To Repair Or Replace A Printer?

Technicians hear the question at least 5 times a week: "Wouldn't it be cheaper to buy a new printer?"  While most of technicians have a sales team with a ready answer for that (except here--we don't sell machines, we only fix them) the question isn't always a simple math problem.  The standard equation is that if the repair costs more than half the machine, then replace it.  But as printer technology advances, and smaller printers last longer, that standard is changing.

For example, a $1,000 laser printer might easily last 150,000 pages before ever 'getting sick'.  When it does finally need repairs, a $500 maintenance kit (including labor) is nothing to wince at--it's common, in fact.  And the $500 will most probably carry you through another 150,000 pages.  In a case like that, if you'd replaced the printer, you might have wasted $500.

So when it comes to dollar for dollar savings, the modern equation has changed, even though the standard answer from printer dealers hasn't.

But we have to remember that those final prices aren't the only things in question.  We have to think about possible down time, technology advances, and a whole lot of other things.  In the end, I'm not going to be able to give you a short, simple answer... nor could any other technician who's worth listening to.

Nickels and Dimes - If a machine breaks down every other month, it's probably time for an upgrade.  They're not supposed to break that often.  If it is, then either the parts are getting old and brittle, or the machine itself isn't suited for the amount of work it's doing.  An acceptable 'break free' period is four months.

Parts - With smaller machines, parts availability is usually the deciding factor when trying to decide whether to replace or repair equipment.  This is especially true with inkjet printers.  In fact, the odds of a technician being able repair an inkjet machine is very slim, because inkjet parts are usually not manufactured--the machine isn't made to be fixed.

Down Time - Sometimes it's not the end of the world when a machine sits in the corner for a week waiting for parts.  Sometimes it is the end of the world.  If your business relies on your machine, then you need to consider a few things: 1-Is the machine reliable enough to go for long periods without breaking? 2-Is the machine a popular model, and are there parts readily available when the machine DOES break? 3-do you have anything for 'backup'?  If you answered 'no' to any of these questions, you ought to think about buying a good, reliable, POPULAR machine.

Technology - Hey--it changes, and it changes fast.  If you're still using something with a parallel port, then it might be time to switch over.  Yes, they'll always have things to help you convert from USB to parallel, but there are other software and memory changes that might make it impossible to use old printers.  If you're thinking about upgrading your computer systems in the next couple of years, you ought to upgrade your printer as well.

Supplies - It's really hard to let go of an old printer when you have a whole stack of unused toner cartridges.  Especially if you can't sell them to recover some of your cost.  If the printer is costing too much to repair, then you end up spending a dime to save a nickel.  However, some of the 'old reliables' can be used for bulk printer or for back-up printers, so it's not always a total loss.

While these are all good things to consider when paying for a printer repair, sometimes the final decision comes down to a simple budget consideration.  The most important question might simply be: Do we have enough money budgeted for a new printer?  Your technician can't help you answer that, but his experience can usually help you foresee the price you'll pay if you hold on to your old machine.