If you’re looking to save money when using your home printer, you may have considered using third-party ink. We’ve been testing third-party cartridges to find out if they can really save you cash.
Printer ink can be expensive – more so than petrol, vintage port or Dom Perignon, measure for measure – but the price of a set of cartridges doesn’t tell you a thing about the cost of printing. And even when it comes to buying cheap ink cartridges from a different brand than your printer, prints don’t always work out cheap.
The cost of printer ink is a common cause for complaint. Almost half of Which? members surveyed said they considered the price of the cartridges before buying their printer, so it clearly has an influence on which printers people buy.
But the price of a set of cartridges tells you nothing about the cost of your prints and this isn’t only an issue with printer branded inks, as we’ve recently discovered.
In our latest tests of third-party ink – that’s ink from a brand that’s different from the brand of your printer – we found that printer-branded ink isn’t always the most expensive ink around.
Print cost mystery
The true cost of printing is about the cost of the cartridges and how many prints you can get from them. The amount of ink in the cartridge and how the printer uses it will make a difference.
When we’ve previously asked members about the ink they use in their printers, we received a raft of responses from people happily using cheap ink and getting great prints. And our tests have found that you can indeed get great prints from some third-party ink brands.
However, the difference in printing costs with third-party inks in our latest tests ranged from a saving of 90% for 10 pages of black text to costing 19% more than with the printer-branded ink. And the cheapest ink overall when printing text wasn’t the cheapest set of inks we bought.
You can’t rely on the cost of a set of cartridges to find the best deal on home printing, but on average, we saved around 50% on the cost of printing by switching from printer-branded ink to third-party ink, so pricier prints weren’t the norm.
Even if we needed to run a head clean on the printer to get the inks flowing properly, many third parties still produced cheaper prints when factoring in this extra ink use.
Printer tips and tricks
Using third-party ink isn’t always a smooth process though. Some third-party ink cartridges in our tests occasionally had problems being recognised. A lot of the time this was fixable by taking the cartridge out and just putting it straight back in again.
We also had to trick a Canon MG4250 printer into accepting some cartridges by holding down the ‘stop’ button on the printer for a few seconds when it displayed early warnings that our third-party cartridges were empty. This let us keep printing.
The third-party ink market is huge. We’re only able to test a small sample and our Canon printer isn’t the only one that required intervention to get the cheap inks flowing.
If you’ve discovered any clever tricks to get your printer working with third-party ink, if your printer’s started refusing alternative inks, or if there’s a brand of ink you use on your printer that’s saving you a fortune, we would love to hear from you.
Do you use third-party ink in your home printer?
Yes (52%, 539 Votes)
No (45%, 468 Votes)
I'm not sure (4%, 38 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,045