But then I wanted to print music on wide-format paper, so I got a Canon something-or-other (8770?) that would print on 11×17. Still inkjet, but it worked. Then I tried to start a business writing resumes, so I needed a laser printer, then my kids brought back the printers they had at college, then my mother-in-law died and her printer joined the batch, and by then I had bought a huge HPLJ-5 I mentioned in an earlier posting…


At this time, I was (still am) building web sites as my “retirement job,” so pretty much any computer equipment was a tax deduction. Therefore, I decided to go for “the good one.”

I wound up getting a Ricoh SP-C820D, which with all the add-ons cost over $3,000. But it was a tax deduction, so the actual cost was much less, plus it does EVERYTHING I need it to. Besides, it cost less than the first laptop I bought, decades ago.

It’s a color laser, which means it prints color – even photographic quality – absolutely beautifully. It prints on 11×17 paper, so I print all my own compositions and arrangements for the band on it. The cost for toner and paper comes out to about $0.02 per page for black and $0.04+ per page for color – so I also print up all my band’s publicity flyers, charging them the same price they would pay using our BSD (Business Services Division) account at Office Depot ($0.05/pg for black, $0.09/page for color), and this essentially makes my toner free for me. The toner cartridges themselves are “tubes” about 3” in diameter and just under 2 feet long, so they last a LONG time. The “starter” toner they shipped with the printer (starter cartridges are usually only half full) lasted me three years.

The printer is directly connected by Cat-5 cable to my home router, and I have never had any problem connecting any device in my house to it as a default printer.

Over 5 years, the only problem I have had with it is the occasional paper jam, which usually occurs when I change or reload paper, and don’t put the new paper in quite straight enough. Other than that, it hasn’t been a lick of trouble.

The only caution I would add for anyone on any printer, is if you’re printing black and white PDFs, is to be absolutely certain your printer settings are set to black and white, otherwise you are likely to print what looks like black, using up your color ink or toner. Color ink and toner is much more expensive than black.

Overall, this is the best printer I have ever had or worked with, and I have never regretted spending the money to get “the good one.”

I bought it through Printer Depot in Atlanta, and they were very easy to deal with.

More than you asked? Sorry ‘bout dat. Hope it helps.

So, what would I recommend for you, dear reader?

My Recommendation

Just this: buy a commercial-grade color laser printer. Not a home or home-office grade printer.

However, do not buy it from a retailer, as I did. Instead, spend some time looking for AUCTIONS.

My First Commercial-Grade Printer

My first commercial-grade printer was a behemoth of a beast, roughly a 28″ cube weighing well over 100 pounds. It retailed for five figures (I think) when it was new in the mid 1990’s, but I bought it used on eBay in 2004 for $300, including shipping.

The thing was built like an Abrams tank. It was virtually indestructible, and even though it was well-used, it did yeoman’s work for me for more than six years. The only expenses I had were to replace a toner cartridge (once, for about $63), and a service call to replace some small friction rollers for a total of $65.

When it was time to replace it with a color laser, I sold it for $150; it was still working perfectly.

What Would I Do Today?

If I were buying a new printer today, I would look on auction sites for municipalities (cities) and schools. These sites auction off used equipment – some of it in absolutely perfect condition, some of it barely used. They have bought new equipment and need to dispose of the old.

I would get a high-capacity color laser, with duplexing, and two trays so it will print letter size or tabloid (11×17) or larger. Networking would be a bonus, but not essential, as I can hook up a printer directly to my router and it will then be available on him home network.

As I understand it, from people who have done it, the prices for which you can buy these used printers is amazingly low.

That’s what I would do if I were buying a replacement printer today.

You might consider doing the same.


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