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Best cheap printer ink

Best cheap ink cartridges and compatible inks

By Andrew Laughlin

Article 1 of 3

Switching to cheap printer ink cartridges can slash how much you spend on your printing. See the best ink brands and the ones to avoid.

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Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

In this guide:

Printer manufacturers, such as Canon and HP, would much rather you use their printer ink in their printers. But in our survey of more than 8,000 Which? members, the highest-rated printer ink brands were all third-party suppliers.

Below, see our reviews of the top five highest-rated ink brands based on quality, value for money and more. Further down, you can see the overall best and worst printer-ink brands based on our survey, with scores ranging from the top-rated 88% to the lowest 60%.

Top five best printer-ink brands 

Only logged-in Which? members can see the brands behind the scores. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Printer-ink brand Text quality Photo quality Value for money Customer score
M 88%

If you’re looking for high-quality ink that is also great value, look no further than this ink brand. Customers we surveyed rated it highly for quality, cost and how easy the cartridges were to use.

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M 87%

This brand is a superb seller of ink for a wide range of printers. Its printer ink is nearly as good as original ink alternatives, yet is much cheaper to buy.

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M 86%

Although not a widely known brand, this company is loved by its customers, who rave about its quality and value. It’s an excellent seller of ink, too.

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M 85%

Another brand that both makes ink and sells it. You told us that it offers good value for money and that the quality is also good considering the price.

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M 84%

Offering superb-quality ink at wallet-friendly prices, this ink brand is another outstanding supplier of cheap ink for your printer.

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Table notes: Survey conducted in April 2019. Ink brands sample 7,393. Individual sample sizes per brand shown in brackets. We needed at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. Individual sample sizes in brackets. Print quality Survey rating of the quality of prints from the ink. Ease of use How simple the cartridges are to install and use. Customer score Based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer if asked. n/a means we had too few responses to give a rating. All ink prices correct at June 2019.

Printer ink brands rated - full table 

Only logged-in Which? members can see the ratings for each brand. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Brand Text print quality Photo print quality Value for money Customer score
Brother (144)
Canon (1,633)
Cartridge World (199)
Colour Direct (52)
Epson (870)
First Call Inks (215)
HP (2,063)
JetTec (71)
MoreInks (43)
Office World (70)
Picture Expert (105)
Premier Cartridges (41)
Refresh (257)
Tesco Value (76)
Think (175)


Member Content

Compatible ink cartridges vs original ink 

We know that you can maker huge savings by choosing third-party inks rather than original inks. However, many people are put off by potential complications with using them. 

While it is possible that even supposedly compatible ink won’t work in your printer, major problems are rarer than you might think, and there are often things you can try to make the ink work.

1. Cartridge not recognised: This is the most common issue you’ll face when using third-party ink. The printer brands aren't keen for you to use anything but their own ink. Try re-inserting the third-party cartridge again, as this may solve the problem. Resetting the printer and trying again also often works.

2. Clogged print head: As the consistency of third-party ink is different from original ink, it can clog up the print head. You’ll notice this as you’ll have dots in your prints or missing colours. Run the printer’s cleaning cycle, as this may clear the blockage.

3. Leaking cartridge: This can be an issue for third-party cartridges, but it can be down to how the cartridge was inserted. Try to get a tight seal, but don’t press too hard when you do this as it could damage your printer.

4. Update your printer drivers: If your printer isn’t printing, or has other problems, make sure you update the printer driver on your computer and on the printer itself. This can often solve any printing problems you’re having.

Additional troubleshooting advice is available on the Which? Computing website

In you’re in the market for a new printer with affordable print costs, take a look at our best cheap printers to run.