Printer bargains: When's the best time to buy?

We look at Christmas and back-to-work bargains to help you find a better deal on printers and multifunctions

The global financial crisis is here, the Aussie dollar is jumping up and down like a mad man and sales campaigns for Christmas and back-to-work are either in full swing or just around the corner. What do they have in common? They all affect the prices of consumer electronics, and printers aren't an exception. Whether to buy that new inkjet or laser printer now, later or not at all can be tough decision.

Buy now

Lexmark, Canon and HP have all recently unleashed new printers aimed at the home and small businesses. These releases coincide with each company's development cycles rather than a seasonal push. HP's vice-president, imaging and printing HP South Pacific, Richard Bailey, told PC World that the company "doesn't expect to lower prices on its new or current range in the lead up to Christmas." Beyond a $20-$30 drop at some retail stores, we don't think this will change much across the board for newer printers.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 18 months, you'll know that the Aussie dollar is nearly equal with the greenback. For those who are willing to import consumer electronics, it's definitely a good time to buy. For everyone else, however, things haven't changed much.

Mike Pleasants, Epson Australia's director of marketing communications, told PC World that Epson didn't raise prices earlier in the year and wouldn't be adjusting them in response to changes in the Aussie dollar.

Brother Australia's brand and marketing manager, Heidi Webster, also told PC World that printer prices haven't fluctuated, though consumables are more expensive when the Australian dollar is lower.

The good news is that new products push down the price of older ones. If you don't need a new-fangled printer with Wi-Fi or touch-screen technology, you can pick up models that were released six months ago for half the price in some cases. As retail stores and printer manufacturers look to clear warehouses of old stock, older printers are likely to have their prices cut or be sold with bonuses like free consumables.

Of course, manufacturers are likely to ramp up sales campaigns the closer Christmas gets; many of them are in full swing right now. Most are cash-back promotions, but some are also offering free gifts to sweeten the deal. We have compiled a list of the Christmas specials you can cash in on over the next month or so.

At this time of year, the emphasis is on the home and home office, so if you are after a printer that falls into one of these categories then Christmas is a great time to buy.

Buy later

Unlike other consumer electronics, Boxing Day sales don't tend to affect printer and multifunction prices, though many of the Christmas sales will still be running. However, the back-to-work and back-to-school sales in late January and early February are a great post-Christmas period for buying printers, particularly for businesses. The big retail stores all run sales around this time and manufacturers like Epson, Lexmark and Brother have told PC World they may offer specials or lower prices at the channel level to coincide with these sales.

Canon is planning to run back to work and school sales for both its PIXMA and laser printer ranges. Between 11 January and 31 March, purchasers of selected PIXMA multifunctions will get a PIXMA 2010 Pack that contains photo paper and T-shirt transfers via redemption. Those who purchase the PIXMA MP640, PIXMA MP990 or PIXMA iP4700 will get printable DVDs as well as the PIXMA pack. Buyers of selected Canon LASERSHOT printers during the same period will get a $179 Iomega Prestige Portable hard drive via redemption.

Most other specials are likely to involve lower prices rather than bonuses or redemption offers.

When do I buy?

Many of the manufacturers we spoke to said that now is the best time to buy a printer or multifunction. If you're looking to buy a printer for the home, the lead up to Christmas is a great time to save some money or at least get a bonus gift. There aren't too many campaigns involving business laser printers and multifunctions at the moment; unless you're after an inkjet it's probably best to hold off until back-to-work specials. Stocktake sales will also help you save some money at the register.

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James Hutchinson

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