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20 September 2021

Best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them

Switching to cheap printer ink cartridges can slash how much you spend on your printing. We reveal the best ink cartridge brands and retailers, and the ones to avoid.
FW
Felix Wilson
Best-cheap-ink-cartridges

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 inkjet printer owners, the highest-rated printer ink brands were all third-party suppliers.

We also asked our inkjet owners about their shopping experiences. The three top-rated ink cartridge brands also top our ink cartridge online retailer table. This is great news, as our results will make it easy for you to buy cheap, good-quality ink cartridges from a recommended retailer.

Printer ink brands rated

We asked more than 8,000 inkjet owners to rate their printer ink cartridges – including both original-branded and third-party brands – for print quality, ease of use, value for money and overall satisfaction. You can use our results to buy cheap ink cartridges from a brand recommended by actual users.

Only logged-in Which? members can see the ratings for each brand. If you're not yet a member, you'll see the table in alphabetical order – you can get instant access to our results and all our reviews, including our printer and laptop reviews, by joining Which?.

Brand
Print quality
Ease of use
Value for money
Customer score
999inks
Brother (163)
Canon (2024)
Cartridge Discount (61)
Cartridge People (216)
Cartridge Save (71)
Cartridge World (100)
Colour Direct (95)
Currys/ PC World Essentials (33)
Dell (51)
Epson (879)
First Call Inks (216)
HP/Hewlett Packard (2631)
IJTdirect (74)
Ink Factory (62)
Inkredible (106)
Internet Ink (103)
Kodak (45)
Lexmark* (34)
Office World (88)
Printer Inks (57)
Refresh (232)
Stinkyinks (148)
Tesco/Tesco Value (117) 
Think (69)
Wilko/Wilkinsons (54)

Table notes: Survey conducted in April 2021 with 6,335 Connect panel members and 5,283 members of the public. Ink cartridge sample size 8,323. We needed at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. Individual sample sizes in brackets. Print quality Survey-based rating on how satisfied people are with the quality of prints. Ease of use Rating for ease of installing and using the ink. Customer score Based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer if asked. *Lexmark no longer produces home inkjet printers.

More on the third-party brands in this year's printer ink survey

Colour Direct

Colour Direct cartridges are sold through Amazon, so you'll get Amazon's customer-support options. There's a wide range, but specific cartridges can be tricky to find. So if you go to the Colour Direct section on Amazon's website, make sure you know exactly what model number you're looking for.

Cartridge Save

Cartridgesave sells original inks, along with its own compatible cartridges. It offers an impressive three-year warrantee on all cartridges, and will repair or replace your printer if its own-brand cartridges cause any issues. The Cartridge Save website also has free next-day delivery on all orders. 

First Call Inks

First Call Inks offers a wide range of remanufactured cartridges on its website, firstcallinks.co.uk, and they're sold on Amazon too. All its cartridges are guaranteed for a year.  

Inkredible

Inkredible stocks multiple cartridges online, as well as its own brand of compatible ink, in the Inkredible online store. It also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee, with full refunds for cartridges that don't work. This extends to firmware updates that render cartridges unusable.

Internet Ink

Internet Ink is a Nottingham-based store which also sells its compatible cartridges from the Internet Ink website. It offers free delivery in the UK and a one-year guarantee on faulty products.

MoreInks

MoreInks is an online retailer which also sells its own branded cartridges from the MoreInks website. All ink comes with a two-year warranty, so you can get a replacement or refund if anything goes wrong.

Stinkyink

Stinkyink stocks original and third-party inks for a wide range of printers. The Stinkyink website is easy to browse, and there’s a 12-month guarantee on all cartridges. It also promises to repair or replace your printer in the unlikely event that its cartridges do cause an issue.

Best places to buy cheap ink online

80% of people buy their printer ink online, and it's usually the cheapest place to buy your ink cartridges. Amazon and eBay are the most popular online choices, but neither is the highest rated in our survey of thousands of Which? members.

We've rounded up the best online ink retailers below. But if you prefer to stock up from a high street shop, we've still got you covered – keep scrolling for our high street shop results. 

Only logged-in Which? members can see the ratings behind the printer ink retailers. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access to our results by joining Which?.

Brand
Customer service
Range of ink
Finding your ink
Value for money
Customer Score
7dayshop.com (45)
999ink.com (46)
Amazon.co.uk (2342)
Argos.co.uk (81)
Canon.co.uk (77)
Cartridgediscount.co.uk (80)
Cartridgeink.co.uk (41)
Cartridgepeople.com (314)
Cartridgesave.co.uk (135)
Cartridgeshop.co.uk (52)
Cartridgeworld.co.uk (81)
ChoiceStationery.com (114)
Currys.co.uk (54)
eBay.co.uk (431)
Epson.co.uk (95)
Firstcallinks.co.uk (195)
Hp.com (340)
IJTdirect.co.uk (89)
Inkredible.co.uk (103)
Inkfactory.com (62)
Internet-ink.co.uk (100)
Johnlewis.com (37)
Justinkandpaper.com (63)
Printerinks.com (75)
Refreshcartridges.co.uk (250)
Staples.co.uk (35)
Stinkyinkshop.co.uk (219)
Tesco.com (35)
Viking-direct.co.uk (96)

Table notes: In April 2021, we asked 6,247 Which? members and members of the public about their experiences of buying printer ink online, and 1,994 about their experience of buying ink from high street shops. We required at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. Individual sample sizes for each brand shown in brackets. The customer score is based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer if asked. n/a means we had too few individual responses to give a rating.

More on the brands in this year's online ink retailer survey

First Call Inks

First Call Inks offers a wide range of remanufactured cartridges on its website, firstcallinks.co.uk, and they're sold on Amazon too. All its cartridges are guaranteed for a year.  

Internet Ink

Internet Ink is a Nottingham-based store which also sells its compatible cartridges from the Internet Ink website . It offers free delivery in the UK and a one-year guarantee on faulty products.

Just Ink And Paper

This retailer sticks to its mission statement – it only sells ink and paper. The Just Ink And Paper website stocks three brands: Canon, Epson and HP. These are all original inks, so you can expect to pay a premium.

Refresh Cartridges

This retailer stocks original and third-party inks along with, oddly enough, kids' toys and games.  It offers a three-year guarantee on faulty cartridges, as well as next-day delivery. We’ve seen discounts of up to 30% on some products when buying multiple cartridges from the Refresh Cartridges site at the same time.

Stinkyink

Stinkyink stocks original and third-party inks for a wide range of printers. The Stinkyink website is easy to browse, and there’s a 12-month guarantee on all cartridges. It also promises to repair or replace your printer in the unlikely event their cartridges to cause an issue.

Best places to buy cheap ink on the high street

Tesco and Currys are the most popular high street shops for buying ink cartridges – but neither comes in our top three retailers.

Only logged in Which? members can see the ratings behind the printer ink retailers, otherwise you'll see it in alphabetical order. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

Brand
Customer service
Range of  ink
Ease of replacing faulty cartridges
Value for money
Customer Score
Argos (157)
Asda (169)
Currys/ PC World (347)
John Lewis (48)
Ryman’s (86)
Sainsbury’s (147)
Tesco (581)
WHSmith (69)
Wilko/Wilkinsons (142)

Do cheap ink cartridges work?

We know you can make huge savings by choosing third-party inks rather than original inks. However, many people are put off by potential complications with using them. Our survey revealed the most common concerns people had:

  • 39% - third-party cartridges not working in their printer  
  • 31% - poor print quality 
  • 29% - ink leakages.

While it's possible that even supposedly compatible ink won’t work in your printer, major problems are rarer than you might think. In fact, of those who use third-party cartridges regularly, only 5% experienced cartridges not working in their printer, only 2% had any leakage and just 6% thought print quality was poorer than expected.  

If you do have problems, though, 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, as this might solve the problem. Resetting the printer and trying again also often works.
  2. Clogged print head As the consistency of third-party ink can be slightly 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 might clear the blockage.
  3. Leaking cartridge This can be an issue with 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.

For more troubleshooting advice, see our printers and ink Which? tech support

Need a new printer with affordable print costs? Take a look at our best cheap printers to run.

How to recycle your used ink cartridges

Pile of used printer ink cartridges for recycling

Every year, millions of ink cartridges are needlessly dumped into UK landfill. And while most of the big brands have freepost recycling schemes for their own cartridges, they often won’t accept third-party ones.

Some larger supermarkets and office supply shops have dedicated recycling bins for printer cartridges – something to keep an eye out for when you’re out shopping. If all else fails, there’s a good chance your local recycling centre will take used cartridges off your hands. For more information, visit our guide on how to buy the best printer.