The cheapest printer ink and how to make cartridges last longer

The cheapest printer ink and how to make cartridges last longer

Ways to buy the best discount ink cartridges

by John Curtis and Kurt Knutsson

We all know the pain of buying ink cartridges. They are expensive – ridiculously expensive – $16 to $227, depending on the brand. In some cases, replacement cartridges seem as pricey as the actual printers. For our most recommended printers of 2024, click here.

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

“Next article I’d like to see on Printers is life on an ink cartridge. Like you mentioned, print couple times a year, maybe just taxes. You spend $50 on a cartridge and use it once, it’s dried out next time you attempt. HP cartridges are the worst. We went to Brother printer, seems to last longer”

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


How to ensure you are buying the best discount ink cartridges

The first step is to consider how often you print documents or photos. If you don’t print that much like Tim, you are better off buying the standard yield or non-XL printer ink because it’s cheaper than the higher-yield ones. However, if you print more often, you want to buy the higher-yield or the XL and XXL versions because they have more ink than the standard-yield ones. Plus, since it has more ink, you can print more pages.



What is the cheapest printer ink

To ensure you purchase low-cost printer ink, you need to calculate the cost per page. Since a higher page yield means a higher number of pages you can print per cartridge, this also decreases the cost per page, which saves you a lot more in the long run. Higher-yield ink cartridges may cost more than standard ones. Still, they are the most cost-effective, especially if you print frequently. You can also take advantage of the combo or value pack because these are offered at a much lower price than buying ink cartridges individually. 

So how do you calculate the cost per page? You can divide the cost of the cartridge by the page yield. That is how you will know if you actually got ink for less. Simply stated, the higher the cost per page, the bigger your printing bill will be.

Formula: Cost of the cartridge ÷ Page yield = Cost per page

The lower the cost per page, the better the value you are getting. This is why high-yield cartridges tend to be a better value in the long run, even though there is typically a higher upfront cost.


Ways to save on cost per page

The easiest way to cut down printing costs is to buy a printer that uses cartridges with a low CPP. Several printers have a super low cost per page, including:

Brother INKvestment Tank


Credit: Brother

The Brother INKvestment Tank printer gives you up to 1-year of ink and is one of the company’s fastest and most durable printers. It has triple-layer security to protect your information and connects to your WiFi so that you can print from your mobile or laptop device. At the time of publishing, this product had over 100 global reviews, with 69% giving it 5 stars.

Get Brother INKvestment Tank


Epson EcoTank


Credit: Epson

The Epson EcoTank is great because it comes with high-capacity ink tanks that will allow you to print more, printing up to 4,500 pages in black ink and 7,500 pages in color. It provides you with up to two years of ink in the box and will prevent you from wasting cartridges. At the time of publishing, this product had over 7,400 global reviews, with 75% giving it 5 stars.

Get Epson EcoTank



Ways to extend the life of an ink cartridge

  1. Check for clogged nozzles
  2. Avoid large fonts and bold text
  3. Proofread before you print
  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 instead switch to printers that use toner, but just how big a difference does that make?

IT services EU/Pexels


What’s the difference between ink and toner

Depending on your type of printer, you may have a product that uses toner instead of ink. Toner uses a powdery substance as opposed to ink. Toner is known for lasting a bit longer and for being able to print more documents.

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

While toner cartridges tend to last longer, they also come with expiration dates. Even if they work fine past the expiration date, they could clog the printer and void your warranty.



Many consumers are opting for cartridge-free ink-tank printers

An ink tank printer or continuous tank printer, doesn’t have a built-in print head. Instead, the ink is supplied directly to the printer via an integrated system. In place of cartridges, the ink is replenished directly into the tank via a refillable bottle.


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.  With some, such as the Canon PIXMA MG3620 going for under $100. Top-of-the-line ink tank printers, such as the Epson EcoTank ET-2850, on the other hand, tend to be priced much higher.

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

2. Lifespan and performance

Most printers that use ink cartridges tend to be able to print at most one thousand pages before running out of ink, while ink tank printers can print up to 7,000.  Also, helping matters is the fact that these printers are often able to store more paper in them than cartridge printers.

However, as ink tanks, ink is still printer ink, designed to dry at a rapid rate. Ultimately, ink found in ink tanks doesn’t have a much longer life than ink cartridges. So, if you don’t use your ink tank printer regularly, it once more leaves the potential to dry and clog the machine.


Is there an ideal solution?

Ultimately, finding the most cost-effective way of dealing with printer ink truly depends on your printing needs.

If you rarely need items printed like Tim, buying a printer that uses ink cartridges is probably the best way to go, and also purchasing the 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 out far more pages than you would with a cartridge model, and when you do find it’s time to replace the ink in the ink tank, it will cost you less than replacing an ink cartridge would.

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

Top printers for 2024




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Don Thurlow January 25, 2023 - 9:49 am

I print 500-600 pages per month. I use the HP 9018 OfficeJet Pro All-in-One. I’ve had it for about 2.5 years and take advantage of HP’s Instant Ink. I’ve never had a break in the printer and never run out of ink. It costs a monthly payment of about $26 for the ink, but never having to worry about ink helps me focus on the work not the printer.


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