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Would you pay a monthly tariff for prints?

Print button on printer

We’re used to paying monthly for minutes on a phone contract, but what about paying a monthly fee to print from your inkjet printer? That’s what HP proposes with its Instant Ink service…

Printer ink is expensive stuff – it’s not uncommon to pay upwards of £50 for a set of printer-branded inks. So if someone offered you 50 prints on your home printer for £1.99 a month, would you go for it?

That’s the proposition of HP’s Instant Ink service which works with a number of wi-fi printers in HP’s range.

What is Instant Ink?

With the Instant Ink service you sign up online and are debited an amount each month for a specified number of prints, depending on the plan you choose.

There are three printing plans. The cheapest at £1.99 a month lets you print 50 pages per month, or you can pay £3.49 a month for 100 pages or £7.99 a month for 300 pages.

It doesn’t matter what you print – photos, text or images – just how much you print. Any unprinted pages at the end of a month from your quota are rolled into the following month, but if you use up your page quota before the end of the month, the printer won’t print unless you pay a top up.

When ink cartridges run low, the printer uses wi-fi to communicate with HP and have new cartridges sent to you, so you never have to pay for, or go out and buy, new cartridges.

Is it good value for money?

The key question is ‘is it cheaper to sign up to monthly prints than to buy cartridges?’ and that very much depends on your printer, the ink you use and how much you print.

When we asked Which? members how much they print, the average was around 20 black text pages and 10 colour pages a month. Few people said they ever printed photos. So the average person wouldn’t reach the 50 page quota in a month.

In our tests, printing 30 pages over time, turning a printer off between uses, printers spend between £1.61 and £13.86 of ink, depending on how much ink the printer uses to clean itself when you leave time between prints. This makes the Instant Ink program look like good value on many printers. However, if all you ever do is print in black and white, and predominantly text (which doesn’t use a lot of ink on the page), printing costs are lower. And if you only print a few pages a month, paying a subscription could be very much like paying for more calls and data than you ever use on your mobile phone.

If you print a lot of colour pages or photos – the more expensive types of print in terms of the amount of ink they use – you could be quids-in with Instant Ink.

One thing is clear – a switch to paying for a set number of pages per month could see you becoming very precious about formatting before you print in order to fit as much as possible on a single page. Because even the tiniest dot of ink on a page printed on the Instant Ink service will leave you with one less page to print from your monthly quota.

Would you ever consider making the switch from cartridge shopping to signing up for prints?

Would you consider paying a monthly fee to print from your printer?

No (83%, 561 Votes)

Yes (11%, 73 Votes)

I don't know (6%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 673

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As a marketing wheeze briliant but I would not touch it with a barge pole. The idea that overall this service is not designed to make HP a profit is untenable and seems to be aimed at taking out of play the independent ink suppliers.

I imagine that there will be some people who will see this as a really useful service, but then they probably are not particularly fussed about spending and value. On a technical point I am a little concerned that if you are not connected to the Internet, say because you use your smartphone for most things then you may run out without ink being despatched.


Printers intended for home use have traditionally been cheap to buy and the manufacturers have made their profit by selling expensive consumables. Their best efforts to persuade us to buy the manufacturer’s ink and toners have failed, thanks to improvement of third party products.

Monthly printing tariffs could suit a few people but are no doubt intended to get us to spend more and discourage us from looking at third party products. Not for me, thank-you.

I would prefer to pay more for decent quality printers with replaceable parts and pay less for inks and toners.

Sonic says:
19 January 2015

I swear by HP printers and am now onto my third, a wireless version which as usual has a black and a tri-colour cartridge. I print a mixture of text documents, colour (e.g. posters) and photos and I have a feeling this offer may be of value to me, but I was wary of it and haven’t taken it up (yet).

One thing to note, after several successes with Tesco cartridges my previous printer suddenly refused to recognise them, and for the rest of its life I ended up going back to genuine HP. My new wireless printer refused Cartridge World’s offerings, even telling me ‘a used or counterfeit cartridge has been detected’ – too clever!

I guess I need to monitor my printing for a month and see what I actually do produce, then work out if I can save money


My HP wireless printer (obviously a different model since the coloured ink is in separate cartridges) does work with cartridges refilled by Cartridge World though the ink level is not shown. I bought HP cartridges from Internet Ink until they offered cheap compatible cartridges. These work fine and the ink level is displayed.

For many years I bought genuine HP cartridges but like other printer manufacturers they are being rather greedy.


We have two Brother printers and probably get through about 100 sheets of paper a week between us [we make a fair number of photocopies]. I wouldn’t be happy about paying by the sheet as it’s often the case that the last page of a printed document only carries a few lines of printed image. We also “waste” a certain amount through drafts, reworked and updated documents, and formatting trials. A multipack of four Brother cartridges for our machines costs about £50 but they don’t have an equal lifespan and it certainly isn’t correlated with the paper consumption rate. It’s usually necessary to buy varying quantities of the colour cartridges and buying them separately is more expensive. We had some early success with generic cartridges from a stationery supplier but now usually buy Brother cartridges which have never let us down. I installed one generic cartridge two days ago but problems have occurred and I have had to replace it with a branded one. I share the concern raised by Diesel [at the top] over printing while off-line and not realising you’re getting close to the sheet limit although you still have plenty of ink left perhaps. I can’t see us wanting to bother with all that.


I have had a Brother duplexing laser printer for over 9 years and this I use for pretty much everything. My wife has a large Epson all in one ink-jet which uses 35ml cartridges for her printing needs. Laser printers are very practical and long lived.

I do print out some documents where they are lengthy and require serious reading – that is the ability to quickly reference back to previous statements or tables or diagrams – or to annotate.

There is also the matter of eye strain from reading too much on the computer. I have an A4 size e-reader with e-ink screen to provide a better reading experience. Even this , with a screen roughly 3 times a normal e-reader is not as flexible[!] as paper.


I have had great success with b/w laser printers, both at work and at home. If you have the room it’s worth buying one with a decent sized toner cartridge, which will be cheaper to run.

I print some documents for the same reasons as Dieseltaylor, but eye strain is not an issue because I just expand the text with the trackpad on my laptop, which works in the same way as a smartphone or tablet but better because there is no need to touch the screen. No need for reading glasses when using a computer. I wish I could say the same for small printed text.

renniemac says:
19 January 2015

I have HP printer, and did receive notice from them about the monthly plan. when I looked at the cost of inks from HP they were dearer than Staples. therefore I will continue to use staples online for my inks.