A fan of home printing? Then our guide to the best cheap printer ink will save you plenty of money
Having a printer at home makes life easy, particularly at a time when many of us are working remotely. But did you know that printer ink can be more expensive per millilitre than vintage champagne? Yes, you read that right: printer ink can cost up to £5.92/ml, whereas Dom Perignon champagne is only £0.16/ml! So, finding ways to save money when it comes to buying printer inks should be a priority.
Fortunately, we’ve done the hard work for you, researching the best cheap printer inks available on the market right now. Obviously, manufacturers would much rather you used their own brand of inks; however, there are plenty of third-party printer inks that will do a great job of producing quality printouts.
We’re aware that there are endless different makes and models of printers, so we’ve tried to include third-party brands that make inks for the majority of the big-name printer manufacturers. Our buying guide below will answer any questions you might have about printer inks, or you can just skip straight down to our recommendations.
How to choose the best cheap printer ink for you
Just finding the right printer ink for your model can be a challenge. We’ll run you through some printer terminology and things to consider when choosing the best cheap printer inks.
Find the right ink for your printer model
Although there are a finite number of printer manufacturers, most of them offer multiple models. So before you buy ink cartridges, you need to know what ink matches your printer. A simple way to do this is to Google your printer’s model number followed by “ink cartridge”, but this can still occasionally bring up incorrect results. In our view, you’re better off visiting the manufacturer’s website, where you’ll usually find a list of compatible inks for that particular brand’s printer models.
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In order to make sure you buy the right printer ink, there are a few terms you need to understand.
OEM vs compatible – OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer and simply means that the ink was made by the same brand that produced the printer. Some of the biggest printer manufacturers include Epson, Canon, HP, Brother and Xerox. In general, these inks will be more expensive and may contain a slightly higher overall quality of ink.
Compatible printer inks are made by third-party sellers and can save you a great deal of money. You may also have come across the term “remanufactured”, which means a previously used printer cartridge that’s been recycled and refilled with ink. These options are even cheaper.
Inkjet vs toner – Most home printers are inkjet models, meaning you’ll need to buy a printer ink cartridge. But some people may have a laser printer, which takes toner cartridges. Make sure you know the type of printer for which you’re shopping.
Single vs combination packs – Ink is sold either in single-colour cartridges or in a combination multipack that will contain some or all of the colours used in your printer. We think single cartridges are the best option: they’re generally cheaper, and you don’t end up throwing away half-used printer cartridges because one colour has run out.
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Do cheap printer inks work?
The short answer is yes. The quality of third-party ink cartridges is improving all the time, and most who use them don’t report any problems at all. But if you do run into issues, there’s usually an easy fix:
Printer drivers – Before you start printing, make sure your printer drivers are up to date on your computer and on the printer itself, so that the whole system is running smoothly.
Cartridge not recognised – This is probably the most likely problem you’ll see, and your first move should be to re-insert the cartridge. If that doesn’t work, reset the printer and try again; this will usually fix the issue.
Clogged print head – The consistency of third-party ink might be slightly different to OEM ink, which can clog up the print head. If you notice dots in your prints or missing colours, there’s probably a clog. Run the printer’s cleaning cycle to clear the blockage.
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999 Inks offers ink cartridges for a staggering number of brands, meaning you shouldn’t find it hard to purchase replacement inks for your printer. The company’s own-brand cartridges are extremely good value and receive high praise from customers.
We were particularly impressed by its range of Epson ink cartridges; you can pick up an Epson T0711 black cartridge (compatible with a huge range of the Epson Stylus printers) for just £3.62 compared to Epson’s OEM price of over £14. A bundled set of black, cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges is even better value at £14 – with an extra black cartridge thrown in for free.
You can expect to print around 250 pages (at 5% coverage) from the black T0711 cartridge, with a three-year shelf life on the product. Ink quality is excellent and difficult to tell apart from Epson’s own product. There are very occasional reports of the ink clogging printer heads, so be aware that you may need to run a cleaning cycle after installation to help the ink flow freely.
Key details – Brands covered: Advent, Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Kodak, Apple, BT, Compaq, Dymo, IBM, Neopost, Océ, Olivetti, OKI, Panasonic, Pitney Bowes Philips, Primera, Ricoh, Roland, Samsung, Sharp, Star Ink, Xerox
2. Stinky Ink Shop: Best cheap printer ink
Price when reviewed: £9.73 (for Epson printers) | Check price at Stinky Ink The Stinky Ink Shop has a range of superb-value third-party ink cartridges that offer good quality and reliability with a number of different printers. Its XL (extra high capacity) inks are a particularly cheap option. Stinky Ink Shop has an Epson XP printer series compatible Cyan XL ink for £3, whereas the Epson OEM ink is over £20.
There’s a one-year money-back guarantee, and you can expect to get around 700 pages from the cartridge (at 5% coverage) – the same as the Epson OEM ink. Ink quality is excellent and customers don’t report any problems with compatibility. The only thing to note is that an auto message is sometimes displayed by the printer saying that the cartridge isn’t an original, but this can usually be cleared by restarting the printer. The Stinky Ink Shop cartridges offer a smooth printing process, with no problems with clogging or colour reproduction.
Key details – Brands covered: Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Francotyp Postalia, HP, Lexmark, Kodak, Neopost, Pitney Bowes, Ricoh
3. Refresh Cartridges: Best ink for A3 printers
Price when reviewed: £15 (for Canon A3 printers) | Check price at Refresh Cartridges A3 printers deliver impressive results, but the cost of inks can be eye-watering. Refresh Cartridges offers third-party ink cartridges for a huge variety of printers, but we were particularly impressed by its Everyday Valuepack for Canon A3 printers.
For £15 you get a set of printer inks (including both black and photo black), complete with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. On average you can expect to get between 270 and 315 pages from the colour inks, 500 from the black, and an astonishing 1,130 pages from the photo black ink (all at 5% coverage). We also like the fact that the cartridges are transparent, so you can see the amount of ink you’re actually getting.
User reviews for this product are overwhelmingly positive and we think you’ll be hard-pressed to notice any difference in quality over Canon’s own range of inks.
Key details – Brands covered: Advent, Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Kodak, Apple, BT, Compaq, Dymo, IBM, Olivetti, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Xerox
4. Kingway: Best buy on Amazon
Price when reviewed: £37 (for Brother printers) | Check price at Amazon Amazon is full of third-party ink options, and with so many to choose from it can be a bit of a nightmare knowing where to start. Kingway makes third-party inks for Brother, Canon, Epson and HP printers, and consistently receives good reviews from Amazon users.
We like the all-in-one Kingway LC3219XL ink cartridge: it works for a wide variety of Brother printers and contains a large black ink alongside cyan, yellow and magenta colours. A pack of eight costs £40, which works out at £5 per cartridge.
We like the accurate ink-level display and the great colour accuracy of these inks, as well as the high yield. You should expect to get around 3,000 pages from the black ink and around 1,600 from the colours (at 5% coverage). There are some reports of clogged printer heads with these inks, so we would again recommend running a cleaning cycle once you’ve installed them.
Key details – Brands covered: Brother, Canon, Epson and HP
5. Currys: Best for combination packs
Price when reviewed: From £11 (for HP printers) | Check price at Currys Currys’ products are available both online and in stores nationwide, and among the many items the company stocks you will find its own range of printer inks under the moniker “Essentials Ink”.
The inks are remanufactured, so offer good value for money while also being kinder to the environment. The Essentials Ink range concentrates on HP, Epson and Canon inkjet printers, as well as some toners for HP laser printers. Currys’ range for HP inkjets is particularly wide, with a focus on tri-colour ink cartridges (with cyan, magenta and yellow in one cartridge block).
Be aware that some HP printers don’t show the remaining ink levels with these third-party cartridges, so we would advise keeping a replacement in stock – there’s nothing worse than ink running out when you’re halfway through an important printing job!
Key details – Brands covered: Canon, Epson, HP (inkjet and laser)
6. Toner Giant: Best selection of branded and compatible inks
Price when reviewed: £24 (for Epson XL ink) | Check price at Toner Giant
Toner Giant has a huge selection of inks, but we were particularly impressed by just how wide the range of branded inks that they carry is, and many of them with Toner Giant’s own compatible option alongside. We tested Epson’s 26XL black ink cartridge and were impressed with the richness and depth of the ink. You should expect to get around 500 pages from this ink cartidge. By comparison, Toner Giant’s own compatible ink offers the same number of pages but at less than half the price, with customers reporting that it offers the same excellent coverage and no problems with blockages or incompatibility.
As well as a huge range of printer inks, Toner Giant also offers toner cartridges, printers and printer paper. Delivery is free and arrives the next working day, and each ink comes with a three-year guarantee.
Key details – Brands covered: Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Kodak, Lexmark, Oki, Ricoh, Samsung, Sharp