Buyers guide

©2005 My X Finder Companies, LLC.
reprinted with permission

Copy Machine Guide

In this guide-

Background on copy machines
Features and functions to look for in a copy machine
How to find the best copier deal for you

Background on copy machines

Copy machines don’t just copy anymore. Today’s copiers offer much more functionality than those just 5-10 years ago, and the range of available features can be daunting. Because of these advances, copiers are now known as ‘digital imaging systems’, ‘digital copyprinters’, etc. This site gives advice and tips on how to find the best copy machine for you.

Finding the right copier for you begins by analyzing your needs along three characteristics:

What is your budget?
Will you need to use this as a fax or printer?
Will you need to print in color?

Answering these questions will help you decide among the three main types of copiers- analog, digital, and color.

If budget is the driving factor for you or you have modest copying needs, an analog copier might be the best option for you. Although few manufacturers are introducing new analog copy machines, they are still easy to find and are (generally) the least expensive type of copier. Pricing for a basic analog copier starts at around $200 and can go up to several thousand, depending on features.

If you’re looking to perform fax or printing functions through your copier, you will need a digital copy machine. Apart from these functions, digital copiers do have some advantages over analog, including: less noise, fewer moving parts, better copy quality in some instances (i.e., photos), and better reduction/enlargement capabilities. Black and white digital copiers start at around $700 on the low end of the range, and the highest-end models can cost more than $100,000.

Color copiers use digital laser technology and can duplicate in black and white as well. Most color copiers can be configured to act as a color printer, and you can also get an ink-jet color printer with scanning capabilities that will essentially function as a color copier. Color ink-jet printers with scanning start at around $800, while true digital color copiers start at around a few thousand dollars and can cost as much as $100,000 and more.

Features and Functions to Look For in a Copy Machine

Once you have identified the general type of copy machine that will fit your needs, there are other features and functions to consider. The desirability and pricing of these features will help you narrow down your choices for a specific copy machine.

Copy volume
The number of copies you make in a month.

Copy speed
Copies per minute (CPM) refers specifically to the number of letter-sized copies the machine can produce in one minute when running at full speed. This does not include making two-sided copies, copying on to larger sheets, automatic feeding or sorting, or any other advanced function.

A document feeder allows you to copy multi-page documents without having to lift and lower the cover for every individual sheet.

Sorters and staplers
A sorter will help organize multiple sets of multi-page documents. A stapler gives you the option of stapling your multi-page documents together.

A duplexer allows you to copy on to both sides of a single sheet of paper.

Paper supply
Paper supply refers to the sets of trays and holders that hold paper inside the copier. Standard trays typically hold 50 to 100 sheets, and the largest-capacity trays can hold up to 3,000 sheets.

Paper sources
Paper sources refers to the number of different paper trays available; such as trays that hold standard sheets (which can be loaded with letterhead, colored paper, etc.), legal-sized sheets, etc.

How to find the best copier deal for you

Copiers at the low end of the price spectrum are widely available at office-equipment retail or online stores. Buying a copy machine from a superstore or online store is different from buying from a dealer, however, because service contracts aren’t included in the package. To mitigate breakdowns, the leading copier manufacturers of low-end copiers offer warranties that will cover basic repairs or replacement.

For mid- or high-range copiers that are not purchased directly from a superstore or office equipment store, you will most likely get your copy machine from a copy machine dealer. Copiers that cost more than a couple thousand dollars can be bought outright, but they are most often rented or leased for budgeting reasons. The typical lease period is three to five years.

Some leases are based on a per-copy basis, which can be ideal depending on your usage and volume needs. Some leases will commit you to monthly copying minimums or encourage trade-ups if you exceed the minimum per-copy allotment. Make sure that the lease terms are compatible with your copying needs. It is quite common for a business to grow or change their copying needs over the course of a three or five year period, so try to find or negotiate a lease that gives you a fair amount of flexibility to adapt to your changing needs.

Service Agreement/Contract
When you purchase or lease a copier from a dealer, you will need to arrange for servicing of the copy machine, both on a routine and emergency basis. Service agreements are typically based on the number of copies that are made in a given time period. Your copier usage is likely to fluctuate month to month, so be careful of the term that you agree to as well as the term minimum. Monthly minimums might be costly if your usage varies considerably from month to month, and overestimating might be costly because you typically aren’t reimbursed for the difference in committed usage and actual usage. You might consider a service agreement that charges you for only the copies you make, and/or has lower monthly payments and a higher per-copy fee.

Most service agreements cover the costs of parts and labor for repairing and maintaining your copier. However, the definition of parts can vary among service agreements. Replacement parts that break during use, as well as parts that wear out over time (fuser rollers, cleaning blades, etc.) are almost always covered. The costs of consumables such as paper and toner are usually excluded. However, there are items, such as the copier drum (or photoconductor), that can alternately be considered either replacement parts or consumables. Replacing the copier drum can cost several hundred dollars, so make sure that the service agreement explicitly states what is covered and what is not.

For emergency repairs above and beyond routine maintenance, make sure to find out whether these costs are covered in full or priced on a per-incident basis. Also, make sure to get a commitment in terms of response time (usually four hours or less) and service hours (nights, weekends, etc.).

When it comes time to choose a dealer, “service” is the most important word you need to remember, especially if the dealer you buy or lease from will also be handling the service agreement. Having a high-quality copier without high-quality servicing of that copier may not be worth the money you are paying for it. When searching for a copier and dealer, make sure to ask the following questions:

– How long have they been in business?
– What is the experience level of their service technicians on YOUR copier model?
– How many service technicians are in the area?
– What references can they provide?
– What kind of user training is available?

Extra TIPS!
Buyers often don’t realize that they don’t have to buy a service agreement and/or consumables from the same dealer who sold or leased them the copier. Sometimes, you can find a better deal by getting your service agreement somewhere else.

Once you’re at a point where you’re deciding between two or three different copier models, ask the dealer to bring the machines to your office for a demo of their network-based capabilities. If this isn’t possible, at least make sure you visit the dealer to see how the machines work.

If budget is of utmost concern for you, make sure to explore the option of buying a refurbished copy machine; they can usually be purchased or even leased for about two-thirds of the price of a new copier.

Color copiers usually require about four times as many service calls as black and white copiers. They also usually require servicing after every 5,000 color copies, compared to after every 100,000 copies for black and white machines.

In conclusion, we hope you have found the information we have put together for you useful. We recognize that this guide was in no way exhaustive, and that there is more to copy machines and copiers than what is included here. We suggest that you use the information in this guide as a starting point in your search for the right copy machine for you.

Copyright 2008 Digital Business Solutions, Inc.