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Best cheap printers

Best cheap printers to run

By Andrew Laughlin

Article 1 of 3

A cheap printer may seem a bargain, but that soon sours if it quickly drains your ink. These Best Buy printers match top quality with cheap ink costs.

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Is that cheap printer really a bargain?

It’s all too easy to buy a low-priced printer, only to get caught out by high ink costs.

Some printers waste so much ink cleaning their print heads, meaning you'll have to be constantly ordering pricey new cartridges.

An inefficient printer could cost you £100 more a year to print the same number of pages as a cheaper-to-run model.

However, the Best Buy printers in the table below won’t hit your wallet, having achieved a very low cost-per-page in our unique tests.

Best cheap printers to run

Canon Maxify MB5050
Today's best price £171.05
Which? score 72%
Tested Apr 2015
Best Buy
Printing:
4 out of 5
Print quality:
3 out of 5
Print costs:
5 out of 5
Continuous printing cost (£):
Member exclusive
Occasional printing - text and graphics (£):
Member exclusive
Ten black text prints (£):
Member exclusive

This all-in-one printer only has one paper input tray, but that enables it to be smaller than some rivals. Super-fast text prints and good-looking text, graphics and photo prints make it a worthy Best Buy. Printing costs are very affordable, too.

Epson Expression ET-3600
Today's best price £299.00
Which? score 71%
Tested Oct 2016
Best Buy
Printing:
4 out of 5
Print quality:
4 out of 5
Print costs:
5 out of 5
Continuous printing cost (£):
Member exclusive
Occasional printing - text and graphics (£):
Member exclusive
Ten black text prints (£):
Member exclusive

This big-brand printer uses an innovative new approach to ink that's designed to remove the hassle of having to buy cartridges. The cost of printing black text and office graphics is incredibly cheap, and the printer will save you money over the long-term. Thankfully, what it prints is pretty good, too.

Canon Pixma MX475
Typical price £50.00
Which? score 71%
Tested May 2014
Best Buy
Printing:
4 out of 5
Print quality:
4 out of 5
Print costs:
5 out of 5
Continuous printing cost (£):
Member exclusive
Occasional printing - text and graphics (£):
Member exclusive
Ten black text prints (£):
Member exclusive

This Best Buy all-in-one printer can print, copy, scan and fax. It turns out great colour office prints and does so cheaply. Find out which printer we're talking about by logging in or taking a Which? trial for £1.

Canon Pixma MG3650
Today's best price £39.00
Which? score 71%
Tested Feb 2016
Best Buy
Printing:
4 out of 5
Print quality:
4 out of 5
Print costs:
5 out of 5
Continuous printing cost (£):
Member exclusive
Occasional printing - text and graphics (£):
Member exclusive
Ten black text prints (£):
Member exclusive

This printer's a steal – not only is it a sub-£50 Best Buy all-in-one wi-fi printer that turns out cheap prints, it produces stunning colour copies and scans, too. If you're on a budget, make sure it's on your shortlist.

Canon Maxify MB5350
Today's best price £165.34
Which? score 71%
Tested Apr 2015
Best Buy
Printing:
4 out of 5
Print quality:
4 out of 5
Print costs:
5 out of 5
Continuous printing cost (£):
Member exclusive
Occasional printing - text and graphics (£):
Member exclusive
Ten black text prints (£):
Member exclusive

This Best Buy machine from a well known brand has good print speed across the board and ink running costs are low. Whether you’re printing text, images or photos, you’ll be pleased with the results.

We go further to find the printers that will cost you less long-term

At Which? we know that there’s more to printer running costs than a quick calculation based on manufacturers’ figures. Many printers automatically clean their print heads every so often, using up precious ink that never makes it to the paper. This makes a big difference to how much you’ll end up spending on ink.

Our unique occasional printing tests take this extra ink into account, so we can give a more realistic idea of printing costs. We’ve found that the worst offenders use up to six times as much ink as the best when you leave time between print jobs, which can more than double the amount you spend on ink.

We also set our printers up to run almost continuously, printing as many text, spreadsheet and photo pages as we can from three new sets of ink cartridges. This is much like the method manufacturers use to come up with the page yield figures displayed on the box of the printer. Having this information means we can calculate just how much ink printers waste when you leave time between prints.

Being cheap to run isn’t everything, however. That’s why Which? puts every printer through the same series of speed tests, quality tests and ease-of-use assessments, so that when we recommend a printer you can be sure that it’s fast, gives quality results and won’t be difficult to use.