All About Copier Leasing

All About Copier Leasing

Nov 15, 2023 | Copiers and Printers, Office Technology

Organizations often opt to lease copiers because of the financial flexibility it provides. Copier leasing allows businesses to conserve capital by avoiding hefty upfront costs associated with outright purchases. This financial flexibility enables companies to allocate resources to other critical areas of operations, fostering growth and innovation.

Moreover, leasing provides the opportunity to regularly upgrade to the latest technology without the burden of ownership. This adaptability ensures that organizations stay competitive in a rapidly evolving business climate.

Consider that even a few years ago, integrating your copier with cloud services like Microsoft 365 wasn’t even really considered.  These days, it’s not uncommon for organizations undergoing digital transformation to seek out copiers that will scan directly to cloud email and cloud storage services. If your organization buys copiers for cash, you might be waiting for enough capital to be budgeted to replace many copiers. If your organization’s FMV lease is coming up this year, you’re likely already budgeted for a new fleet of copiers and evaluating how well today’s current models work with your SaaS subscriptions and line-of-business software.

Copier leasing emerges as a strategic and cost-effective solution, whenever you want to update your copier fleet without spending a lot of cash right now.

Types of Copier Leases

In the realm of copier leases, businesses typically encounter two primary options: operating leases and capital leases, each with distinct features and advantages.

Operating Leases

Operating leases, also known as “fair market value leases,” are characterized by their short-term nature and flexible terms. These leases typically span a duration of one to five years, offering businesses the advantage of utilizing cutting-edge copier technology without committing to long-term ownership. At the end of the lease term, organizations have the option to either return the copier, renew the lease, or purchase the equipment at its fair market value. This flexibility is particularly appealing for businesses that prioritize staying up-to-date with the latest technological advancements.

Benefits of Operating Leases:

  • Lower monthly payments compared to capital leases.
  • Easy and cost-effective equipment upgrades.
  • Reduced risk of equipment obsolescence.

Important Terms and Conditions for Operating Leases:

Fair Market Value (FMV): This term defines the cost to purchase the copier at the end of the lease. It’s crucial for lessees to understand how FMV is determined and whether it aligns with their budget and expectations.

Flexibility to Upgrade: Operating leases offer the flexibility to upgrade to newer copier models without the burden of ownership. Lessees should ensure that the lease agreement clearly outlines the process and terms for equipment upgrades.

Capital Leases

On the other hand, capital leases, also termed “finance leases,” are characterized by longer-term commitments and the inclusion of a purchase option at the end of the lease period. These leases typically extend for three years or more, with the lessee essentially assuming ownership responsibilities of the copier during the lease term. While capital leases require higher monthly payments compared to operating leases, they provide businesses with the opportunity to eventually own the copier outright, often for a nominal fee of $1 at the end of the lease.

Benefits of Capital Leases

  • Eventual ownership of the copier.
  • Adding assets to your balance sheet
  • Long-term cost-effectiveness for businesses with stable, long-term copier needs.

Important Terms and Conditions for Capital Leases:

Ownership Option: One of the critical aspects of a capital lease is that you will purchase the copier at the end of the lease term. This lets you enjoy use of the MFP for some time after the payments have ended. It can also mean that you own an unreliable, worn out copier at the end of the lease. Make your purchasing decision appropriately!

Maintenance and Repairs: Unlike operating leases, where maintenance could be included, capital leases may require the lessee to handle maintenance and repairs. So you might need to arrange for a separate service agreement with a Managed Print Provider.

Understanding these lease terms and conditions is pivotal for businesses entering into copier leasing agreements. Whether opting for the flexibility of an operating lease or the potential ownership benefits of a capital lease, being aware of these terms ensures a smoother leasing experience and helps businesses make informed decisions based on their specific needs and goals.

In essence, the choice between operating and capital leases hinges on the specific needs and preferences of the business. If you want to minimize cash outflows and more easily upgrade your copier fleet, the Operating Lease makes the most sense.  If you view your MFPs as a long-term asset that you want to own for the long haul, look to a Capital Lease.

Which Type of Copier Lease is Right for My Business?

It’s often helpful to consider how your organization views copiers within their scope of operations.

An FMV Lease fits best if you always want to enjoy the benefits of new technologies, if your workflows are paper dependent and you always want newer, more reliable copiers, or if you want to minimize monthly payments.

If your business is mature and you have a culture of minimizing recurring expenses, you might want to choose a Capital lease. This will allow you to use the copier for years after payments have ended.

Choosing the Right Lease Duration

For both operating and capital leases, the most common are leases of three to five years.  The duration of the lease should align with the organization’s copier usage needs and technology lifecycle.  Many times when we are performing a Document Activity Analysis for new Managed Print clients we see a mismatch between lease duration, the print volume, and the rated duty cycle of the client’s MFP.

Consider these two examples, where lease duration and model capacity are not aligned.

Example 1:  The organization has a robust copier rated far beyond their print volume, and a shorter duration lease.

MFP’s Rated Lifecycle1,000,000 prints
Expected Print Volume100,000 prints annually
Lease TypeFair Market Value (FMV)
Lease Duration36 months
Expected Prints During Lease300,000 prints
Lifecycle Consumed30%

In example 1, the organization is essentially leaving prints on the table due to the short lease duration.  They would be better off selecting a lower capacity machine to better match their print volume. Or they could choose a longer lease duration of up to 60 months.  Both options would provide lower lease payments. 

If you’re in this situation, it might make sense to buy the copier from the leasing company at the end of the lease term. You’ll know if it’s reliable and if it has had a good service history. If so, you also know that it has some years of use left within its rated design capacity.

Example 2:  The organization over utilizes the MFP and a long term operating lease

MFP’s Rated Lifecycle100,000 prints
Expected Print Volume100,000 prints annually
Lease TypeCapital Lease ($1 buyout)
Lease Duration60 months
Expected Prints During Lease500,000 prints
Lifecycle Consumed400%

In example 2, the organization has a smaller print engine and a longer lease duration.  At the end of their 60 month lease, they’ve worked the unit beyond it’s expected lifecycle and they’re stuck owning worn out printing equipment. 

Let me tell you – copiers are extremely hard to sell used, or even give them away.  They’re huge, heavy, they take up a lot of space. They require technicians to keep them up and running.  Many times I’ve seen used copiers posted for free on Craigs List and Facebook Marketplace, and those listings languish for months.  You probably don’t want to get into the used copier giveaway business. It’s a lot of hustle with little profit.

In this situation, the organization should have chosen a more robust machine with a higher duty cycle.  While more robust copiers do cost more, they usually offer a lower cost per print, too.  Sometimes the more expensive copier offers you the lowest Total Cost of Ownership.  If they were in an operating lease, they could have passed the worn out copier on to the Leasing company to deal with.

How Long Should My Copier Lease Be?

This really depends on your financial goals and the expected lifecycle of your printing solution.

If your goal is to minimize payments, you can always get there by choosing a longer lease duration.

But you need to compare lease duration to how long you think the printer will meet your needs. You don’t want to continue making payments on unreliable, worn out equipment.

Understanding the Costs of Copier Leasing:

Copier leasing provides businesses with a flexible and cost-effective solution compared to outright purchasing. By delving into the associated costs, one can make an informed decision based on budgetary considerations and operational requirements.

Monthly Lease Payments:

In a copier lease, businesses make regular monthly payments for the usage of the copier. The amount is determined by factors such as the type of copier, lease duration, and additional services included.

60-Month Fair Market Value (FMV) Lease vs. Buying:

Leasing a copier for 60 months under a Fair Market Value (FMV) lease offers financial advantages compared to purchasing outright. The 60 month FMV Lease provides the absolute lowest monthly cost to get your new copier in your office and printing for you.  That hypothetical $10,000 copier might set you back $185 per month beginning 30 days from now.  And it’s entirely possible that between the lease and the use bill on your current copier that you are spending way more than that for your old hunk of junk.  You might end up in a situation where you are lowering your monthly printing expenses with no money out of pocket.  That’s a fantastic scenario!

Purchasing a copier, while providing ownership from the outset, involves a significant upfront investment. While one-off copier purchases can be stomached by many businesses, larger organizations want to keep their printer fleet standardized.  A half dozen MFPs are a big purchase to some businesses, and sometimes they need to acquire hundreds. 

Hidden Costs and Fees in Copier Leases

Despite the apparent transparency of monthly lease payments, it’s essential to be aware of potential hidden costs and fees that might impact the overall leasing expenditure. Common hidden costs include:

Copier Leases are Taxed

Copiers are subject to a use tax, and tax formulas can be complicated depending on where you do business and where the copier is physically located.  Because of these complications, it’s common in the industry to quote your lease cost absent of any tax calculations. It’s not unusual for taxes to be calculated while the lease company sets you up for payments after acceptance of the machines.

Municipalities are not subject to use tax, but the machine is technically the property of the leasing company.  And the leasing company is subject to the tax.  In this situation, your interest rate is adjusted upward to cover these taxes.  I hate to tell you, municipalities – you’re effectively paying the tax.

For other types of organizations, you should expect to see a tax added to your payments.  If you want to know what it is ahead of time, be sure to ask your copier dealer.

Interest Payments in Copier Leases

Make no mistake about it – leases are essentially loans.  You’re paying interest on this copier transaction.  You’ll want to make sure that your copier dealer is bringing a premier financing partner or the manufactuer’s financing captive into the deal.  These companies offer the best rates when your organization has good business credit. 

Small, unknown leasing companies charge higher rates of interest because they have a higher cost of capital and lower transaction volumes.  Their most useful niche are riskier transactions that the prime leasing companies don’t want to touch – namely new businesses and businesses with bad payment histories.

Many leasing companies will allow dealers to throw points, or higher interest rates, into the equation and offer them financial incentives to do so. This effectively becomes a commission to the placing dealer and/or sales rep. This is not unlike how car dealerships work.

Maintenance Costs

One of the shadier practices in the copier world is to bake a certain number of prints into your lease agreement.  If you tell your dealer “I don’t every want my bill to change!” this is what happens.  They sell you more prints than you need, and they finance them into your lease.  This is a horrible situation to deal with.  First, you’ve signed yourself up for interest payments on prints you will make in the future.  Second, you might not even make those prints in the future.  Third, it’s way harder to upgrade your copier earlier, if business needs justify it.  And lastly, if you want to purchase that FMV copier at the end of the lease, it’s going to have an inflated residual value.  I promise you that salesperson didn’t do you any favors at all.  But they’re likely to drop by with candy to say thank you, because they made a nice bonus on this sale.

If you want to lease smarter, demand that your lease agreement with the finance company is not mingled together with the maintenance contract of your copier dealer.

Excess Usage Fees

If you have prints baked into your lease, what happens if you print too much?  You’ll face an overage charge.  Sometimes these prints cost more than your pre-paid clicks.  This makes no sense at all.  If the copier dealer is happy to make $0.01 per black and white print, they shouldn’t be charging you $0.015 for an extra print.

Copier Leases have Early Termination Fees

Terminating a lease before its scheduled end can incur penalties. Businesses should carefully assess their long-term copier needs to avoid unforeseen costs associated with early termination.  If you want to end your lease early, chances are the finance company is going to ask for the sum of all payments due.  So you’ll pay the same amount, but you’ll pay it sooner.  That makes the effective interest rate skyrocket!

If you are stuck in this situation, there are a few things that you can do:

Switch Brands:  Copiers are an extremely competitive industry, and sometimes manufacturers will incentivize customers to make the switch to their equipment.  We are very fortunate in that Sharp offers us market development funds to gain market share on the Delmarva Peninsula.  We’re more than happy to present the business case to our reps why they should help you leave your current copier dealer.

Haggle:  Use the buy-out as a point of contention.  This could mean refusing to use that leasing company again or refusing to use the same copier company.  Sometimes you must be the sticky wheel to get some grease.  If either vendor is at risk of losing you as a customer, they might make concessions to keep you happy.

Wait it Out:  You might choose to make due with your current print arrangement a little while longer.  You’ll get to use those pre-paid prints and your buy out number decreases.  At some point you’ll probably  reach a break even point, where moving to a new print solution costs the same as the current solution.  At least you’ll be cashflow neutral at that point.

Finance the Buy-Out:  Sometimes wrapping your buy-out costs into the lease is your best option.  If you’re leaving an abusive relationship with your current copier company, you just might need them to go away.  Just be careful with this option, as it’s not unlike being underwater on your car loan.

The Cost of Return Leased Copiers

If you do a FMV lease, you’re on the hook to return your old equipment to the leasing company.  If you’re leaving on bad terms with the incumbent copier dealer, this can be a dicey situation.  Your company probably doesn’t know who to call to transport these machines, and you probably don’t have the in-house expertise to deal with properly prepping them for transport, either.  Don’t expect the company that’s losing your business to do you any favors here.

Your best way to deal with this hidden fee is to have your new provider handle the returns on your behalf.  They’ll be eligible for discounted industry rates and probably have a favorite transportation company to call.  They’ll also be well practiced packing those MFPs up before the truck arrives.

If you don’t want to pay cash for the return of your old copiers, have your new vendor add the costs into your lease.  It’s usually cheaper than trying to do returns on your own, even with the interest payments you’ll make.  It also saves your staff time.

If you’re in a FMV lease, you have to pay to have the copiers shipped back to the leasing company

Anybody trying to sell you new copiers knows this. It’s a common tactic to leave this cost out of the proposal to appear cheaper than competitors.
Make sure the cost to return is included in any proposal, or at least disclosed when a proposal is submitted.


Copier leasing is admittedly a rather boring subject if you’re not one to have interest in structuring financial transactions. And the amount of choices available to you can be overwhelming, especially when you feel like you don’t know what you don’t know. I hope that with the information provided here you feel more comfortable making your best printing leasing decisions.

Travis Fisher

Travis is Inacom’s Executive Vice President, tasked with assisting customers with their web based marketing initiatives. He’s kinda famous for his BBQ. He lives in Easton, MD with his amazing wife, two kids, and two dogs.



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