Buying printer ink can put a serious dent in your wallet. In fact, as you can see in the graphic below, it can be more expensive than vintage Champagne or Chanel No. 5 perfume. So how can you avoid paying over the odds?
Ink is particularly pricey if you opt for ‘original’ ink (from the same brand as your printer), but you don’t have to spend a fortune.
We’ve surveyed almost 8,000 printer ink users and unearthed the best cheap ink brands. They’re all third-party suppliers selling high-quality ink at a fraction of cost of the original ink versions.
Best cheap printers to run – see the most efficient inkjet and laser printers you can buy.
Original vs third-party ink
The big printer manufacturers, such as Canon and Epson, are very keen for you to only use their original ink. However, they’re not keen enough to make it cheap to buy. The cost difference compared with third-party or ‘compatible’ ink alternatives can be simply staggering.
If you own the Epson Workforce WF-7110DWF A3 printer, you could buy a set of 27XL black and colour inks from Epson direct for an eye-watering £107.48. Or, you could log on to Amazon and buy two sets of black and colour inks for just £7.99 from one of our top-rated printer ink brands. That’s a £100 price difference.
Most people don’t buy original ink direct from the manufacturers, and it’s true that you can get original ink cheaper elsewhere. For example, you can go to our top-rated online ink retailer and get the same Epson original cartridges for £89.98. However, that is still a lot more expensive than the third-party brand.
Visit our printer ink survey guide to discover the full results or see below for a cost comparison between printer ink and some luxury liquids.
Isn’t the quality of third-party ink rubbish?
No. Based on our survey of 7,986 printer ink users in April 2018, the top three highest-rated ink brands are all compatible ink suppliers.
They all scored four stars or higher for text, photo or office graphics print quality. In a separate lab test using a Best Buy printer, we checked out the print quality for ourselves.
Compared with an original ink alternative, we found that the quality of our top-rated brand was as good as the original ink – arguably better in some cases.
Will the cartridges work with your printer?
Printer compatibility with third-party inks can be an issue. However, our research indicates that even when problems do occur, you can usually sort them out yourself.
If on the rare occasion that the issue you encounter is more severe, most ink retailers will offer you a refund or replacement. Some will even cover any damage caused to your printer by the ink.
Buy the best cheap printer ink online
The majority of people buy their printer ink online as it’s often where you can find the best-value printer ink cartridges.
We’ve rounded up the best places to buy your ink online as well as on the high street if you prefer to visit a bricks-and-mortar store.
Amazon is the most popular online choice for buying ink, and Tesco the most popular high street shop. However, neither was the highest rated in our survey of more than 7,000 Which? members in April 2018.
Before you splash out on printer ink, see our full ink retailers survey results.