Printers have one (very important) job: Turning your digital files into objects you can hold in the physical world. It doesn't matter if you need copies of that school day's notes for a classmate, photos for your friends, or a last-minute thank you card, a printer's got you covered.
If you need help selecting the right printers for your situation, we recommend consulting our buyer's guides on this topic. We have a general best printers guide, but have branched out into specific stories about wireless printers, all-in-one printers, and home printers.
Once you've settled on the printer you want, your next question is probably where to buy it. Dozens of stores — both online and brick-and-mortar — offer a wide variety of printers, but we've found a handful of retailers that you should consider looking at first. These recommendations are based on our shopping experiences, as well as the trustworthiness, and printer selection of each store.
Online shopping will always be more convenient than going into a store, but it can be very helpful to see the printer you want in person before picking it up. This allows you to see how tall and wide it is to determine whether the printer will fit on your desk, and check whether you're able to read its small screen easily enough. Shopping in person may even make you realize that a feature — say the ability to print documents and photos from a flash drive — is more important to you than you initially thought.
If you're going to shop for a printer in person, Best Buy is the first place you should go. The store has a wide array of printers from every major manufacturer in their retail locations. If you find a printer you really like, you can walk out of the store with it that day and set it up immediately: no shipping required. If you've already done some research (or consulted our guides!) you may be able to decide between the two or three printers you're interested in after comparing them side by side for yourself. Another benefit of in-person shopping is that Best Buy has employees who can answer any questions and offer an opinion or insight to help you find the right printer.
If you prefer online shopping, but would like some of the near-instant gratification of walking out of a store with your new printer, Best Buy offers a "Store Pickup" option at checkout. This feature actually serves two purposes.
The first is that it'll indicate whether the printer you'd like to buy is available at your local store. If you know the printer you want isn't available at the nearest Best Buy, it may not make sense to shop for it in person. Saving yourself time and effort, especially if you've got a tight schedule, is always a good idea. We appreciate that Best Buy makes it really easy to check which items are in stock at the locations closest to you.
If the printer you want is available at your local Best Buy, and you're confident in your choice, the pick-up in store purchase option will make it fast and easy to grab your new hardware and go. You won't need to spend time finding the printer section of your store, or asking a Best Buy employee to unlock the case where they're stored. Instead, you can walk to the customer service area, present the clerk with your confirmation email and ID, and leave. Many Best Buy locations also offer curbside delivery, so you can pick up your printer without having to enter the actual store. Shopping in person may take more effort, but you'll be rewarded by getting your printer as quickly as possible.
One of the biggest reasons we're recommending Best Buy over other brick-and-mortar stores is its price-matching policy, which is pretty great. Best Buy will price match any competitor — online or otherwise — as long as the items are identical, and being sold directly from the competing retailer. That means items sold on Amazon through third-party sellers, even those that offer Prime shipping, cannot be price matched. A Best Buy employee can quickly adjust the price of your printer as you're checking out. Just show them the printer's product page on the competing website. In our experience, price matching has always succeeded, and only added an extra minute to the checkout process.
We encourage you to shop for a printer in person when possible, but you may not have the time, means of transportation, or a Best Buy location that's close by. In our experience, shopping at Best Buy's online has been relatively painless and hassle-free. The store's site is fast and well designed, so you can easily find the item you're looking for. This is true whether you have a general idea of what you want, or know the exact printer you'd like. Best Buy's search tools allow you to narrow down your printer choices based on preferences, like whether it can scan or copy documents, and its price.
Best Buy currently has over 130 printers available, so we're confident that you'll be able to find the right one for you. We've also found the store's laptop prices to be the same — or lower — when compared with online-only retailers. Best Buy also holds regular sales, which offer a limited-time discount on printers and other electronics.
Whether you're shopping for a printer in person or online, Best Buy is the first store you should consider.
Amazon is known for its nearly endless selection of products, which naturally includes hundreds of printers. If you aren't interested in-store shopping, and want to get your printer quickly and inexpensively, shopping at Amazon has a few perks.
The biggest is access to almost any printer imaginable. The store's printer landing page breaks printers down by category — laser, inkjet dot matrix — as well as the overall best sellers. If you're having a hard time picking a printer, these lists make your life simpler. Amazon doesn't offer price matching, but that's okay because it typically has the best printer deals anyway.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can expect two-day, one-day, and same-day delivery based on where you live, and the inventory at the closest warehouse. Ordering a printer online means waiting longer than you would if you picked one up in store, but Amazon has worked furiously to close that gap. One very important step when shopping for a printer on Amazon is making sure you're buying it directly from the store rather than a third-party seller. This ensures you'll have the best-possible experience.
Amazon functions both as its own store and an open online marketplace where third-party vendors are able to sell goods. In some cases, a third-party seller will offer the exact same item in the exact same condition as Amazon, but at a lower price. This may tempt you to pick up your printer from them. However, these sellers may not offer the same 30-day return policy Amazon does, or may charge you for shipping. You can see the seller you're buying your printer from under the "Buy It Now" button on an item's product page. There, you'll see two fields called "ships by" and "sold by."
We recommend sticking with printers that are sold and shipped by Amazon, so you're sure to get the correct product in the right condition at the appropriate price. If something is wrong with your shipment, you'll be able to communicate with a customer-support representative who works for Amazon, which isn't always the case with third-party sellers.
Amazon's third-party marketplace is huge, but the steep discounts some sellers offer may come with a catch. You can get a great deal, but you're also accepting the risk of a poor outcome if something goes wrong. This is the primary reason we prefer shopping on Best Buy's site over Amazon. You know you're getting the item straight from the store without any hunting. That said, Amazon is hands-down the best online-only retailer when it comes to items in every category. Just remember to spend an extra minute doing your research before buying your printer there.
B&H isn't very popular outside of the New York tri-state area, but that's a positive if you've been having trouble finding the printer you want in stock. New York residents can go to the store's Manhattan location, which is better stocked and has more knowledgeable staff than your typical brick-and-mortar store. Shopping in-store at B&H has the same upsides as big-box stores, but its website is also very easy to navigate.
Despite its smaller size, B&H carries the same printers as other stores at the same prices. It also offers free expedited shipping to most of the continental United States on orders over $50, which is applicable to almost every printer. If you don't need your printer right away, it may be worth waiting for one of the store's frequent sales to get the best possible price. Like Best Buy, B&H only stocks and sells goods directly, so you don't have to worry about getting burned by a third-party seller.
Comparison shopping gives you the best odds of finding the printer you want at the best price, so you should add B&H to your list of top electronics retailers if you are unfamiliar with it. The store's relative obscurity means that you may find a printer that's sold out everywhere else available there.
If you use eBay properly and understand the risks associated with shopping on the site, you can get an extremely good deal on your preferred printer, or any other electronic for that matter. Buying a printer on eBay can save you money because you're buying the machine from an individual instead of a big retailer. The item's price is determined by the seller's approximation of its real world value, which may be significantly lower than a typical store's price.
Experienced eBay sellers — those who have accumulated tens of thousands of ratings from over several years — know their market well enough to price their goods competitively. In most cases, an eBay seller's prices will be lower than the ones you'll see at a major retailer because the item used. We're big advocates of buying refurbished or open-box gear when possible (more on that below), but you need to read eBay listings thoroughly to know exactly what you're getting into.
If you're new to eBay, the online marketplace is split up into two types of listings: Auctions, which allow you to bid on an item for a set period of time, and Buy It Now listings, which let you buy an item for a pre-set price without competing with other shoppers. Sometimes, a seller with a Buy It Now listing will allow you to make an offer if you'd like to negotiate the price, which can be a good tool to use if you know the relative value of the laptop you're shopping for, and how often it goes on sale.
It's possible to save a significant amount of money on eBay, but you run the risk of having a negative experience if you're buying from an inexperienced seller. eBay continuously bans sellers who have accumulated enough negative ratings, and can mediate between buyers and sellers who are disputing a transaction, which is good if you end up in a sticky situation. Still, shopping for a printer on eBay will feel more like a personal, informal experience compared to picking up your machine from a multinational company. The sale is happening between two people after all.
If you're okay with taking a small chance, or are an experienced eBay buyer, the online store is a great place to shop for your new printer.
How To Buy a Refurbished or Open-Box Printer
Buying a printer — a device that literally requires paper each time you use it — isn't an eco-friendly act, but you can reduce the environmental impact of your purchase by choosing to shop for a refurbished or open-box machine. Those terms may seem interchangeable, but they're actually two distinct categories of used devices, and it's important to understand the distinction.
Refurbished items have been sent back to the manufacturer because of a defect; Open-box items have been returned by another shopper. Every store we've recommended shopping at allows you to get a refurbished or open-box laptop if a machine in that condition is in stock. In some cases, a laptop that's sold out may be available as an open box or refurbished item.
In many cases, you'll be able to tell whether a refurbished or open-box printer is available directly from its product page. On Best Buy's site, for example, you can scroll down on a laptop's product page to the "Buying Options" section, which will allow you to check whether an open-box or refurbished model is available. If so, you'll be able to add it to your cart in a click.
Amazon allows you to see your refurbished or open-box printer options on each product page too, but it also has a dedicated section to items in both conditions called Amazon Warehouse. Using Amazon Warehouse allows you to search for any open box or refurbished product on Amazon from any category, and it's a handy tool when you're shopping the site for anything.
Shopping for a refurbished or open-box printer may seem risky, but stores have gone through great lengths to make sure you have a good experience. The condition of the printer you're shopping for is clearly listed, and includes any damage or other imperfections, so you'll know what to expect when it arrives. In some cases, open-box items are brand new, but may come without the original package and non-essential accessories — ink cartridges, for example. Knowing what to expect before you opt to buy a refurbished or open-box can also make the experience seem less scary, especially if you've never done it before.
Many stores also offer a generous return policy — or some sort of free warranty — when you shop for a refurbished or open-box product. You'll have the chance to thoroughly test your printer, so you can feel confident that the purchase you made was the correct one. If you're wary about shopping for a refurbished or open-box printer, but decide to pick one up, keep its original packaging, so you can make an easy return if necessary. Saving the packaging for a laptop shouldn't be too annoying, and is worthwhile if your laptop arrives in worse shape than you thought.
In our experience, buying refurbished or open-box gear from Best Buy and Amazon has always resulted in a good outcome. We've found that stores are very honest about the condition of their refurbished or open-box stock. If anything, these companies have overstated any flaws, and we ended up pleasantly surprised at the condition of the items we purchased.
The biggest personal benefit of shopping for an open-box or refurbished printer — besides knowing that you've potentially saved it from sitting idly in a dusty warehouse or landfill — is that you can save a lot of money. Refurbished and open-box printers in like new or excellent condition are typically 10 to 15 percent cheaper than buying the same item new. The discount you receive will vary based on the printer model, condition, features, and store. If you choose to get a printer in worse condition, you can save a lot of money. Typically, stores have a quality threshold on the open box and refurbished items they sell, so you shouldn't end up with a lemon.
How to Dispose of an Old Printer
If you're replacing an older printer with a new one, you should dispose of your previous one in a responsible way. We have an entire guide dedicated to how to properly dispose of e-waste, but we'd also like to highlight two options available through Best Buy.
First and foremost, the store will allow you to drop off older electronics and handle the recycling for you at no cost. You don't need to buy your new printer at Best Buy to take advantage of this service. The store allows you to recycle three electronics per day, and outlines the specific state-by-state limitations when recycling TVs in particular. To take advantage of this service, you will need to bring your old printer to a Best Buy location.
Best Buy also offers two paid "haul away" services, which means movers will come to your home and take your old electronics away. This service makes more sense if you're buying larger electronics like a TV or appliances like a washing machine, but it's a little-known service you should keep in mind.
If you take advantage of Best Buy's haul-away service, the same delivery people can take your old one for a "small fee." If you pay $199.99, Best Buy will send people to haul away two large items and an unlimited number of smaller items each year. If you're redoing your home, and want to recycle your old gear in a responsible way, the price may not be that bad.
How to Properly Recycle Empty Ink Cartridges
You're likely to go through dozens of ink cartridges over your printer's life, and you should do your best to prevent those chunks of plastic from spending eternity in a landfill. Office Depot allows you to re both in store and through an online return program. The store accepts up to 10 ink cartridges from any printer brand.
If you choose to return ink cartridges in-store, and make a purchase of $10 or more, Office Depot will give you store credit toward your next purchase. If you're returning ink cartridges online, the store will provide you with a free shipping label, so you can mail them in at no charge. Ink cartridges returned to Office Depot online will not be eligible for any rewards.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.