What should I look out for when buying a copier in Huntsville, AL & Birmingham, AL?

When buying a copier, there are certain things to consider that not all of the representatives will cover.  The following should give you a guide.

Purchasing – There are new, used, refurbished and demo machines. Remember that machines have a 5-7 year life and also have a certain number of copies they can do much like a car and odometer.  The engine life depends on many factors based on where it has been used. Refurbished copiers have a great place in the market, but must be used for the correct placement.   Ask if the machine is new or used. If used, make sure they include a BLI specifications sheet with the proposal. Make sure all of the accessories you are requiring are quoted clearly on the proposal.  Also, our industry is notorious for 90 day warranties. This is foreign to new copier buyers, so be careful to get full details on warranty information.

Leasing – Leasing is very common and an excellent tool for businesses.  But, just as in leasing a vehicle or mortgaging a house, the devil is in the details.  Two of the most common leasing programs are FVM Fair Market Value and $1 Out or Lease to own.  The FMV is similar to a car lease where you don’t own it at the end and have to turn it in. You will have to pay property tax and lease tax on the FMV lease.  The most common problems involve late fees and remembering to arrange return at the end of the lease. Notification of lease end is detailed and important. The Lease to Own program is merely financing the equipment to ownership and is treated as a sale by the IRS.  There are initial fees for documentation that normally range $50-$75. Return costs are usually $400-$500 at lease end. Leases are set costs and should not escalate during the lease. The most common pitfalls with leasing are not knowing the term of the lease. Extending the lease out to a longer period looks good on the price, but many times this ends up costing more down the road.  Leases are like mortgages and cannot be broken. Also, rentals are the same thing as leases and should be viewed with the same details. Don’t sign any agreements until you fully understand them.

Maintenance – Having ongoing coverage of your copier is very important and varies depending on the plan and the dealership.  Written guarantees are a must and should have references proving the dealership backs up their promises. Does the dealership have OEM or compatible parts and supplies?  Are they readily available to the technicians? Again references will tell. Response time metrics and uptime metrics are important to see before contracting with a maintenance agreement. Maintenance agreements usually increase annually with good reason, but make sure these increases are clear and reasonable.  5%-10% on BW and 5% on color is reasonable. Do not sign a base amount of copies for color copies.  A reasonable BW base maintenance is fine. Don’t ever buy a copy you don’t use. Many people ask these rates to be locked in for the term of the lease or for a couple years if purchased. Make sure your vendor can respond to emergencies and has teeth in their guarantees.  Another good practice is to purchase a brand that has more than one vendor certified to service in your area. Also, make sure all maintenance agreements can be canceled at any time and don’t carry a term. Ask about charges for installation of drivers support with networking the copier.  Many of these fees are chargeable, but many dealers include them in the maintenance.

Another common practice is for a copier company to reduce the black and white cost per copy to a very low rate making the agreement look attractive, while the color rate is higher than market price.  Vendors know that more customers are making a higher percentage of color copies. Most machines default to color and when your vendor does not default the machine to copy/print in black and white, the customer is charged color rates for images that have as little as one word in color.  Do not fall into this trap.  If your vendor quotes black and white rates near $.0055 or $.006, make sure your machines are defaulted to black and white and take advantage of the low cost per copy, but watch your color volume.

Vendors – You can go to our vendor ratings page to check out the manufacturers.  Ratings are one thing, but the quality of the dealers representing them in your area is much more important.  Product line completeness is also a concern for the large businesses that don’t want to split brands for all of their requirements.  Always check the models you are considering on the Buyer’s Lab website. www.keypointintelligence.com/News/Awards

Billing – Due to the cost per image billing on copiers, the invoices are not as easy to read as most would like.  The accuracy of the billing is important. How are the meters collected? Can I adjust my maintenance to my usage? Check your bill for erroneous fees for gas or delivery.  These are not normal charges. Remember no auto-renewals on any contracts.

If you have any questions about acquiring a copier, contact TLG. We strive to make every Huntsville, AL and Birmingham, AL business we touch better.