We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

28 Oct 2020

Why buying a cheap printer could sometimes prove a false economy

Over three years, the least economical inkjet printers we've tested could cost you more than 25 times as much to run as one of the best

It's coming up to silly season for offers on tech products as we approach Black Friday, and you might be tempted to snap up a bargain printer, especially if you're working from home and setting up a home office.

But before you click the 'buy now' button, consider how much a printer will cost you in the long run.

A cut price deal may not seem like such a winner if you find yourself flying through ink cartridges and spending a fortune for just a few prints.

Discover the printers that'll save you cash in the long run. Read our round up of the best cheap printers to buy and run.

Long term costs of the best and worst printers

Based on typical home printing habits, some of the very best models will cost you less than £100 in running costs over the course of three years, whereas some of the worst can set you back more than £1,000.

The table below shows the up front and running costs of the most and least economical inkjet printers over three years. We've also looked at the total costs of buying and running one of the cheapest laser printers we've tested. These tend to be more expensive up front than inkjet printers, but running costs are often lower.

ModelUp-front costThree-year running costTotal cost over three years
Best Inkjet£40£87.12£127.12
Worst Inkjet£42£1,352.36£1,394.36
Best laser£50£50.76£100.76

Our three-year running costs are estimated costs based on printing 20 black text pages and 10 pages of graphics every month, turning the printer off between uses.

We've also found inkjet printers that are even cheaper to run - in some cases more than 25 times cheaper than the most expensive models. However, they cost more up front so it'll take longer to recoup the initial outlay.

Of course, running costs aren't the only thing that matters when choosing a printer; the cheapest prints will still be poor value if the text is blurred, or images have lines down them.

That's why, to get our seal of approval, not only must printers not cost you the earth in ink, but they must also be easy to use and deliver good quality prints.

Read our printer reviews to find out which models are all-round top performers.

What affects printing costs?

If you're printing a lot, you're going to spend more on ink, and printing in colour or printing lots of images will cost more than monochrome text. But there are other things that can really affect printing costs.

  • Traditional inkjet printers go through cleaning cycles, and this can mean ink is wasted, even before it hits your page. We measure how much is wasted by each printer in our testing.
  • Some cartridges are more expensive than others. Pair these with a printer that wastes ink, and you'll be spending way more than you bargained for.
  • Ink Tank printers tend to have low running costs. This is because they store their ink in 'tanks', which you top up, instead of using cartridges.

Overall, up front price is not necessarily an indicator of how economical a printer is. We've found pricey printers which are equally expensive to run - the worst of both worlds - as well as printers which are affordable in both senses.

Below, we've highlighted two printers that claim cheap running costs. Click through to our reviews to see the reality behind the claims. Our independent running cost tests measure exactly how much ink is used to print, and we estimate how much it'll cost you over time.

Epson Workforce WF-2810DWF, £50

Epson claims this Workforce model is an affordable solution, ideal for a home office. It promises its individual inks are 50% more efficient compared to tri-coloured cartridges and claim double sided printing and the option for XL cartridges will keep costs down too.

We found when it comes to print speed, it's hit and miss, being much faster for text and graphics than printing photos. However, if quality is top-notch, then it'll be worth the wait.

Find out if you can actually print high-quality documents for less in our Epson Workforce WF-2810DWF review.

Canon i-SENSYS MF267dw, £309.99

This Canon printer is pricey, but it's marketed as an 'efficient, affordable 4-in-1 multifunction printer', which seems like the perfect model for a home office, especially if you regularly need to scan and photocopy.

Black text is excellent, but that alone isn't enough to justify more than £300, especially if the running costs aren't as good as promised.

Find out how well it scores overall in our Canon i-SENSYS MF267dw review.

Best Black Friday deals for 2020: from mattresses to mobile phones, we'll be constantly monitoring the best Black Friday offers so you can secure a great price on great products.