Cheapest Printers for Ink Costs

Over time, you spend more on cartridges than on the machine itself. These ink-thrifty printers will save you money in the long run.

An illustration of droplets of ink on an abstract background.

Consumer Reports' surveys show that many people are frustrated by how frequently their printer-ink cartridges run out and how expensive they are to replace.

You can take steps to use less ink regardless of what printer you own. But when it's time for a new machine, it makes sense to buy an efficient model, one that sips ink instead of guzzling it.

Doing that means looking beyond the printer's sticker price.

Consumer Reports combines the upfront price of a printer with the cost of supplying it with ink or toner to calculate the overall cost of ownership for two to five years. To arrive at those numbers, we use the price of replacement cartridges, ink, or toner; data on how much consumers print from our member surveys; and measurements of ink consumption from our labs. 

The total financial outlay can balloon quickly.

Take the HP Deskjet Plus 4158. It may seem like a bargain in the store with a price of about $80. But CR's estimated total cost of ownership for the printer when you add the price of ink is an eye-popping $695 after two years and $1,609 after five years. The $300 Canon Pixma G4210 hits your wallet hard on day one, but it has an ink reservoir instead of cartridges, and may run only $6 per year in ink costs, making the two-year cost of ownership only $312 and five-year cost $330.

Like most of the printers people buy for home use, both of those are inkjet models. Consumer Reports also tests laser printers, which use toner instead of ink and print through a different process. These printers tend to have higher prices, but in the long run you'll probably spend less money on toner than you would on ink. And laser printers tend to outperform inkjets on predicted brand reliability and owner satisfaction, ratings that are based on annual surveys of Consumer Reports members.   

For more information on the replacement ink costs of specific models, along with other test and survey results, members can consult our printer ratings, which feature more than 200 models. 

Below, CR members can read about several cost-efficient printers that score well in our ratings. Every one has features such as a scanner, touch-screen navigation, WiFi connectivity, and auto-duplexing (which permits you to print on both sides of paper).