No one likes to spend money on a printer. It’s one of the most mundane pieces of tech in any household.
As such, it’s tempting to opt for a model at the cheaper end of the price spectrum. After all, printed text all looks the same to most people, right? No one would know whether your printer was top-of-the-range or plucked out of the bargain basement.
The Price of Printer Ink
Unfortunately, unlike most pieces of tech, choosing a new printer isn’t as simple as finding the right balance between price and features.
You’ve also got to factor in the price of replacement ink cartridges. Cheap printers could end up costing you a lot more in the long run thanks to costly refills.
Worse still, it’s not just printing pages that use your ink. Cleaning printheads and other printer maintenance tasks use a significant amount, especially if your printer sits idle for long periods between sessions. Some reports claim maintenance tasks alone could cost you more than $100 per year.
This reality makes manufacturer guidelines for ink mileage inaccurate. They are based on bulk printing, i.e. when you print dozens of sheets in one go. If like most home users, you print a couple of sheets here and there every month, your ink will not go as far as the claims suggest.
So, which are the best printers for home use with cheap ink?
Our first pick doesn’t use traditional ink cartridges. Instead, it relies on refillable ink wells.
The upfront price of the Epson Expression ET-3700 EcoTank isn’t cheap, but it ships with enough ink for two years of heavy usage—it’s good for 14,000 black pages or 11,200 color pages. According to the manufacturer, that’s roughly equivalent of 30 regular ink cartridges.
And even when the time comes to refill, you can expect to save around 80 percent when compared to regular cartridges for the same amount of output.
Other important features include a 150-sheet paper tray, support for two-sided printing, borderless printing, a print speed of 15 black/8 color pages per minute, and a 2.4-inch color screen.
Sadly, the printer does not have a fax feature, meaning it might not be suitable for people who work from home.
If the high price of the Epson Expression ET-3700 EcoTank is off-putting, check out the Canon Pixma TS8020 instead.
One of the most critical aspects of making sure you get the most value out of your ink is buying a unit with four separate cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow). In this regard, the Pixma TS8020 delivers. It costs about six cents for a page of black text, 17 cents for a sheet of graphics, 40 cents for a 4 x 6 photo, and $1.25 for an 8 x 10 photo.
Away from ink cost, you can enjoy duplex printing, an LCD screen, and wireless connectivity. Like the Epson model, it does not support faxing.
Unusually for a printer, it’s also available in four colors, making it ideal for anyone who wants their device to blend in with their room.
The Epson Expression ET-2650 EcoTank is a cheaper version of the previously discussed ET-3700 model. Like it’s big brother, the printer does not use ink cartridges.
Aside from price, the most significant difference between the ET-2650 and the ET-3700 is the size of the ink wells. It can produce 4000 black pages or 6500 color pages off a single refill. Replacement black ink will cost you no more than $10. The colors run a couple of dollars more expensive.
Bottom line? The Epson Expression ET-2650 is possibly the best printer for home use with cheap ink.
If you want to print cheap photos, the Brother MFC-J6930DW is the way to go. Best estimates suggest it costs about 35 cents per 4 x 6 photo, which is less than most other models.
The printer is also suited to heavy use in a small office or home business thanks to its 500-sheet paper tray.
Regular cartridges will produce 550 black and 550 color sheets before running out. Brother also offers “Super High Yield” cartridges. They’ll produce 3,000 black sheets and 1,500 color sheets.
The unit can print 22 pages per minute and includes a 3.7-inch touchscreen display. The printer is compatible with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print, both of which are great ways to print when you’re out of the house.
Interestingly, the Brother MFC-J6930DW is also Amazon Dash-enabled. If you live in a supported market, it means you can automatically reorder ink by merely pressing a Wi-Fi-connected button.
A sad truth of inkjet printers is that they are prone to printhead failures. Over time, the nozzles become blocked with dried ink—especially if you don’t print very frequently. At best, you’ll eat through a ton of ink just to get them operational again. At worst, you’ll need to buy an entirely new printer.
Laser printers don’t suffer from such issues. Better yet, they also tend to have a cheaper cost per printed page than their inkjet counterparts. Laser printers are also much faster. (Also learn about the differences between inkjet and laser printing.)
Because it’s a laser printer, the Brother HL-L2350DW uses toner rather than regular ink. A single toner refill should last for two years based on normal home usage. A printed page costs 3.5 cents.
The big downside of the Brother HL-L2350DW is that is can only print in black and white. However, depending on your use case, it might be adequate.
Other features include duplex printing, a 250-sheet paper tray, wireless printing, and Amazon Dash toner replenishment.
Printer Ink: More Expensive Than Champagne!
By the ounce, printer ink is more expensive than a high-end bottle of champagne. As such, the cost is not something you should take lightly. Before buying a new printer, you need to think about how much you’re going to use it and how much it could cost you over the course of a year.
If you would like to learn more about buying a printer, see our guide to the best all-in-one printers.