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5 Mar 2020

The hidden costs of printers: the model that could set you back over £1,000

Running costs can have you spending more on printing than you intended. Find out which models to avoid

It's not hard to pick up a printer for a seemingly low price of £50 or less. But often it's not the upfront cost you need to worry about, as our recent round of printer testing has uncovered.

Some models are cheap to buy yet more expensive to run, offsetting the saving you'll make on the printer itself. But some are not even that cheap to buy in the first place and running costs could set you back more than £1,000 over three years.

The good news is we've found models which are affordable and will only cost you around £90 on average to run over three years. We only award our Best Buy badge to the printers which offer you an excellent combination of printing costs, speed, print quality and ease of use.

Jump straight to thebest printers on test.

The printer that will cost you more than three years of fibre broadband

Epson promises that the Expression Home XP-3100 is an affordable model, thanks to individual colour ink cartridges which are supposed to save you money in the long run, because you won't have to replace every colour all at once.

But our testing revealed quite the opposite: the cost of the printer and ink over three years is over an extortionate £1,000.

That may not bother you if you're a very occasional user and the cost is justified by amazing printing quality and ease of use. Our full Epson Expression Home XP-3100 review reveals all.

Other printers to consider

Canon Pixma GM2050, £195

The Canon Pixma GM2050 is a standard mono inkjet, which doesn't copy or scan. It might seem like it has limited functions, but it does automatically print on both sides of the page. It can print wirelessly, but bear in mind it doesn't work with Apple AirPrint or MacOS operating systems.

Find out whether it's worth the high price in our full Canon Pixma GM2050 review.

Canon Pixma MG3650S, £44.99

This Pixma model is an all-in-one inkjet that can print, copy and scan, plus it has wireless printing.

It's cheap to buy, and you can find it on sale for less than £50, but will it cost you a lot in the long run? Find out everything you need to know in our Canon Pixma MG3650S review.

Brother DCP-L2530DW, £99.99

The Brother DCP-L2530DW is a mono laser printer that can also copy, scan and fax. It works wirelessly and supports AirPrint.

It's a reasonable price, but is it as good as pricier models? See how well it did in our Brother DCP-L2540DW review.

HP LaserJet Pro M501dn, £325

Laserjet printers can be expensive, and this HP model is no exception. In fact, it has quite a hefty price tag that's up there with some of the most expensive models we've tested.

It can't copy, scan or fax, as it's a standard mono laser, but it does print double-sided and supports Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, so you don't have to stick to printing from your PC.

See if it did enough to impress us in our full HP LaserJet Pro M501dn review.

How to reduce printing costs

If you've already got a printer and you're finding the printing costs are more than you expected, you can lower them without buying a new model.

Often, original ink - the cartridges made by printer manufacturers - is very expensive, but you can make a great saving if you buy third-party ink instead.

Original multi-pack inks for some printers (if you're buying all colours and black ink at once) can set you back over £50, especially if you're buying XL cartridges. An XL multi-pack of ink for the Epson Expression XP-900, for example, costs £95.99.

If you were to buy a compatible pack from Colour Direct, it would cost you only £13.90 - saving you over £80. Plus, the Colour Direct deal is a double pack of cartridges, so you're essentially making double the saving.

Why our printer tests go further

Our printers test doesn't only assess printing quality and ease of use. We also check how well the scanner and copier works, if the model has one, as well as any wireless functions that come along with it and how quickly it manages to do those tasks.

From our testing, it's clear that printing costs are a big thing to consider when buying a new model, so we assess just how much each printer will cost you in the long run. You can see the details of this in the 'Test results' part of our reviews.

We run an 'occasional printing' test, which simulates how the average person will be using their printer.

A lot of printers clean themselves when you're not printing, which can waste the already-expensive ink. The occasional printing test factors this in. We also weigh the ink cartridges before and after so we can see just how much ink is being used and how much is being wasted.

You can find out more on our how we test printers page.