/ Technology

Is your printer wasting your precious pricey printer ink?

Printer leaking colour ink

If it seems like your printer is guzzling ink when you rarely use it, maybe that’s because it is. Our latest tests show that downtime between prints can massively increase the print cost per page.

The cost of printer ink has many of you riled, but the outright cost of the cartridges is just the start.

Over the last year we’ve been running a number of tests on printers to look more closely at ink use. We’ve tested to see how much ink is wasted by head-cleaning cycles when you only print occasionally, and if this problem gets worse when you leave the printer off or in standby.

One print for the price of six

When we compared occasional printing (one page seven times a week for eight weeks) to continuous printing (50 pages in one day) we were shocked by the difference in ink use.

The most wasteful printer on test, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus eAIO, used 525% more ink printing colour pages over the longer period. It’ll cost you £2.50 to print 50 pages in quick succession, but this jumps to £17.48 if you only occasionally print and switch it off in between. If you keep the printer on standby between occasional printing, the cost drops to £5.92.

That’s not to say all printers behave like that. With the Canon Pixma MX885, continuous printing would cost £7 per 50 pages, £14.13 for occasional printing (switching the printer off), and a whopping £19.11 for occasional printing (leaving the printer on). You can see how both perform against the more modest Epson Stylus SX620FW in this picture:

Printer ink waste cost tested and compared

So, if you only use your printer now and then, you could be paying for ink that will never even make it on to the page.

Of course, the idea of saving up all your prints and running them all off in one go to get the lowest costs per page is lunacy. When you need to print, you need to print.

Ink costs are a minefield. There are a number of variables that may determine when your inkjet printer cleans its print head, and how much ink gets wasted along the way. At present, when you walk into a shop, there’s no way of knowing how much your prints are going to cost. We think that needs to change.

Printer manufacturers need to explain ink waste

What we need is some clarity from manufacturers around how ink is wasted by printers, and why some waste more than others.

We’re going to continue our printer ink tests use to find the biggest wasters and factor this into our printer reviews. In the meantime we’ll be speaking to manufacturers to get more clarity about the true costs of ink. So if your printer seems to get through ink really quickly, we want to hear your experiences so we can share them with manufacturers. Is your printer wasting ink?

Do you think your printer wastes too much ink?

Yes (79%, 823 Votes)

I don't know (18%, 183 Votes)

No (4%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,045

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lee says:
3 August 2020

My 2 Canon printers have cost me a fortune in ink & within themselves. This equates to both my Mg7550 which was extremely expensive new as mas my mg6150. I could be printing one day & ink levels are full, maybe a fortnight later my wife may want a picture of the grandchildren printing. I turn on the Pc & printer only to have exclamation marks pop up about low ink values, really?!!
This happens with both printers I own. I contacted Canon about this & why it’s only my colour inks that deplete this way. He said & I quote “Our printers (canon) use the colour inks to make black most of the time. I was shocked, I have two blacks & a grey sitting there & canon is making black with the colour tanks WTH?
To add to my misery both printers have ended up as scrap in just over a year with both print heads now failed. I have tried everything to get them printing again, but nothing.
I begin to believe that parts of these printers are programmed to fail over certain time periods as no way should my print heads be worn even. For the approximate amount I have spent on my printers & ink, lets say £300 for the two printers & ink. I have been rewarded with approximately 50 photographs & less that a half packet of plain paper printed. I might as well printed on gold leaf.
My affair is over with Canon for sure!
My comments are what I believe & maybe not fact.

Phil Williamson says:
18 October 2021

Canon Pixma MG6250 limited usage, switched off normally. Ink usage astronomical despite the small amount of use both in standby and switched off.

I’m surprised that the printer used a lot of ink when left on standby. All inkjet printers ‘waste’ ink to keep their print heads clean and may go through a cleaning cycle when turned on.

I was helping a friend set up a new Canon printer, which jammed every time the rear tray was used. By the time we decided that the printer should be returned, the colour cartridges were half empty and the larger black cartridge not much better. The printer had only printed a single sheet, from the main tray. That was the consequence of switching the printer off and on again multiple times. I don’t know if other brands are any better. The replacement Canon printer is working fine using compatible inks, which are far cheaper.