The cheapest printer ink and how to make cartridges last longer

We all know the pain of buying ink cartridges. They’re expensive—expensive—from $16 to $227, depending on the brand. In some cases, expensive replacement cartridges look the same as actual printers.

Tim W. emailed me to tell me how frustrated he was with the cost of ink cartridges, writing:

The next article I would like to see on printers is Life on an Ink Cartridge. Like you mentioned, print a few times a year, maybe just taxes. You spend $50 on a cartridge and use it once, it’s dry next time you try. HP cartridges are the worst. We went to a Brother printer, and it seems to last longer.”

Tim, I hear you and I want to share with you and others a few things you can do to save money on your ink cartridges and some tips on how to make them last longer. First, here’s how to choose the best cheap printer ink cartridge for your budget and needs.

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How to make sure you’re buying the best discount ink cartridges

The first step is to think about how often you will print documents or photos. If you don’t print like Tim, you’re better off buying standard yield or non-XL printer ink because it’s cheaper than high-yield ink. However, if you print a lot, you’ll want to buy the higher-yield versions or the XL and XXL versions because they hold more ink than the standard-yield versions. Plus, since it has more ink, you can print more pages.

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Different ink cartridges may be better for you, depending on how much you use your printer.
(Fox News)

What is the cheapest printer ink?

To ensure you’re buying low-cost printer ink, you need to calculate your cost per page. Since higher page yield means more pages you can print per cartridge, this also lowers your cost per page, saving you big in the long run.

High-yield ink cartridges may cost more than standard cartridges. However, it is the most cost effective, especially if you print frequently. You can also take advantage of the combo or value pack because it’s offered at a much lower price than buying the ink cartridges individually.

So how do you calculate the cost per page? You can divide the cost of the cartridge by the page yield. This is how you’ll know if you’ve got the ink for less. Simply put, the higher the cost per page, the higher the printing bill.

Equation: Cartridge cost ÷ page yield = cost per page

The lower your cost per page, the better value you get. This is why high-yield cartridges tend to be a better value in the long run, despite typically having a higher initial cost.

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Ways to save on cost per page

The easiest way to cut your printing costs is to buy a printer that uses cartridges that have a lower print cost. Many printers have a very low cost per page, including:

Brother’s INKvestment printer line

Brother MFC-J4335DW INKvestment-Tank All-in-One Printer

Brother printer is one of the best options for saving money on ink.

Brother printer is one of the best options for saving money on ink.

Best features:

  • Brother’s INKvestment printer is one you won’t want to replace with up to one year’s worth of ink with just the four cartridges in the box.
  • Re-engineered INKvestment Tank ink cartridges eliminate manual refilling
  • At the time of publication, this product has over 1,000 global ratings of 66%, giving it five stars.

Get the Brother MFC-J4335DW INKvestment-Tank All-in-One Printer

Epson® Ecotank line

Epson® EcoTank ET-2850 Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank Cartridge-Free Printer

This Epson printer can save money on printing and offers cartridge-free ink.

This Epson printer can save money on printing and offers cartridge-free ink.

Best features:

  • The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 Supertank Printer enables innovative cartridge-free printing
  • Its high-capacity ink tanks mean no more small, expensive ink cartridges. Epson’s exclusive EcoFit ink bottles make filling up easy and worry-free
  • You’ll also notice significant savings on ink replacement. In fact, you’ll save up to 90% with replacement ink bottles versus toner cartridges
  • At the time of publication, this product has over 1,500 global reviews with a rating of 71%, giving it five stars.

Get the cartridge-free Epson® EcoTank ET-2850 Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank Printer

Ways to extend the life of your toner cartridge

  1. Check for blockage of the vents
  2. Avoid large fonts and bold text
  3. Proofread before printing
  4. Change your printer settings
  5. Use print preview
  6. Use a small font size
  7. Ignore out-of-ink warnings

Frustration with ink cartridges has led some people to switch instead to printers that use toner, but how much of a difference does that make?

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Depending on the type of printer you have, you may be using printer ink or toner.

Depending on the type of printer you have, you may be using printer ink or toner.
(Fox News)

What is the difference between ink and toner

Depending on the type of your printer, you may have a product that uses toner instead of ink. Toner uses a powdery substance instead of toner. The ink is known to last a bit longer and be able to print more documents.

From a price point of view, printers that use ink cartridges vs. ink cartridges see a slight variance in price, depending on the make and model. At the same time, replacement ink cartridges also generally come in the same price range.

While ink cartridges tend to last longer, they also come with expiration dates. Even if it works fine after the expiration date, it could clog your printer and void your warranty.

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Some printers use a cartridge-free ink tank that can be refilled via a bottle.

Some printers use a cartridge-free ink tank that can be refilled via a bottle.
(Fox News)

Many consumers choose cartridge-free printers

An ink tank printer or a continuous tank printer does not have a built-in print head. Instead, ink is supplied directly to the printer via an integrated system. Instead of cartridges, the ink is replenished directly into the reservoir via a refillable bottle.

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Are ink tank printers better than ink cartridge printers?

1. Price

Most printers with ink cartridges tend to be much less expensive than ink tank printers. Some, like the Canon PIXMA MG3620, are under $100. On the one hand, better ink tank printers, such as the Epson EcoTank ET-2850 on the other hand, tend to be much more expensive.

However, while an ink tank printer may be a more expensive immediate investment, in the long run you may find yourself saving money, as replacement ink tank refills tend to cost a bit less, averaging around $20.

2. Life and performance

Most printers that use ink cartridges tend to be able to print at most 1,000 pages before running out of ink, while ink tank printers can print up to 7,000 pages. This is also helped by the fact that these printers are often able to hold more paper in them than cartridge printers.

However, ink for ink tanks is still printer ink that is designed to dry at a rapid rate. In the end, the ink in ink tanks doesn’t have a much longer life than ink cartridges. Therefore, if you do not use the ink tank printer regularly, it again leaves the possibility of drying and clogging the machine.

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Is there an ideal solution?

In the end, finding the most cost-effective way to handle printer ink really depends on your printing needs.

If you rarely need printed items like Tim, buying a printer that uses ink cartridges is probably the best way to go, as is buying standard yield or non-XL printer ink because it’s cheaper.

Whereas, if you print on a daily or weekly basis, an ink tank printer is probably worth the investment, as you will be able to print a lot more pages than you would with a cartridge model, and when you find it is time to replace the ink in the ink tank, it will cost you less than replacing Toner Cartridge.

What printer ink do you use and why? We’d love to hear from you.

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