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Copier price guide and how to buy

Although prices for digital copiers and multifunctional devices have come down quite a lot over recent years, there is still a significant variance in pricing from supplier to supplier, even between similar or identical models.

Some caution has to be applied when buying a photocopier / multifunction. Most copier vendors are honest, however, there are those who overcharge and they do this simply because they can get away with it. Another strategy used is to price their base machines well below market value - sometimes even below cost. This way they lure you in and then charge considerably more for service contracts and add-on upgrades for additional features. So before signing any contract, always ensure you understand all costs, as well as future costs.

A4 Business copier prices range from around $500 at the low-end range to approx. $1,500 for a higher end colour multifunction model (MFP). Basic A4 machines are capable of up to 20 ppm (pages per minute) and an average monthly volume of around 5,000 copies/prints.

Basic A3 Mono (black & white) Business Photocopiers start at around $3,000 for low speed, low volume models. However, these days most basic models also include printing capability or have it at least as an option. They also have scanning capability either included or as an option. So realistically, a basic A3 Mono multifunction device (MFD), a minimum requirement for most small offices, should be budgeted for at least $4,000+. Faster models - ones that can handle higher monthly volumes - workgroup or mid-volume copiers, running at 21 - 35 ppm - are priced from around $5,000 to $10,000, all depending on chosen options and if it's a colour or just a black & white machine.

High volume models, from 36 - 60 ppm or more, probably start at around $8,000+ for mono devices or $10,000+ for colour devices and can be as high as $40,000 for a very high-end colour, fully optioned device.

Some copiers used by print shops and central copy offices, or print rooms for large organisations can cost more than $100,000. Performance wise they offer 100+ ppm and can handle monthly volumes of 500,000 to 1,000,000 copies/prints per month.

A number of factors will affect the price of a copier or multifunction device. The add-ons you choose will be one of them. Colour capability has the most significant impact on price: expect to pay at least a 20% - 30% premium over a black and white copier with similar specifications. Network printing is now standard on many models, but could be an option. In that case an additional $500 to $2,000 might be charged, depending on model. ADFs add approximately $1,000 to $2,000 to the price of the machine, if they are not included. However, most mid- to high-end models will have an ADF included.

For as little as $130 you can of course purchase an inkjet colour printer that has scanning capability and will essentially function as a colour copier. These are called MFP's or Multi-Function Printers. The speed, reliability and functionality of these "all-in-one" printers are simply not adequate for most businesses but are great for home use. The relatively high cost of consumables, such as inks, will result in very uneconomical cost-per-copy. Only if you rarely need a colour copy or print could it make sense to purchase an all-in-one inkjet copier as a supplement to a black and white digital copier. Another option is to do your occasional colour copying and printing at a print shop, if one is located nearby.

Very few office copiers are actually sold at list price. In general, you can expect discounts between 10% and 20% from the RRP - the manufacturers’ suggested retail price. These prices are usually quite flexible and will vary depending on the options and accessories you end up including in the final configuration.
By signing up for a service contract, the dealer may have even more room to give on the price of the copier itself.

Make sure to always negotiate, as the sellers are usually in a competitive situation with other dealers. Sometimes a great deal can be negotiated if an older, refurbished, or discontinued model is available, which still may be more than capable of doing what you need it for. A word of caution; if possible, try to find out the history of the machine if it is second hand and always, always make sure it is covered by a service agreement for 3 - 5 years. That way if the machine cannot be maintained, the onus is on the dealer to replace it. New equipment is usually covered by a replacement guarantee if you take out the service agreement - make sure a second hand or refurbished model is as well.

If you have a trade-in machine, try to leave this out of the picture until the end of the negotiation. That way you will get a truer valuation of the trade-in. If you discuss it at the beginning, an attractive looking, but inflated trade-in price will simply be absorbed by a higher net selling price of the new machine.

When choosing which dealer to go with, "service" is a very important word to remember. It’s better to have a so-so copier with excellent service than a great copier with bad service. You will need to be comfortable with your copier and the vendor who will provide the ongoing service for probably at least 3-5 years, so it is in your best interest to make the effort to evaluate them.

Ask questions
Get to know the dealers. Ask as many questions as you can:
·How long have you been in business?
·Who are some of your major accounts?
·How long have been in business and your staff been working for you?
·Do you sell multiple brands or only one?
·Which is the strongest seller, how long have you been selling it and why?
·What is the policy on breakdowns? What are your service agreement T&C’s
·Do you have a replacement guarantee?
·What is your service response time? (try to get reference contacts off the dealer and check with them)
·How many in-house technicians are available for this model in the local area?
·Where are they based? (A low cost service contract won't save anything if there are not enough technicians to service the dealer’s fleet - the last thing you want to discover (too late) is that there is only one technician in the area for the model a salesperson convinced you to buy.)

Talk to the technicians
Before deciding to buy, make sure the dealer has qualified technicians with extensive installation and service experience. Having your IT or MIS department vet the dealer can be a good call to test for experience. Don’t take the dealer's word about the tech’s experience. Try to speak with them directly if possible. Ask them about what parts they typically carry as standard. Ask them what the average job completion time is - no good if the response time to your service call is 1 hour, but it then takes 3 days for the tech to come back with a replacement part to be installed.

Take a site tour & visit their showroom
One of the best ways to get to know a vendor is by taking a tour of their facilities. You will get a sense of their size, staff and professionalism, and take a look at their repair facilities. You want to find out: are they large enough to meet your requirements, now and in the future - but small enough to value you as a customer.

Check their references
Reputable dealers should be more than willing to give you a few references. Of course they will give you their best customers, but you can still learn from the conversations.
Ideally, the references you get should own the exact model of copier you are considering. The only time when this is probably not possible is when you buy a machine that has only just been released. When you call them, ask them how responsive the dealer has been to any service calls they have had and ask them how they feel about the technicians' competence and level of expertise.

Buying from Department or Superstores
Copiers and multifunctions at the lowest end of the spectrum are available for fixed prices at retail or online stores. For a business, we do not recommend purchasing this way. Retail stores offer no preventative maintenance and ongoing service and support, all of which are critical to your equipment’s performance. Retail outlets simply do not offer service contracts. Of course, manufacturers offer warranties that cover repairs or replacement, but this is not to be confused with actual on-site service agreements. Most businesses want the comfort of knowing experienced technicians are available to address any problems they may have with their copier. Many dealers also offer some on-site staff training on how to use the new machines, which retail stores do not provide.
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