Every few years or so, I end up buying a new printer.

It just doesn't feel like printers are built to last these days—and perhaps this is true (after all, printer companies wouldn't make much revenue if every printer they sold lasted 20 years!).

But these days, there is more to buying a cheap printer than just the printer itself. Read on for a handy guide to buying a printer that will perform at costs you can afford.

The best time to buy a new printer

The jury is still out on whether there’s "one best time" each year to buy a new printer, but the most compelling argument centers around back-to-school season in August and September.

Students aren't known for having excess disposable income, so if you’re a retailer and you want to move your printer inventory, you’ll want to price your gear competitively.

The year-end sales can also be a good time to snag last year's models at a deep discount.

Ink and paper costs matter

When it comes to the overall cost of your so-called cheap printer, how it uses ink and paper can have a noticeable impact on your budget.

How to keep your ink costs low:

  • Consider a printer that takes separate color cartridges. Depending on how you print, you may save more by having separate rather than one all-inclusive color cartridge.
  • Consider store brand ink over name brand. Just make sure your new printer recognizes other brands—not all do this.
  • Opt for high yield cartridges over standard yield. Check the page-for-page yield for standard vs. high yield. Often you can get up to four times more pages with high yield!
  • Buy from an online discount ink supplier like Inkfarm. See why KCL recommends this—Inkfarm: Deep Discounts, Super Sales and a Huge Selection of the Ink You Need or you can visit Inkfarm.com here.
  • Change your font! Simply changing your font can save you ink. For instance, printing text documents with Garamond font saves you 25% ink use on each document.

Keeping paper costs low:

  • Choose your paper carefully. The kind of paper you use should match the manufacturer's instructions. Using the wrong type or grade of paper can impact your printer's lifespan!

6 Keys to choosing the cheapest printer

Now it’s time to shop for a printer! Use these tips to find the cheapest printer that will meet your needs.

1. Ask (and answer) these questions before you start shopping.

Do you need to print photos? Do you need to use your printer wirelessly? Do you need a multi-function device with scanning? Know the answers to these questions before you shop.

2. Choose your printer type.

There are two basic types of printers you can choose from:

  • Inkjet printers. The most common printers for home office use and (at less than $200) often the cheapest as well. They do a very good job with color text documents and photos.
  • Laser printers. Best for printing large quantities of black and white text documents. You’ll pay the least per page if you need to print in high volume. But they aren't good for photos and they don't handle glossy photo paper well.

3. Consider an all-in-one over separate components.

According to Consumer Reports, buying a multi-use printer can often be less expensive than buying separate components. On the downside, if your printer goes down, you lose the other functions too.

4. Look for an Energy Star label.

Some new printers are now Energy Star certified, which means they’ll save you a ton of money on your monthly energy bill (even if you forget to turn off the printer or unplug it).

5. Consider what the experts say.

Expert ratings matter when choosing a cheaper laser or inkjet printer that’s worth what you spend!

Experts picked these laser printers:

  • Brother HL-L2340DW: Amazon charges only $90, it’s wireless, it’s rated #1 for cheap cost-per-use, it has a simple setup, and it works with any wireless device.
  • Samsung Xpress SL-M2835DW/XAA: Amazon’s cost is only $80, it’s wireless, it’s rated #2 for cheap cost-per-use, it has sharp printing, but setup is less easy than the Brother HL-L2340DW.
  • Brother HLL2380DW: Amazon charges only $140, it includes a scanner, and it has all the great features of the Brother HL-L2340DW.

Experts picked these inkjet all-in-one printers:

  • Epson Expression Premium XP-820: Amazon’s cost is only $129, it’s best for printing photos, and it’s a multi-use printer with wireless features (the smaller version costs just $99 on Amazon).
  • Canon Pixma PPS MG5620: Amazon has this printer for only $75, it prints wirelessly in color, it’s great for photos, it works with AirPrint, and it’s best for high-volume printing.
  • Brother MFCJ5620DW Color Inkjet: Amazon charges only $175 for this all-in-one printer, it’s great for photos, works wirelessly, and the smaller version costs just $70 on Amazon.

6. Finally, be sure the printer you buy is compatible with your computer's operating system!

Nearly every printer is automatically designed to work with Windows-based personal computers and devices. However, some of these devices may not perform at their best if you plan to use them with a Mac-based device instead.

  • Shop for your device: Here is a handy chart of PC Magazine's top 10 printers that are specifically designed to be compatible with Mac devices with pricing ranging from just $78 to over $600 depending on your needs.