Printers: Buying cheap printer ink Cheap printers and cheap prints


Ink costs are important when buying a printer – when we surveyed Which? members, ink costs ranked as the third most important aspect of a printer, behind print quality and the ability to print in colour.

Unfortunately some printers cost five times more in ink than other, and the price of the ink and price of the printer won't give you any clues as to which printers produce the cheapest prints.

To find out which inkjet printers turn out cheap prints, check out our top five cheapest printers to run.

Do cheap printers produce cheap prints?

Some cheap printers are cheap to run – but not all are. Pick the wrong one and you’ll be paying through the nose for prints.

We’ve seen some printers costing under £60 that turn out cheap prints, yet other models that cost three times as much to print with.

To see which cheap printers are also cheap to run in the table below, try Which? for £1. If you're already a member, go to the log-in page and unlock the table.

Printer ink costs
DetailsPrinter namePrinter priceInk cost of 10 colour and 20 mono printsThree year ink costs
Cheap printer with low running costsSubscriber only content£51£2.88£104
Cheap printer with high running costsSubscriber only content£53£9.59£345

Why are some printers so expensive to run?

With an inkjet printer, some ink will be lost to cleaning. When you leave time between prints, the printer may clean its print heads the next time you print. The cleaning process itself uses ink – ink that you then can’t use on your prints.

Manufacturers say that automatic print-head cleaning is necessary to ensure you get the best prints every time, but our tests have found that, when it comes to print-head cleaning, some waste more ink than others.

Our printer running costs take into account the cost of the ink used for head cleaning. The most wasteful printer we’ve tested used 500% more ink when leaving time between print jobs, compared with printing the same number of pages in one go, dramatically increasing printing costs.

This ‘occasional printing’ test is a unique Which? test that simulates how people actually print at home, so you can find a printer that produces good-value prints.

Find out more about this and other printer tests in our ‘how we test printers’ page.

How can I find a printer that’s the best value for money?

You can’t tell just by looking at the price of a set of cartridges, or by looking at the price of a printer, whether you will get good value for money when it comes to prints.

Value is really the number of prints you get from each set of cartridges. Some cheap cartridges may only produce a few prints, and work out expensive in the long run.

We use the cost of the ink and the number of pages you can print from a set of cartridges to find the cheapest printers to run.

Printers whose printing costs are more than 50% above the average cannot be Best Buys, regardless of how well they print. So when you get a Best Buy printer you can be sure that you’re getting a great all-round printer that won’t cost you a fortune in ink.

Get a great-quality printer with respectable running costs by choosing a Best Buy printer.

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