Best cheap printers to buy and 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. The tables were updated in January 2021.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.