When you spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment, this is an important question. Of course you want to maximize the ROI from your purchase (or lease).
This is a loaded question though and the answer, I’m sorry to say, is the same as it often is: it depends.
I will say that with average use and regular maintenance, a mid-range floor copier can operate for about five years and a decade for high-end models or .mid-range model that’s lightly used.
There are two filters to look at the lifespan of a copier:
How much you use the device versus how much the device is designed to be used (this is often measured relative to monthly volumes and suggested monthly volume).
Is it still useful for your business? As features and functions improve each year, a copier could still be in great working condition, but not delivering as much productivity value as a new model could.
Depending on who you ask, the answer to “how long should my copier last” will differ:
- The salesperson
- The technician
- The manufacturer
We’ll get to their perspectives below, but first let’s go over contributing factors to a copier’s lifespan (regardless of who you talk to).
As with any complicated device, some are just lemons. regardless of repair and maintenance, they keep breaking down. In a lease or MPS agreement, these machines will often be swapped out. If you make a purchase, you’ll likely need to rely on the warranty.
That’s only a small percentage of copiers today. what causes a copier to live long and prosper or die sooner than expected?
How Much Is It Used? This one’s easy, if you run your copiers and printers at maximum capacity, they’ll wear out faster. Say your copier is rated for a duty cycle of 60,000 pages per month (with a recommended volume much lower than that. If you output 60,000 prints and copies each month, that machine will have a short lifespan. This would be like driving your car at top speed for hours every day.
Regular, Proactive Maintenance. Much like you regularly change the oil in your car, your copier needs routine maintenance too. Keep it clean, change out worn parts, and in general treat your copier gently and it’ll return the favor with good performance. We’ve put together some of our best tips into this blog post: Get the Most Out of Your Copier: The Best Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Maximum Office Productivity. In general, following the maintenance instructions and keeping it clean will help it last longer.
Refurbished Copiers. A refurbished copier won’t last as long from date-of-purchase as a brand new machine, but will come at a lower cost and if well-maintained can have years of life after your purchase.
Does It Still Do What You Need It to Do?
Your copiers and printers could still be working perfectly. However, your business needs may have changed. Even if after fours years, your copier is humming along nicely, it could make sense to upgrade to a new model capable of meeting your expanded needs. You could trade-in your device or move it to another department in the office with simpler needs. As always, have a strategy for your copiers and how they support your business, don’t just keep them around because they’re working.
From a sales perspective, copiers should last 3-5 years — which is usually the average length of a typical copier lease. That's not as cynical as that sounds! At that point, a sales representative with your best interests in mind will already know if your current machine is actually meeting your needs or if it’s time to change things up.
- Are you maintaining the copy and print volumes that you originally estimated at the sale? Is it more? Is it less?
- Has anything changed in your organization such as the number of people who use your copier, improvements in technology, needing to print in color, a new requirement to print 11x17, etc.?
- Is your copier still compatible with the technology that you are using now and into the foreseeable future?
Security, scanning, mobile, and cloud-based technologies are evolving at a rapid pace, so if your copier can’t keep up, hanging on to a device strictly to squeeze some extra mileage out of it may end up costing you more in the long run.
So while the copier could “last” longer, it could still be better for your business to consider an upgrade – or an additional device. A good salesperson will work with you to identify what you need, not just what they want to sell.
Like a good mechanic, any seasoned copier technician will tell you that they can keep your baby running as long as the parts are still available — but at what cost? Like I mentioned in the salesperson example, there is point of diminishing returns when it comes to copiers (especially with regards to security). Plus, copiers are like cars, requiring regular preventive maintenance (like changing your oil). And also like cars, over time major components can fail and the cost of maintaining your copier (or car) becomes more expensive than buying a new one.
Granted there is an entire aftermarket specifically dedicated to certified pre-owned copiers out there that may save you some cash up front, but how much will it cost you down the line? Purchasing office equipment from anyone other than an authorized dealer is risky. Dealers have long-term relationships with the manufacturers they represent (not to mention manufactured-certified techs to service said equipment) which means they will stand behind their products from the first day of your lease to the last.
Why not go straight to the source? The big guys — Canon, Xerox, Ricoh, etc. Before you do, just remember to proceed with caution. In fact, copier manufacturers publish life expectancy ratings for just about every model that they make and they are all centered around two very important things — duty cycle and recommended monthly volumes. However, duty cycles are in no way conservative, and more often than not, represent an inflated number of the machine's actual limit.
That’s why it’s always good to scale your expectations for the recommended duty cycle back when evaluating equipment, or ask to speak with your print provider’s service manager about particular equipment you might be considering. Running your copier every day of the month because the duty cycle suggests you can would be like “stepping on the gas pedal of your car down to the floor every day, eight hours a day,” as Canon U.S.A. exec, Paul Albano, once stated in a 2009 Buyer’s Zone article.
Remember that the manufacturer’s ratings are from testing in controlled environments, variables that may not be exactly the same as how your office uses your copier. Factors such as heat, humidity, dust, and general wear and tear from users are not always as easy to replicate in a test environment. High volume, production machines tend to have a slightly longer life-expectancy since they are built with heavier duty materials versus a lightweight everyday office copier, but again it all depends on how you use it.
Keep an Open Mind
Like most major investments, if you are still not sure about how long you should expect your equipment to last, check for reviews on the make and model you are considering from reputable online sources such as industry-specific trade publications or Buyer’s Lab. Just be mindful of the random unsavory review. Instead, look for repeated claims (good or bad) that might help you gain insight into a copier’s performance expectations.
A Note on Copier End-of-Life
When you do decide to trade in your old copier, be sure to ask your copier partner about the types of recycling and aftermarket wholesale programs they partner with.
The incorrect disposal of office equipment is extremely hazardous to the environment, and there are numerous e-cycling organizations available to businesses who can help dispose of your beast responsibly.
If you need help recycling your toner cartridges, click over to our “how to” blog on that.
And keep in mind that your copier hard drive could be a security problem for you. Read about that in this post: 6 Potential Security Cracks Created by Your Copier.
Basically, if you keep your copier clean, don’t overuse it, and do periodic routine maintenance; your office equipment should last, with few issues beyond the occasional paper jam, for years.