How Much Does a Wide Format Printer Cost? A Large Format Printer Buying Guide
Pricing a printer without understanding your needs is nearly impossible, since costs for a large format printer vary by tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, you need to look at the operation costs, such as ink. It's easy to find a cheap printer that uses expensive toner, turning your bargain into a huge money pit.
Probably the largest price determinant is printer size, followed closely by quality. Larger printers with high resolution and excellent color reproduction carry a higher price. You also need to look at how often you'll replace the printer (aka, what is the printer's expected lifespan). Toner printers carry a higher initial cost, but last nearly twice as long as inkjet printers do – five to eight years versus three to four.
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In addition to lasting longer, toner printers use less ink, making their cost per page cheaper than inkjet printers, as well.
Price ranges on inkjet wide format printers start at around $1,200 for a 24" basic model. As size increases and you add features such as variable rolls, stands, and color printing, you're looking at a more likely cost ranging between $3,000 and $15,000 (or more for wider models).
The price range of toner printers is even broader, starting at round $11,000 and going up to around $65,000 for new models. Expect to pay around half that for a used toner printer, with refurbished models still lasting longer than a new inkjet printer.
Sample Wide Format Printer Costs
- 24" inkjet ranges from around $1,200 to $2,000
- 36" inkjet ranges from around $3,200 to $6,100
- 44" inkjet ranges from around $4,000 to $8,000
- 60" inkjet ranges from around $9,000 to $16,000
- A 36" UV flatbed starts at around $9,800
- A Ricoh 60" UV LED flatbed with up to 4" clearance costs around $55,000
- A Roland 30" UV with cutter costs around $45,000
As anyone running a business knows, the purchase price is only one part of the cost for any piece of equipment. Your main operating cost with a printer is the ink or toner. Again, since toner provides much greater coverage, your costs are lower as compared to ink refills.
One operating cost remains the same no matter which type of printer you choose, and that's media (paper, vinyl, etc.). When gathering quotes, ask each vendor or dealer what the unit's cost per page or square foot is. You also want to verify those costs, preferably with organizations using the same unit. If the dealer provides customer references, they make a good resource for realistic operating cost estimates.
Errors are also costly. The more common printing errors with a large format printer are printing on the wrong size or type of media, or even the wrong side. You may also send a job twice, not realizing the machine is already processing your first print request. Printers that include features to guard against some of these errors cost more, but may save money in the long run.
When looking to purchase a new printer, consider the full initial investment, such as toner or ink. Even if you already have a wide format printer, you may have stock that won't work with a new system.
Finally, look at the maintenance and service costs and include these in your budget calculations. Especially make sure to include them when comparing bids, as not all service contracts are created equal. For example, some cover software updates and/or spare parts, but some do not.