Which 3D Printer to Buy: 10 Factors to Help You Decide

  1. Budget: As of 2023, consumer level 3D printers cost anywhere from $100 to thousands. The most popular 3D printers range from $200-$1000, with a selection of printers for every price tier.
  2. Experience Level: While you don’t need to be an engineer or IT professional, 3D printing will require tinkering with hardware and software. Printers that are easier to use and more reliable will cost more initially, but you may save money over time. If you don’t want to potentially deal with too much tinkering between successful prints, don’t buy the least expensive printer.
  3. Hands-on Involvement: Consider how hands-on you want to be in building and maintaining the printer, and whether you want to purchase a pre-built or kit-based printer. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and taking 3-36 hours to build the machine from a box of parts, then you can expect to save money.
  4. Print Size: Consider the physical print size you need, typically ranging from 4″x4″x4″ upwards, with 6″ to 10″ being the most popular range. Larger printers are available, as well as methods to print large objects on small printers.
  5. Materials: Decide which materials you need to print with, such as PLA or ABS, and consider whether you need specific features like a heated bed.
  6. Intended Purpose: Determine the intended purpose of the prints, as this will impact the printer’s capabilities and features.
  7. Customer Service: Determine whether you need real-time customer service and whether you require an extended warranty.
  8. Compatibility: Consider any specific software, compatibility, accessibility, or delivery requirements based on your location and operating system.
  9. User and Environment: Consider who will be using the printer and the environment it will be used in.
  10. Popularity / Community Size: The printers that have the widest adoption and largest communities have tons of information available online to help you get the most out of your 3D printer. This includes tutorials, repairs, modifications, optimized print settings, support for 3rd party tools, etc.