Best Tank Printers of 2021

These printers can save you tons of money on ink, but only some models are recommended by Consumer Reports

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Epson EcoTank Printer Photo: Epson

Ever since their introduction a decade ago, tank printers (aka reservoir-style printers) have presented a tricky choice for consumers: Should they spend lots of money up front for a machine that's really cheap to maintain with ink, or spend relatively little on a printer, then drop beaucoup bucks on replacement cartridges?

Unlike traditional inkjet printers, which can be found for less than $100, tank printers generally cost a few hundred dollars, though a couple of models are available for less. But even expensive tank printers can be cheaper to own in the long run.

That’s because traditional color inkjets use multiple ink cartridges that tend to run out fairly quickly and cost a lot—often $30 a pop or more. That cost can really add up over time, easily topping $100 a year. In Consumer Reports' surveys on printers, the frequency of ink replacement is among the most frequently cited pain points.

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Instead of small, individually purchased cartridges, tank printers have big reservoirs of ink that you fill up from bottles that generally cost between $13 and $20 depending on the model of printer. Consumer Reports calculates that for a typical printer owner, ink replacements should cost only about $5 a year.

Performance by these printers has improved. Early on, the tank printers we tested fell short of many inkjets when it came to producing sharp text and images, but that's no longer true. And last, the tanks are much easier to refill than in the past.

“Replacing the ink on the first few generations of tank models used to be a messy affair because the filler nozzles were just simple openings,” says Rich Sulin, a project leader for CR's printer testing program. “Better design that locks the bottle in place during refills has solved the problem.”

Our printer ratings currently include 17 tank models, mostly from two brands: Canon MegaTank and Epson EcoTank. Both brands earn favorable owner satisfaction scores in Consumer Reports’ surveys.

However, we're currently not recommending any Canon MegaTank printers because they receive only a Fair predicted reliability rating. This is a change from previous ratings.

"As we collect more survey data on Canon MegaTank printers over successive years, we see that they don't hold up as well as other printers over time,” says Simon Slater, associate director of Consumer Reports’ survey research department. “CR members who own these printers are more likely than most others to report having to deal with long start-up times after clicking the power button, long warm-up times after clicking print, and lost WiFi connections."

In response to CR’s findings, Canon said in a statement that it's committed to providing digital imaging solutions that meet or exceed the expectations of its customers.

"We are continuously assessing our products and listening to our customers in order to manufacture digital imaging solutions that provide ease and convenience," the company said. "We appreciate the support, feedback, and loyalty from our customers over the years."

Currently, the only tank printers recommended by Consumer Reports are Epson EcoTank models. They earn a Good rating on reliability. Our printer reliability and owner satisfaction ratings are based on a survey of 138,600 CR members reporting on their experiences with 171,441 printers bought new between 2013 and 2020.

Here are three of the Epson tank printers, with a range of features, that Consumer Reports currently recommends. Like a majority of printers in our ratings, they include WiFi networking for wireless printing.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.