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How to Lease a Copier

Written by Steven Bryan

In some business situations, copier leasing makes a lot more economic sense than buying the equipment outright. In fact, most businesses lease a copier rather than purchase one for an array of reasons.

Why lease a copier?

  • Lower cost than purchasing: High-end, multifunction copiers can cost thousands of dollars, which puts quite a strain on the office equipment budget. By entering into a 24-, 36- or 48-month copier lease agreement, you can spread the cost of the equipment over time. You can take a look at real prices others paid on some of the best copier brands, under "How much can you save on a copier?"
  • Service and maintenance is included: Copier lease agreements typically cover service maintenance and repair of critical parts, which can amount to thousands of dollars on a regularly purchased machine. By signing up for a lease, service is included.
  • Free trade-ups: Most copier leases allow for a copier trade-up once it has become slow or obsolete. And with the fast pace of technology, by the end of a three or four year lease, you'll probably need a new machine.

To lease a copier, you will pay a fee for each month instead of one lump purchase price, but you can customize your agreement with options such as the "$1 buyout" clause. At the end of your lease agreement, you have the option to purchase the photocopier for just $1; in other cases, you only have to pay a "fair market price" to keep the copier. This is a good option if you like the equipment and want to keep it. At tax time, you also can deduct the monthly lease payments as business expenses.

Things to avoid

Michael Winerip of The New York Times wrote a cautionary tale about photocopier leasing, focusing on the problems of one Manhattan school administrator. Filling in for her boss, who was on academic leave, the administrator was pressured by one copier salesman into signing expensive copier leases that the school didn't need. When all was said and done, the school district paid a hefty price for equipment, some of which was not even plugged in for several months.

Questions you should ask

If you've decided to compare copier lease rates, there are a few things you should ask each dealer that you receive price quotes from. Winerip's account brings to mind some questions that you should ask when looking at lease agreements:

  • How many copies do you make a month? The New York City school in the article estimated that it made 40,000 copies a month for its 550 students, but ended up with two machines that could produce 65,000 and 200,000 copies a month, respectively. Don't be bullied by high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Do you have the room for a large commercial copier? Winerip wrote that one copier filled an entire room at the school, which did not even have the proper electrical outlet for the machine.
  • Does the agreement force you to use the leasing company's repair staff and buy paper and toner only from them? You should always have the right to buy your own paper and contract with outside technicians for repairs not covered under the lease agreement.
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