Buying printer ink cartridges can be a costly business. With a poor printer, even after just a few print jobs you can be left facing a trip back to the shops for cartridges.
Since 2015, Epson has offered a different solution for people keen to enjoy better value printing. Epson EcoTank printers have tanks that you refill when you need to.
But with such printers costing well over £200, is this really an affordable option? We investigate to see whether an EcoTank is a smart option for the average home printer user.
Printer reviews from Which? – see all tested models, including traditional inkjet and laser printers
What is an EcoTank printer?
Refillable ink tank printers don’t require traditional cartridges. Instead, they have individual colour tanks (magenta, cyan and yellow) plus black ink tanks that can be replenished with ink bottles that you buy separately.
The idea is that you get thousands of printed pages out of the ink bottles that come with the printer. Epson claims you’ll get up to three years’ worth of printing with newer EcoTank models.
Once you run out of the supplied ink, refill bottles can be bought for between £5 and £15, or between £25 and £35 for refill bottle multipacks. Not only is this unit cost far lower than what you’d pay for traditional ink cartridges, but there’s also far more ink in the bottles than you’d get in a cartridge.
Are EcoTank printers good value?
Potentially. Based on a sample of seven EcoTank printers that we’ve tested over the past few years, we found that printing 20 black text pages and 10 pages of colour graphics every month over three years would cost around £14. You could easily pay more than that for a single ‘regular’ ink cartridge.
So what’s the catch? Well, there’s no ignoring it – EcoTank printers are seriously expensive to buy. The average price of the EcoTank printers we’ve tested over the years is £255. The most recent model we’ve tested, the Epson EcoTank ET-3750, costs nearly £400.
Combine the print costs and the average purchase price of the printer itself, and things look less rosy for EcoTank models. It would take over three years for a Best Buy refillable ink tank printer to start working out cheaper than a Best Buy laser.
Then there’s HP Instant Ink, a subscription service that enables you to pay a monthly fee and print what you want to a set pages limit. Although paying for printing via subscription isn’t for everyone, Instant Ink can help you make some useful savings, and you don’t have to spend as much upfront.
Don’t forget printer reliability and quality
To get long-term savings with an EcoTank, you need your printer to keep going and not break down. But, our latest computing reliability survey found that 27% of Epson printers developed faults over our six-year survey period.
That’s more than the average for printer brands, although it should be noted that this data isn’t specific to EcoTank models.
Also, spending big on your printer doesn’t guarantee you brilliant prints. We’ve tested lots of models from the EcoTank range, and found the sharpness and colour reproduction to be a mixed bag. Some have been great, others, not so good.
If you print frequently and can afford the high purchase price, refillable tank printers such as this are cheaper to run than any other printer type. Plus, you can wave goodbye to overly-regular shopping trips for printer ink. The gamble is whether or not the printer will last long enough to see you recoup your initial investment.
EcoTank vs MegaTank
Epson used to be the only refillable ink tank printer range. However, the brand has competition in the form of Canon MegaTank.
MegaTank, found in Canon’s Pixma G Series, uses similar technology to EcoTank. The printers cost around the same amount to buy and deliver similar levels of savings.
To see how EcoTank and MegaTank printers stack up in our expert testing, including whether any make are Best Buys, head to our Which? printer reviews.