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Buying toner cartridges cost effectively

Beware if you have bought a printer cheaply because the toners could be very expensive, says Nick Coleman.

Your practice may be paying up to three times the going rate for toners
Your practice may be paying up to three times the going rate for toners

Having analysed more than 450 GP surgeries' spend, I have discovered that toner cartridges for printers are one of the bigger admin expenses for most.

When buying toners, you have three choices:

  • Original brand.
  • Remanufactured (reconditioned).
  • Compatibles.

Many PCTs insist on practices buying more costly original brand toners (the same make as the printer). But to understand why your practice may be stuck with paying more when cheaper toners are readily available, you need some insight into how the printer market works.

Original brand

The largest, best-known suppliers tend to sell their printers at cost or add only a small margin. Then they make their profit by charging a premium price for toner cartridges.

PCTs may well have procured printers for their practices either free of charge or heavily discounted, but under the terms of the deal, they have to promote use of original brand toners, which are likely to cost upwards of two to three times the price of other toners.


If your practice has bought its own printers and can choose who to buy from, I recommend staying clear of remanufactured toners. In my view, no cartridge is ever as good as it started out once it has been opened up and rebuilt - as anyone who gets an ink leak inside a printer will agree.


These toners originated in the Far East and the compatibles market was full of poor quality suppliers until the recent entry of a few new brands of excellent quality which have good guarantees. Some of the newcomers also have toner recycling schemes.

Be cautious

A lot of the cold calls and flyers the practice gets will be from toner companies promising to save you money. But take care: the majority are selling dubious 'ex-stock' (available immediately from the warehouse), foreign stock or remanufactured products.

My advice is stick with what you know and get guarantees for performance and quality. If a supplier has an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Nick Coleman is adirector of healthcare sector procurement specialists ProCure Health Ltd

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