/ Technology

Ink quest – the search for the cheapest printer ink

Printer ink falling into water

We’ve price-checked popular ink retailers and found that some charge twice as much as others for the same cartridge, but can you better our cheapest finds?

Some printers seem to drink ink, so paying as little as possible for cartridges is a must.

If you’re fixed on using printer ink of the same brand as your printer – like the 72% of people who responded to our Which? reliability survey are – shopping around for a good price on printer ink cartridges is essential.

The high price of printer ink

Kitting out a printer with a full set of cartridges isn’t cheap, as Alun mentioned in our Conversation ‘Are manufacturers cheating you out of printer ink?’:

‘Cartridges for my Canon Pixma MP800 cost from £12.99 to £17.99 each depending on colour/size and the printer requires five in total.’

We’ve been regularly price checking ten popular high street and online retailers and of those, Amazon.co.uk sold the cheapest printer branded ink. This assumes that you spend £15 to qualify for free delivery, which is fairly easy to do buying one or two cartridges.

Overall, Amazon.co.uk cartridges cost 17% less than the average price across all ten retailers, closely followed by 7dayshop.co.uk where delivery is free.

Can you better our cheapest finds?

The biggest price difference we found for an inkjet cartridge was HP’s 901 colour cartridge. It cost £12.49 from Play.com and £26.99 from PC World – a mark up of more than 100%. So you can see that where you shop will have a big impact on your printer running costs.

We want to find out just how low the price of a branded cartridge can go. Below we’ve listed the price differences of a few of the black cartridges we’ve used most frequently in our printer tests.

Ink cartridgeCheapestPriciest
HP 364XL Black £12.39£19.97
Epson T1301£14.99£22.27
Canon PGI-525BK £8.73£13.99
Lexmark 100XL black £16.59£25.10

Can you find these cartridges for less? If so, tell us where and help us to find the cheapest places to buy ink.

HMAH says:
3 March 2012

I have a Canon Pixma MP150 and pay a fortune for ink when i buy from Staples. Where can i buy them cheaper?


Based on the price checking we’ve been doing, for the PG-40 and CL-41 the lowest prices for Canon branded ink have been from the likes of Amazon, 7dayshop and Play. A low price for the PG-40 is around £12.79 and for the CL-41 it’s more like £15.
As mentioned before, with Amazon check for any delivery charge.

Mike says:
3 March 2012

“72% of Which members use printer manufacturer’s ink cartridges”. That says a lot about Which members -money to burn and reluctant to try alternatives. I use compatible inks which like the manufacturer’s are all made in PRC. They are 80% cheaper than HP and the quality difference is negligible even for photo prints.


Fair enough but if you plan to print your own framed photos as I do then you you don’t want cheap compatible alternatives. First off you will have to play around and waste ink resetting the colour management etc and secondly what guarantee do you get on colour fastness ? I think with my Canon inks I’m getting 75 years. Say no more.

Elaine says:
3 March 2012

I have twice used spurious ink cartidges to my cost. When a fault developed on both printers the manufacturers refused to repair them because I had not used their brand of cartridge saying it made the guarantee invalid. I dont know if this was the cause of the faults but that is the excuse they were using. I now of course use branded cartridges.


This has long been a concern and my recollection is that the consumer now has protection if the fault is not related to the print cartridge.

We should also remember that the retailer and manufacturer deserve some protection. Consider a user who used inappropriate ink and blocked the printhead, which is part of the printer in some models. In this case it would be unfair to blame the manufacturer but you would have a case against the supplier of the ink or compatible cartridge.

If the print head is part of the cartridge then a fault is not likely to cause a failure of the printer.


Yes, check your printer’s Ts&Cs. It’s likely that there’s something in there to stipulate that if the fault is due to use of non-OEM cartridges the warranty may be invalidated, but as Wavechange says, if the fault is not attributable to the cartridges you may be all right – you may have to press the point though. It’s important to check the wording of the terms.

HayTay says:
4 March 2012

I have an Epson Stylus printer/copier/scanner. Initially I used the substitute inks supplied by the company who sold me the printer. I had quite a few cartridge failures and so, after a battle to recover the cost of the failures (I had to threaten court action), I have since used Epson cartridges without problems – but, of course, at greater expense.


Hi HayTay. Would you be happy to share the name of the company? You could email it to us at W?Conversation using the ‘contact us’ link below if you prefer.