Best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them
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 the overall best and worst printer-ink brands based on our survey, with scores ranging from the top-rated (89%) to the lowest-scoring at 61%.
Printer ink brands rated
|Brand||Text print quality||Photo print quality||Value for money||Customer score|
|7 Day Shop (36)|
|Cartridge Discount (34)|
|Cartridge People (115)|
|Cartridge Save (83)|
|Cartridge Shop (51)|
|Cartridge World (140)|
|Choice Stationery (43)|
|Colour Direct (91)|
|First Call Inks (234)|
|Go Inks (30)|
|Internet Ink (164)|
|Office World (88)|
|Picture Expert (55)|
|Premier Cartridges (37)|
|Printer Inks (72)|
|Tesco/ Tesco Value (61)|
|Wilko (Wilkinsons) (34)|
Table notes: Survey conducted in April 2020 with 8,788 Connect panel members. Ink cartridge sample size 7,460. We needed at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. Individual sample sizes in brackets. In red - Which? Recommended Priovider. Print quality Survey based rating on how satisfied people are with the quality of prints. Ease of use Rating for ease and installing and using the ink. Customer Score Based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer if asked.
More on the brands in this year's printer inks survey
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 make sure you know exactly what model number you're looking for.
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 stock multiple cartridges online, as well as its own brand of compatible ink. It also offers a 'no -' 100% satisfaction guarantee, as well as protecting you against firmware updates, so it'll credit you for or replace cartridges which won't work following one.
Internet Ink is a Nottingham-based store which also sells its compatible cartridges online. It offers free delivery in the UK and a one-year guarantee on faulty products.
MoreInks is an online retailer which also sells its own branded cartridges. All ink comes with a two-year warranty, so you can get a replacement or refund if anything goes wrong.
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 cartridges.
We've rounded up the best online ink retailers, but we also have ratings for high street shops, so you have plenty of options for keeping your printer topped up.
Amazon is the most popular online choice, and Tesco the most popular high street shop, but neither is the highest-rated in our survey of thousands of Which? members.
|Brand||Customer service||Range of ink||Finding your ink||Value for money||Customer score|
Table notes: In April 2020, we asked 5,664 Which? members about their experiences of buying printer ink online, and 1,444 members 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.
Best places to buy cheap ink on the high street
|Brand||Customer service||Range of ink||Value for money||Customer score|
|Cartridge World (30)|
|Currys/ PC World (244)|
|John Lewis (55)|
Compatible ink cartridges vs original ink
We know 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. Our survey revealed the most common concerns people had were third party cartridges not working in their printer (43%), ink leakages (30%) and poor print quality (30%).
While it is 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 11% experienced cartridges not working in their printer, only 4% had any leakage and just 3% thought print quality was poorer than expected.
If you do come into some 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 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.