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Best cheap printer ink

Best cheap ink cartridges

By Andrew Laughlin

Article 1 of 3

Switching to cheap ink cartridges, including third-party inks, can slash how much you spend. See the best ink brands, and the ones to avoid.

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Printer manufacturers, such as HP and Canon, would much rather you use their printer ink in their printers. But in our survey of 8,446 Which? members, the top five printer-ink brands were all third-party inks. 

Log in or sign up to Which? for a £1 trial to unlock the table below of the top five highest-rated printer ink brands based on quality, value for money and more.

Further down, see the top 20 best and worst printer ink brands from our survey, with scores ranging from the top-rated 90% down to the lowest 33%.

After a good printer with affordable print costs? Take a look at our best cheap printers to run

Top five best printer ink brands

Which? members can log in to see the brands behind the scores. If you're not already a member, you can take a Which? trial.
Printer ink brand Text quality Photo quality Value for money Customer score
M 90%

You may not have heard of this printer ink brand, but its customers absolutely rave about it. It scores five stars across the board and gets the highest customer score by a good margin. 

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M 84%

When it comes to value, this ink brand is a class act. It covers a wide range of inkjet printers from the big names and customers we surveyed highly rated the text and photo print quality of its ink.

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M 81%

Joint third goes to this popular printer ink brand. It offers fantastic value for money and, just like many ink brands, it offers a 'no quibble' guarantee if you do have problems with the cartridges.

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M - 81%

As it sells ink predominantly in cut-price multipacks, it's unsurprising that this joint third-ranked brand scored very highly for value. It offers inks for a range of Brother, Canon, Epson and HP printers.

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M - 79%

Another brand that scores very highly for value, this less well-known name makes compatible ink for printers from the big printer names. It sells toner, too, but we weren't able to rate that.

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Top 20 printer ink brands - full table

Which? members can log in to see the cartridge brands and retailers behind the ratings. If you're not already a member, you can take a Which? trial.
Brand Text print quality Photo print quality Value for money Customer score
Colour Direct
Cartridge World
Currys/PC World Essentials
First Call Inks
Go Inks
Picture Expert
Premier Cartridges
Tesco Value


Member Content

Table notes: In April 2017, we asked 8,446 Which? members about their experiences with printer ink brands. We required at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. The customer score is based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer. A dash (–) means we had too few responses to give a rating. 

Third-party ink vs original ink

Around eight in ten (81%) users told us they’ve never had any trouble with their ink cartridges. Of those who did, the most common issue was the cartridge not being recognised by the printer. The chance of having a problem such as this is a little higher with third-party inks, but not by a massive amount. 

Some 82% of people with printer-branded ink cartridges didn’t experience problems, but that drops only slightly to 76% for third-party customers. Few problems are terminal, and you have options if things go wrong.

For example, if you get a ‘cartridge not recognised’ error message, try removing the cartridge and then reinstalling it. The printer might then accept it. If not, contact the retailer or seller to request a refund or replacement. Printer brands understandably want you to use their ink, but excessive warnings or actually blocking third-party cartridges is a step too far.

Don’t be put off – third-party inks can be significantly cheaper, and most sellers offer ‘no-quibble’ guarantees if you do encounter a problem. 

Additional troubleshooting advice is available at the Which? Computing website