/ Technology

Printer pile-up: are printers the most disposable gadget?

Man pulling apart printer

When the gremlins set in on your printer it seems easier to just ditch the thing and start again with a new one. But should manufacturers make it easier to fix printers, rather than playing up to this disposable culture?

According to responses to our computing reliability survey, more than a third of people don’t bother to get their printer fixed when it develops a problem.

That makes printers the most instinctively chuckable computing product in our survey.

Too cheap to bother?

Around one in five people tried to get their printer repaired to no avail, but for the almost four in ten who didn’t bother, is the cheap purchase price of printers to blame?

When a new printer can cost as little as £30, with a set of inks included, it’s probably easier to buy a new one than spend time and possibly more than the cost of a new printer on a repair. Especially if you don’t know what’s wrong with the printer – which one in five didn’t when theirs conked out.

Our own Patrick Steen previously shared how it can be cheaper to buy a whole new printer when the ink runs out:

‘I have come across a printer priced at around £70 that came with free ink cartridges – buying the refills separately cost the same amount of money as the printer itself. In the end, buying a new printer with free cartridges each time was a better deal (not very eco friendly).’

Laser printers tend to come with lower capacity starter cartridges in the box and even some inkjet printers do too, so if you’re tempted to buy a new printer for the inks, be careful.

But, in the bigger scheme of things, should manufacturers be taking some responsibility for reducing the likelihood of their printers ending up in the bin? Or how about making their ink a more cost-effective option? And more importantly, making their printers easier to fix?


Depends how much it cost. A £30 printer – no as it would cost the same to fix it, probably. Printers nowadays are priced at little or no profit to the company. Their profit comes from the ink and I assume that these companies find that they make far more money by doing this. The companies are not bothered about the environmental impact, only if it makes them more profit.
I’m afraid it is the consumer’s fault. We as consumers, obsessed about things being the cheapest possible alter the things we buy. The companies just give us what we want or go out of business. Look at your 10 year old washing machine and then go and look at the new ones – so flimsy and probably cheaper than your old one regardless of inflation. How can someone buy a £30 printer and expect it to print thousands of sheets and not break. Usually, you get what you pay for.
Thats why I moved to a laser at home – much much cheaper printing and if it breaks down, it’s worth repairing. I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy an inkjet.


Black & white laser printing is undoubtedly cheaper on a laser printer but I would be surprised if models sold for home/office use can be repaired economically. That is the advice I have received from those involved in repairs at the university I worked for, plus my experience doing my own repairs.

If you want to do colour printing, a laser printer is ideal for text but an inkjet printer is still the best option for printing photos.


na.. If I wanted to print photos I would go to Jessops or similar (my guess is that they don’t use inkjets). However, maybe inkjets have come a long way in the last couple of years.. last time I tried to print photos (photo paper) on an inkjet they looked really poor and used a lot of ink. I suppose nowadays most people just don’t bother printing photos, they stick them up on facebook, leave them on their laptop or cram them on a digital photo frame. Personally the only reason I can see for printing photos is if I wanted to blow some pictures up to make posters/prints or of course, a wedding album.

I guess my laser printer will break eventually but it certainly is built a lot better than a £30 inkjet. My experience of computer stuff is that if something is going to fail it will be either dead on arrival or dead within 6 months. If it lasts that you’ve got a good chance of it lasting years.


I don’t print my holiday photos but I do print plenty of documents including photos, produced by others and myself. I do not know what Jessops use to print photos, but inkjet printers are widely used for professional purposes. All the large format poster printers I have seen and used are inkjet printers.

I have had a lot of success with printers, both laser and inkjet, the only exception being a colour Lexmark laser printer. It performed very well to start with but the running cost was horrendous and when it started to produce streaky prints I was told that it could not be repaired economically. I have never had an inkjet printer fail, going back to an Apple Stylewriter in 1992. In the past five years I am using my b/w laser printer less because most things that need printed include colour.


I suppose I’m Mr Average when it comes to printing. I print off a few word documents but most printing is from the internet – in my instance, driving directions, lyrics and guitar Tab. I’ve, in the past, had an inkjet but when, because of lack of use it failed to work (it was about 8 years old) I decided that either I could buy a cheap printer and buy expensive ink, buy a dearer inkjet printer and buy slightly less expensive ink or I could forgo colour and go with a black n white laser that also saves paper due to duplexing. Each to there own I guess.

Ps – didn’t know that about inkjets being used by pro printers – interesting.

It’s a shame my old canon inkjet failed as ebuyer used to sell the ink at around £2 a pop :-()


I am not advocating inkjet printers, mose. I use a b/w laser printer whenever I don’t need colour. I paid £700 for an HP LaserJet because I needed a Postscript printer. That worked for over 10 years and then I salvaged an old laser printer from work, which worked fine apart from the network connection. Refilled toner cartridges are adequate and the local shop will replace any refilled cartridge that misbehaves.

NukeThemAll says:
16 September 2012

We have just gone through the utterly ridiculous, eco-toxic process of buying a new colour laser jet. Why? Because the cost of the cartridges exceeds the cost of a new printer, by a considerable margin (and yes, we did take care to compare cartridge capacities). Factor in any other reliability and consumable issues, and it was the only sensible choice – for us. We feel **slightly** better because the 10-20% of toner left in 3 of the old cartridges won’t be wasted – the new printer takes the same type. But the printer (minus cartridges) will soon be off to the ‘recyling’ centre. What a waste!!!! The manufacturers rely on cartridges running out at very different times, so that the user never appreciates the horrendous cost compared to a new printer. The answer to the problem is obvious but I simply don’t know what it would take, short of legislation, to enable it.


So far I have bought 1 dot matrix 4 ink jets and 9 lasers since 1980 They are all HP except a Canon Photo ink jet.and most are still used without brealdown today on high volume newsletters – lasers are far better for everything except photographs (I sell the photographs – the buyers far far prefer the glossy ink jet result ). The costs for the ink jets were around £300 each and the Lasers started at £1000 rising to £2000 for a duplex – high speed – high definition – colour laser. Only one dot matrix and one B&W Laser has actually gone wrong. All use re-fillable cartridges or OEM cartridges. The only reason I upgraded was because of the far better specifications – not because they broke down. I use on a weekly basis the Canon and all the lasers (the lasers used simultaneously to quadruple the speed of printing). Several friends experiences of the cheap printers show they break down too often – I did buy a cheapish multifunction scanner/printer but found it very poor to use and s l o w.