Printer ink can be expensive, and having to regularly buy new cartridges can feel like a chore. HP offers an alternative solution with its 'Instant Ink' – you pay a fixed, monthly fee to print a certain number of pages. But can it really save you money?
In our guide to HP's Instant Ink subscription, we explain what it is and how much it costs, and help you weigh up the pros and cons compared with buying ink the traditional way.
Bear in mind that not only do you have to buy an HP printer to subscribe to the service, but it must be one that's compatible with the Instant Ink service. HP has a list of compatible models on its website.
If you don't like the idea of being tied to buying a specific printer in order to cut the cost of printing, other ways to save money include:
Available on a selected range of HP wi-fi printers, HP Instant Ink is a different way to pay for your ink and prints at home. You can find supported models by heading to our and selecting 'More filters' then the 'HP Instant Ink' filter.
With an Instant Ink subscription, you don't actually pay for the ink or the printer ink cartridges. Instead you pay a monthly subscription to print a set number of pages on your home printer. You can print whatever you want – text, images or photos – up to the agreed, monthly set limit of pages.
HP automatically sends you ink cartridges (delivery costs are included in the subscription) whenever you need topping up. Unless you exceed your page allowance, the monthly fee is all you'll pay towards ink. You still have to buy the printer paper, though.
To get started, you need an HP printer that’s compatible with the Instant Ink service. You can subscribe directly on the or buy an an enrolment card, available from shops such as . You register the code on the enrolment card online to start the Instant Ink service.
Some HP printers offer a free trial to Instant Ink for up to three months, but you'll have to sign up to a subscription afterwards. The options are:
Pages printed over your limit are charged at £1 for each 10 pages, or you can increase your subscription level.
Unused pages roll over, but only to a maximum of three times your monthly paid pages. If you were on the 50-pages-a-month plan, for example, you could never roll over more than 150 pages in total.
If an ink cartridge is running low, the printer automatically alerts HP via the network connection and a new cartridge is posted to you.
Until late 2020, HP offered a free Instant Ink subscription, which allowed 15 pages per month free of charge. If you signed up with this deal, you'll be able to keep it, but new customers only have the options listed above.
Of course, the killer question is whether or not a monthly subscription to Instant Ink works out as better value than simply buying your own ink cartridges as and when you need them. The answer to this really depends on how much printing you do.
The average Best Buy inkjet printer using branded ink will cost £57.60 over three years to print 50 pages of black text documents a month. With an Instant Ink-running printer that would cost £71.64.
If you regularly print colour pages or photos, Instant Ink is likely to work in your favour, though. Taken over the same three-year period, printing 30 pages of black text, 15 pages of office graphics and five photos 10 x 8 inches in size a month would cost the same £71.64 on an Instant Ink printer. But, this amount of printing would skyrocket to £198.36 on a Best Buy inkjet, using branded ink.
Bear in mind that we only test using branded, original ink, so this cost could come down if you shopped around for good-value third-party ink cartridges.
If you want to print a mixture of text documents, photos and images, and are happy with signing up to a subscription service, then HP Instant Ink could be right for you. It favours regular users who do a wide range of printing. If you only print the occasional text document, then it's not for you.
However, just as with a phone contract, if you do make the switch to Instant Ink you may need to become more conscious of what you are printing.
Even the smallest dot of ink on a page will be counted as a printed page as part of your monthly allowance. So, if you accidentally trigger a big print job and exceed your monthly limit, you could end up with a nasty big bill at the end of it.
If you're no longer happy with your Instant Ink subscription, or no longer need it, you can cancel at any time without penalty. The cancellation will be effective at the end of your monthly billing cycle.
Bear in mind that your HP Instant Ink cartridge will stop working when your subscription ends, and you will need to return the cartridge to HP (free of charge) – for more, check . To continue printing, make sure you have standard ink cartridges ready to use in your printer when your subscription ends.
Most people buy printer ink cartridges, but a poor printer will go through ink at an alarming rate, especially given that it can cost more per ml than vintage bubbly.
Plus, there could be a better printer ink solution for your needs. For example, refillable ink tank printers from the likes of Canon and Epson tend to be much more economical than printers that use ink cartridges. Head over to our and filter on 'refillable tank printer' to identify these cheap-to-run models.
If you do go with traditional printer ink cartridges, make sure you get the best cheap ink for your printer.