Users pay a price for the crisp output of a laser printer, and not just the cost of the printer itself.
Instead of an inexpensive inked ribbon to produce images, laser printers use a black powder called toner to create the printed page, in a process nearly identical to that used in a photocopier.
Sooner or later, you'll have to add more toner to the printer, usually in the form of a replaceable cartridge.
You can expect to pay $60 to $100 per cartridge, depending on what other replacement parts come with cartridges for a given printer model. (The more expensive cartridges include a new printer drum, which is replaced separately in other printers.)
The cartridges last 3,000 pages or so, depending on the printer and what you're printing. You'll get more pages per cartridge if you print just text, far fewer if you're producing reams of full-page graphics.
On average, you'll pay about 3 cents per page for laser-printed output, says Marc Boer of BIS Strategic Decisions.
One way to cut that down is to join the 10 percent of laser printer users who buy refurbished cartridges, which cost $50 or so.
That also helps cut down on the estimated 10 million empty copier and laser printer cartridges that wind up in U.S. landfills each year.
At least two companies, Hewlett-Packard and Canon, have a return program where they will recycle your used cartridge.
But, notes Mr. Boer, that also benefits the manufacturers by keeping the used cartridges from becoming refurbished by independent companies, which takes profitable business away.