/ 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 cartridge Cheapest Priciest
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.


Well done finding an HP 364XL Black cartridge for £12.39. After buying manufacturers’ cartridges for as long as I have used colour printers I decided to have one refilled. That cost £9 and I have been warned that the indicator will continue to show that it it empty. I would be happy paying a little more for an original product because I have heard of so many problems with refills.

My H.P. “decides” when the cartridge is empty. Replacing it with a new one and then putting the old one back in gives many more pages of good colour printing. Of course, it then doesn’t accept the “new” cartridge back as it says it’s empty. It’s chip memory holds on to these facts tenaciously. It also complains (but still prints) when it thinks that a cartridge is past its sell by date, so stocking up is also frowned upon. My dear old H.P. 990Cxi just works until the cartridge stops. Why can’t all printers do the same? Ink prices doubled about a year ago, quite suddenly. Fortunately, I’m a light user but, as you say, it’s still expensive. I’m still suspicious of generic inks and I’ve no doubt my printer would moan about that too if I offered them to it. Variations in the prices shown above, would suggest that actual cartridge manufacturing costs are not an issue. It’s the mark up – as with other ‘must have’ consumer usables – where the problem lies. Quite naturally, with no one to stop them, shops are laughing all the way to our pockets.

I refill my three HP 895 cxi ink cartridges myself – seem to work forever..Many third party cartridges are substandard but one or two are good.

My old laser is easy to refill – my newer lasers require a chip bought separately then refilling with more difficulties.. But cheap – and with care can be used multiple times before the drums spoil. I use a “black bag” to stop UV light spoiling the drums while filling the cartridge with new powder.

I try not to buy cartridges at all – I print 1000s of pages a month.

Watch out for the ‘use by’ date if you decide to take up Katie’s challenge. Prices can be discounted when cartridges are approaching the date, and substantially discounted if they are out of date.

My local Currys used to have out-of-date cartridges at the front of their rack, presumably to encourage the unwary to buy them. On two occasions I collected some examples and took them to the customer service desk but they were simply put back on sale at full price by the time I came back after doing other shopping. In another shop (not Currys but I cannot remember which), I have seen price stickers placed over date stamps, presumably to conceal the fact that the cartridges were out-of-date.

Before anyone says that out-of-date cartridges work fine, I know that and have generally had success, but to make useful price comparisons we really need to compare cartridges that are in date.

JPF says:
2 March 2012

Why does anyone still bother shopping at Currys, PC world and the like and still complain about their prices and quality? They’ve always been over priced and poorly stocked. Buy generic products based on the cheapest price which will typically be online.

One more thing. When you buy a new printer, look at the cartridge costs first – both the branded and non-branded prices, which will give you a true cost of any one printer. I mainly buy from inkcycle. Unfortunately wavechanges HP 364XL printer takes pricey cartridges i think (£12), compared to my bargian Epson SX430 where i just bought a set of 4 cartridges for £7 including P&P.

Lawrie says:
28 February 2012

Cartridge World: http://www.cartridgeworld.com
I have a Canon Pixma MP510 requiring four refilled cartridges costing £8 each. Only once did a cartridge not work because of a damaged chip and it was replaced without question. The Maidstone Branch of this firm gives excellent service and I can highly recommend them.

I used to deal with ANSA by post but they became expensive and postal deliveries were unreliable

Quite unusually got as gift HP LaserJet Print
Cartridge 92A.

Never asked how much it costs him ordered online
nor shd I attempt to find out… it’s very good though,
still in use.

Alan Harding says:
28 February 2012

I always take my empty cartridges to be re-filled and they cost £10.00.

I have a Lexmark 1300 series and cartridges cost over 14.00 for them so I now opt for re-fills which cost also £10.00 each.

Philip G. says:
29 February 2012

And what about refillable cartridges? They are cheaper than any other. Why don’t use them.
Does anybody use refillable cartridges?

My Brother printer takes four cartridges [the Black being larger than the others] and a set costs about £60 a time. I buy them in sets because that does work out cheaper but the consumption rates differ considerably and I have to make sure I replenish with the oldest first to avoid stock going out of date. Occasionally I have to buy single cartridges in order to rebalance the stock [and I need to keep at least one of each colour in hand as there are no suppliers nearby selling Brother carridges].
I haven’t ever tried generic cartridges for this printer since I had such problems previously with a Lexmark machine. Brother cartridges are rarely available at anything better than the manufacturer’s price after delivery charges are factored in to the purchase.
When the PC indicates that a cartridge is nearly empty I find it will carry on printing for a very long time so this is one warning to ignore and another ploy to increase profits.

I have bought out of date HP ink cartridges on Ebay very cheaply (bought four complete sets for £3:50 the lot) – most work but those that don’t can often be persuaded to by soaking the jets at the bottom in ink cleaner.

Raymond Lima says:
1 March 2012

Just to let you know that i get my HP cartridges from “Justinkandpaper” ordered online and they are very cheap and are genuine manufactorers make.
Very speedy delivery and had mine within 24 hours.

I get may 300xl compatables from ASDA.Never no problems.I got 3. 300standards in a dixons closing sale for £5.00 each.Great result.Plenty stock now.Hope the printer lives long enough to use them up.The HP printer software has pop ups which try and insist you buy from them.Wish it would not do that.

2 March 2012

i buy my refills from cartridge world at £6.50 for a lexmark machine

gary Murphy says:
2 March 2012


I have just bought my black ink for my Lexmark for catridgeworld.com 100xl for £14.99 x 2,

these are good value, they are normally £14.99 for 1.

Jacqui Blake says:
2 March 2012

After having paid a huge amount of money for cartridges for our EPSON STYLUS CX6600 from shops and on-line we have just found compatible inkjet cartridges at less than 1/4 of the price from Wilkinsons!

Terry Clarke says:
2 March 2012

It would seem that many are obsessed with buying brand inks for their printers and to be fair I can’t blame them due to all the issues you can encounter but I thought I would mention the 100% success I have had using the CISS Ink System for my HP Photosmart C8180 over the last two years.

The CISS ink system is a continuous ink feed system using a reservoir of inks (in my case 6 colours) which feed into replacement cartridge units in the printer. The outlay for this system is around £60 which includes the 600ml of ink for the ink reservoir, the equivalent of 120 original HP cartridges, which equates to approximately 30p per cartridge. The price of a set C8180 cartridges at £12 each from HP would equate to around £70 and would only give you around 400 pages of print at the most. Not only that, to replenish the ink reservoir thereafter, you only need purchase a set of ink refills at £35 which brings the cost of printing down even further.

Anybody doing the math would agree that this is a very economical printing solution which is further enhanced by the 12 month warranty on parts for the CISS and lifetime warranty for technical support. I’ve been extremely happy with my CISS system, the quality of print and the cost of my printing being so low.

I recommend it to anyone wanting to save money as inks are where printer manufacturers make most of their money!!

What experiences do others have with generic cartridges like those from Printerinks.com?
I use these in a Canon Pixma 4500 ( for colour prints of digital photographs with with Epson Paper)) and an Epson 4400 ( general printing and copying) . These are standard 13ml cartridges ( Epson) or 12.6ml / 24ml ( canon)t. Printerinks actually post data on the website showing the generics may not do quite as many prints ( say 80-85%) as the originals BUT they do show the cartridges are more cost effective .
Apart from a tendency to the ” Buy 2 get one free” policy , based on these printers , you can buy (3) individual cartridges and the price can vary from ca £3.50 to £2.00 for bulk packs compared to >£10 / cartridge for the pukka items. Delivery is 2nd class – ca 10 days – from order
I have used these cartridges for at least 3 years with a minimum of problems. I am sure there are other generics which must work.
Any comments on generics??

I have just ordered the extra large size cartridges (HP364XL) in a 5 ink bundle (Black; Photo Black; Cyan; Magenta; Yellow) for a HP Photosmart 3 in 1 printer for £60.82, free postage, from ‘mysuresupply.co.uk’.

eBuyer has twin-packs of the Canon PGI-525BK at £16.91 a pack.


Unfortunately, the cheapest delivery for just the ink is £4.60. But if your order exceeds £50, 5-day delivery is free.

John Ford says:
2 March 2012

I recently bought what I thought was a a really cheap set of cartridges for my HP Photosmart from Cartridgediscount.co.uk. £14.99 for all 4 including an XL black!

It turns out I have to remove the chip found on the original cartridge and stick on those supplied as they don’t come included. Trouble is only two now work. Black and yellow show as missing. Despite repositioning several times they just don’t work. I am worried the two that do might suddenly disappear! So my bargain not looking so cheap. BEWARE

I have bought some cartridges for another HP1410 I have. These from Morrison’s. Seem to work fine and bit cheaper.

I really think its time someone looked into this ink business seriously. Its complete robbery and everyone knows it.