This post was most recently updated on July 25th, 2020
Sometimes, you don’t need the latest and greatest. Sometimes, you just need something cheap that works. You just want a plain, cheap color laser printer. That’s completely okay.
Just because you are looking for something inexpensive, doesn’t mean you have to get stuck with a piece of crap. You shouldn’t have to completely sacrifice quality to get a bargain. If you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to find something. As long as your budget is reasonable, and you are willing to compromise a bit, I’m confident you’ll be satisfied.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve decided to pick two printers; one dedicated printer and one all in one. Here are my choices for the best cheap color laser printers.
The Brother HL-3170 is very fast for this price category. It prints up to twenty-three pages per minute of black and color. For a cheap color laser printer, three seconds per page is a great output.
Brother is well known for building great machines with cheap cartridges. This printer takes the TN221 series of cartridges, which yield about 1,000 pages per cartridge of black and color. This comes out to about five cents per page, which isn’t bad for a printer this cheap.
The Brother HL-3170 has a single large paper tray, which holds up to 250 sheets of office paper. This is great for home use. You can fit a half ream of paper in the tray at once and store the rest in a drawer for later.
Separate Drum Units
Brother laser printers have separate drum cartridges, which typically need to be changed after about 15,000 pages. While this makes your toner cartridges slightly cheaper, it is a huge hit to your wallet when they go out.
When the drum units go out, most of my customers end up buying a new printer. If all four of these drums went out at the same time, a new printer is a cheaper and easier way to go.
Not a Space Saver
Brother laser printers are usually awesome. However, more and more I’ve been selling more HPs, and the reason is size. Home users want to put their printer somewhere their friends won’t see it. Let’s face it, these cheap color laser printers aren’t exactly good-looking. And, with the Brother HL-3170, you won’t be hiding it anywhere.
For less than $300, you can get this awesome workhorse of a color laser printer. It may not have all the shiny bells and whistles, but that’s the point. It is cheap, saves you money in the long run, and gives you a great product.
The HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw prints twenty-two pages per minute of black and color, making it just as fast as the Brother HL-3170. As I said above, at this price point, this is a great speed.
The HP 202A cartridges yield about 1,400 pages of black and 1,300 pages of color, which gives them a lower cost per page than the Brother. At about 4.5 cents per page, that can add up to hundreds of dollars per year if you are a frequent printer.
In addition to efficient cartridges, the HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw has drum units built into each toner cartridge. This means you replace the drum every time you replace your toner, and you never get hit with a huge bill for drum units.
If HP is great at one thing, it’s customer service. Just kidding, it’s not. It’s really not.
As terrible as HP is at customer service, they are that good at making small laser printers. While the HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw is bigger than most inkjet printers, it is the perfect size for a cheap color laser printer.
The HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw is an all in one. What that means is, along with printing, it can scan, make copies, and send faxes. With a flatbed scanner and auto document feeder, you can quickly scan documents or make color copies at a low cost.
Low on Storage
A small footprint unfortunately means a low paper capacity. While this printer advertises a 250-sheet paper capacity, I promise that isn’t true. You’ll probably be able to fit 150 sheets or so, which is fine, but not great.
The HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw is an awesome printer. It is fast, efficient, and reliable. Almost all the Amazon reviewers call this the best laser printer they’ve ever owned. That’s why it’s my choice for the best cheap color laser printer.