I have seen questions like How much does a square inch of ink cost and How much more will a high-dpi image cost to print?, but mine isn't asking neither about a specific case, nor about how much something costs, as that would depend on the toner, for example.

Rather, I was wondering how should I go about calculating the cost of printing a given page. Note that "given page" should be seen as a sort of x, i.e. the answer should be applicable in any case; I'd like this question to provide a good reference for those who want to calculate this cost.

What should be taken into consideration?

The cost of a single page (the paper only) is easily checkable, since you divide the cost of the whole package for the number of pages in the package itself. But how do I calculate the cost of the ink/toner? Which could translate to: how do I calculate the Ink Density1 for a given printer?

I know it depends on quality of the printer itself, the type, the quality of the image being printed, the very nature of what I'm going to print, etc. But again, the focus of my question is not on the variables of this case, but rather the constants, hoping the math simile works for this case too.

1: Total amount of ink in one area of the page.

  • This is inevitably going to be a very inaccurate estimate. About the best you can do, lacking tests you run yourself or perhaps find on the web, is to take the manufacturer's pages-per-cartridge number at face value and do the math. You can fudge those numbers based on an estimate of more/less % coverage, but the fudges will be even less accurate. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '12 at 18:30
  • Here is the APFill Ink Coverage Calculator software. You can use it to calculate separated CMYK Ink/Toner coverage of the page. – valex Jan 27 '17 at 8:25

This is very tricky when it comes to color printing, as there are even more variables involved.

I calculate the costs of printing one page as follows (similar to the suggestion of Daniel R Hicks)

pages per cartridge as claimed by the manufacturer / price per cartridge + average price for 1 blank sheet of paper.

This paper describes the procedure how manufacturers derive the pages per cartridge.

In the end you have to compare printers like cars. You have to separate price, quality, maintenance costs and average costs per unit (sheet or km) and weight them individually. The pages per cartridge is as good as average fuel consumption.

You can also calculate the costs after emptying a cartridge. You can either estimate the pages you have printed by counting the paper packages (1 package = 500 pages) you have used or use some kind of tool to get the exact number. Then you can easily divide it by the price for the cartridge and add the average price per blank page.

If you want to get really fancy you can also use the MTBF or your estimate on how long you are going to use your printer and how many pages you print per year. Lets say your printer costs 600€, you print 5000 pages per year and you want your printer to last about 5 years. You have to add 600 € / (5 * 5000) = 0.024 € to every sheet of paper you print.

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  • Whoa guys, let's not include everything. I'm not interested in the cost of the gasoline used for the tools used to cut down trees and make the paper. :P I just want to know how to calculate the cost of printing a page at home, already having a printer and all. This would for example be useful for me to compare the cost of printing a page with squares vs buying a notebook with square-filled pages. – Alenanno Jan 8 '13 at 11:39
  • Alenanno: Actually even if you own a printer you have to calculate its costs, as the MTBF will not change. Say its 25000 pages. If you print about 12500 pages per year, because you print pages with squares for your whole family it will probably break after 2 years instead of 5, meaning you have to invest 600€ every other year :) But its up to you if you want to factor this in. – ayckoster Jan 9 '13 at 7:12

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