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The cheapest printer ink and how to make cartridges last longer

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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.

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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:

Best features:

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

Best features:

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

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?

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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.

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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.

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Most printers with ink cartridges tend to be much less expensive than ink tank printers. Some, such as the Canon PIXMA MG3620, go 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.

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, 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.

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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, as is 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.

For more of my tips, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by clicking the “Free newsletter” link at the top of my website.

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