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Technology.

1 September 2021

Best cheap printers to buy and run

A cheap printer may seem a bargain, but if it guzzles ink this impression might be short-lived. Best Buy printers match excellent print quality with cheap printing costs. We've highlighted the best cheap printers to buy and run
FW
Felix Wilson
Best-cheap-printers-to-run

Some inkjet printers waste a lot of ink during cleaning cycles, meaning you'll have to order pricey new cartridges far more often than you expected.

An inefficient printer could cost you £100 more a year to print the same number of pages as an economical model. 

Our Best Buy printers have all aced our expert, in-depth tests so you can be confident they won't cost you a fortune to run. In this guide, we've highlighted some bargain models that combine a cheap purchase price with affordable printing costs. 

If your top priority is low printing costs, and you're willing to pay more upfront, we've also shown our pick of the cheapest inkjet and lasers to run, all with great print quality. 

Some of the models we've selected below aren't recent launches, but they're still some of the highest-performing printers out there. Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of September 2021.

We publish new printer test results regularly, so check our full printer reviews for a comprehensive list. 

Top cheap printers to buy

You can easily spend hundreds of pounds on a printer, but the fantastic cheap printers we've featured below, including some Best Buy inkjet printers, are available for less than £150, with some even under £100.

Go for a budget printer if you just want a basic machine to churn through office documents and coursework. If you want a more fully featured office printer to do a range of tasks, it's better to spend a bit more.

Premium printers come with additional features and functions, such as an additional paper cassette or an automatic document feeder that makes it easier to copy, scan or fax multi-page documents.

If you're a Which? member, log in to see our recommendations in the tables below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best budget printers

  • 74%
    £91.61

    If you don't want your printer to take up too much space on your desk, this big-brand laser model will be right up your street. It can't copy or scan, but is superb at printing black-text documents.

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  • 72%
    £139.99

    This affordable laser speedily produces fantastic black-text prints and it's cheap to run, too. You'll also find wi-fi, an automatic document feeder and double sided printing.

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  • 70%
    £109.97

    This big beast of a printer gives you professional-looking black-text documents and letters. It’s fast at it, too. It's a little more expensive to run than the average inkjet, but it's cheap to buy.

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Top printers for low running costs

Our printing tests reveal the cheapest printers to run, whether you print regularly or just occasionally. Below, we've selected some of the laser and inkjet printers that excelled in our thorough printing costs tests (read more on our tests below).

Cheapest inkjet printers to run

  • 74%
    £200.00

    If you're just looking to quickly print black and white documents, this model is brilliant, and running costs are very low. It's lacking wi-fi and colour printing, like other inkjets, but it does a good job rivalling some of the best laser models.

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  • 74%
    £219.96

    If you want cheap and good quality prints, this big-brand inkjet printer will be right up your street. It has ink tanks that you refill with a bottle when they run out, meaning your printing costs will be extremely low.

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  • 58%
    £39.99

    This isn’t the best printer we’ve tested by any stretch of the imagination. But at this price, it has a lot to offer – including automatic double-sided printing. Unlike many budget printers that use ink cartridges, it’s not that expensive to run, either.

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Laser printers are typically more expensive to buy than inkjet printers, but they tend to be more efficient with their toner. This depends on the model, though. Here are our picks of some of the best. 

Cheapest laser printers to run

  • 78%
    £324.99

    As a printer, scanner and copier built for being productive, this wireless printer is excellent. It's much more suited to frequent printer users or anyone with a home office, though.

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  • 76%
    £149.99

    Almost a small office printer, this A4 mono laser turns out fantastic-looking black-text prints and it benefits from rock-bottom printing costs. If you print regularly and don't want to make constant trips to buy toner, it will be right up your street.

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  • 71%
    £252.19

    This Neverstop printer lives up to its name. It’s unique re-loadable toner tank means it's super–economical, so you’ll get plenty of prints at a low cost. In fact, this printer is so economical that we can’t do our usual cost calculations. It's also brilliant at printing black text and can scan and copy.

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Buying a printer: the key questions to consider

If you're not sure what type of printer you need, here are three key questions to consider when buying a new printer:

  • What will you use your printer for? If you often print colour documents and photos, you should consider an inkjet printer. Ink is much better at reproducing colour than laser toner. However, if you frequently print letters, documents and office spreadsheets, then a laser printer could be the better – and more economical – choice for your home.
  • How frequently will you print? If you print only occasionally – around 30 pages per month, say – a Best Buy inkjet printer costing less than £100 should be fine. If you print regularly, potentially more than 100 pages per month, you should consider increasing your budget. More expensive printers come with useful features such as an automatic document feeder.  
  • How much will the ink cost? Laser toner cartridges are expensive to buy but generally last longer than ink cartridges. The price of ink will depend on whether you go for original ink (made by the printer brands) or cheaper third-party alternatives. Some inkjet printers use refillable ink tanks instead of cartridges; these can be pricier upfront but have much lower running costs than printers that use cartridges. 

See the ink and toner brands matching high quality with low prices in our guide to the best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them.  

Don't get stung with high printing costs

We know that there’s more to printer running costs than manufacturers’ figures may let on. Many printers automatically clean their print heads every so often, using up precious ink that never makes it to the paper. This makes a big difference to how much you’ll end up spending on printer ink.

Our unique occasional-printing tests take this extra ink into account, so we can give a more realistic idea of printing costs. 

Image illustrating how much ink we use to test printers

We’ve found that the worst offenders use up to six times as much ink as the best when you leave time between print jobs, which can more than double the amount you spend on ink.

We also set our printers up to run almost continuously, printing as many text, spreadsheet and photo pages as we can from three new sets of ink cartridges. This is much like the method manufacturers use to come up with the page yield figures displayed on the box of the printer.

To give you an idea of how much a printer will cost you to run, we give one, two and three-year running cost estimates for all tested printers in the Tech Specs. Or, to find the best value printer ink, head over to our expert guide to the Best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them.

Wasteful printers to avoid

While the printers above match top-quality prints with affordable printing costs, not all models reach such levels of excellence.

Some printers cost a fortune to buy, underwhelm in terms of their print quality and then, to make matters even worse, will drive up your bills with high printer ink costs. Others seem to be a bargain buy but will cost you more than the printer itself to run every year.

Below, we've picked out three printers to steer clear of. 

Three expensive printers to run

  • 55%
    £109.99

    On the surface, this all-in-one inkjet printer looks like a winner, with solid printing, scanning and copying quality. It tends to drag its heels though – and it costs an absolute fortune in ink cartridges.

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  • 53%
    £300.00

    The technology this printer uses is cutting edge, but it doesn’t cut it when it comes to ink efficiency. We run occasional printing tests to reflect how most people print, and this model has eye-watering running costs under that scenario.

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  • 47%
    £59.99

    This model doesn’t have much going for it. Print quality is hit and miss, and copies didn’t impress us. Worst of all, it will drain your cash with extremely high printing costs – we estimate they’re about £450 per year.

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