How to buy a copier
A copier buying guide
A cost-effective and reliable copier is a must-have device for any office and increasingly for personal use. When you think about how to buy a copier, consider these factors to determine the best copier for you:
- Your copy volume
- The copy speed you need
- The space you have for your copier
- All-in-one devices
- The reputation of the manufacturer
- Availability of replacement parts and service
- Your need for advanced copier features, such as duplex copying and multiple paper trays
>> Consider your copying volume
As you learn how to buy a copier, think about how much copying you'll do as a guideline to find the best copier for your needs. Look for a copier whose monthly volume capability (its duty cycle) matches your copying activities, shown in the table below.
Monthly copy volume
|Less than 100 ||Magazine articles, child's report card |
|100-400 ||Home office: invoices, financial statements, loan/credit agreements, documents with signatures |
|400-1,200 ||Copies of documents for meetings among a few co-workers, client meetings |
|1,200-2000 ||Medium business dependent on copying: meetings involving copies of technical documents, government regulations, hard copies of online presentations |
|Greater than 2000 ||Large business or document-intensive business: lengthy legal documents, real estate documents, large and/or frequent document reviews |
>> Consider copier speed
As the copy volume increases, your copier needs to be faster (and have a higher memory capacity). When doing a large job, the last thing you want is for the copier to be too slow to finish the job by a deadline. The table below, from Buyers Laboratory (BLI), provides guidelines that match monthly copy volume and suggested copier speed (in pages per minute (PPM) for monochrome (black-and-white) and color copiers.
BLI optimum monthly volume (pages)
|Up to 20 ||3,600 |
|21-30 ||9,000 |
|31-40 ||17,000 |
|41-50 ||26,500 |
|51-60 ||37,250 |
|61-70 ||55,000 |
|71-80 ||82,000 |
|81-90 ||135,000 |
|91-99 ||175,000 |
BLI optimum monthly volume (pages)
|16-25 ||13,500 |
|26-36 ||15,000 |
|37-46 ||28,000 |
|Greater than 46 ||36,500 |
Note that manufacturers' recommended monthly volume for each speed might be considerably higher than the BLI figure.
>> Consider your available space
The higher your copier volume, the larger the copier you need. As you look for the best copier for your needs, keep the trade-off between copy volume and copier space in mind. If your available space is smaller than the size of the appropriate copier for your copy volume, consider sharing a networked copier with someone else or another business that has the appropriate space available.
>> Consider an all-in-one device
Technology has advanced to the point where you can have functions of copiers, such as scanning, printing, emailing and faxing of documents in cost-effective all-in-one devices. Only those businesses with the highest-volume copying requirements will need to consider a dedicated copier.
>> Consider inkjet vs. laser copiers
If an all-in-one device with multiple copier functions seems to be the best copier for your needs, think about whether to buy an inkjet or a laser copier during your copier comparison. Inkjets are cheaper, but they use ink cartridges, which print a very limited number of copies, especially if you use them as a color copier. In addition, the copied documents will smear if they get wet or you use highlighters on them. Because laser devices fuse extremely fine particles of toner to the pages, they produce sharper copies that resist smearing, and the toner cartridges last far longer than ink cartridges. Laser copiers are, however, significantly more expensive.
>> Do you need color copies?
Even if you choose an all-in-one device for your copies, you can save money by printing in monochrome unless your copies have to have color. Certain uses, however, like the ones below, require color:
- Copies of color photographs
- Promotional or marketing materials
If you need to print a lot of color copies, consider getting a dedicated color laser copier - the lower costs per page will offset the higher price.
>> Consider the brand
When your copier needs parts or service, your top priority is to get the machine up and running again as quickly as possible to minimize the disruption to your family or business. When performing your copier comparison, remember that the brand of the electronics manufacturer is more than a name on a box. Make sure you buy a nationally-recognized brand from a large, nationwide retailer, so you can obtain the parts and service you need when you need them.
>> Consider the features
Copiers, especially the all-in-one devices, can come with a number of features. When thinking about how to buy a copier, consider all the features that you might need:
- Duplex copying allows you to avoid tedious page-flipping.
- Multiple paper trays let you switch easily between documents that require different paper sizes.
- Image reduction and enlargement helps magnify small print or keep large-format document pages on a single copied page.
- Edge-to-edge printing is useful for photographs.
- Multi-shot imaging, found on high-end copiers, is useful when combining multiple document images on a single page, similar to 2-up or 4-up printing of a softcopy document.
- A stapling module provides convenience, especially on larger documents.
>> Consider complementary items
To save yourself multiple trips to the store, remember to buy these complementary items when you buy your copier:
- One month's worth (or more) of paper, including both letter-sized paper and other paper sizes - buying in bulk saves you money.
- An additional set of black and color ink cartridges (for inkjet copiers) or at least one additional set of toner cartridges (for laser copiers).
- Office supplies, such as a stapler, staple-puller, highlighter, paperclips and a supply caddy to keep all of them organized and accessible.
- A paper shredder to dispose of sensitive documents.
A copier is an indispensable part of your business and important part of your personal life. As you think about how to buy a copier, the primary item in your copier checklist should be your copy volume. That will drive the types of copiers you consider, the space you have to make available and whether you want an all-in-one device or a dedicated copier.