Last Updated on 30 April 2022
Yes, we know that printer ink is pricey. It’s something we’re reminded of every time we have to replace ink or toner.
While it’s cheaper to print with human blood, it’s messier and not as convenient. On the other hand, using printer cartridges is easy — just slip in the cartridge and you’re back in business.
If you want to save money, buying a cheap printer may cost you more in the long run. That’s because more expensive printers generally have lower ink costs than budget-priced home inkjet or all-in-one printers. You need to consider running costs, and not just the initial purchase price, if you really want to save money.
Perhaps worse still, inkjet printers are often sold with cheap ink cartridges — lower-capacity starter-size ink or toner cartridges that won’t last you as long as the real thing. You end up having to buy new replacements sooner than you might have imagined.
The good news? No matter your situation, there are plenty of ways you can save on printing costs, and not just by buying cheap ink cartridges.
While it starts with the printer you choose to buy, if you already have a printer there are plenty of other ways you can save on ink and toner costs too.
1. Pick a Printer with a Low Cost per Page
If you’re still deciding which printer to buy and you want one that will help save you money on ink or toner, compare running costs.
Look at the specs for each printer and make sure you pick one with a low cost per page. (If the cost per page is not included in the specs, look up the details for the printer cartridges that the printer uses and take a note of the page yield. Your cost per page is the cost of the printer cartridges divided by the expected page yield.)
Don’t let yourself be sucked in by a low sticker price. Look closely at cost per page specifications (for black and white output as well as colour). Running costs, like the prices for toner and ink cartridges, can vary widely, even amongst inkjet and laser printers that are otherwise similarly priced.
Watch out for cheap printers that still use combined colour cartridges. The problem? You have to replace the entire cartridge, even though you may have exhausted only one colour.
Printing a lot of Colour? You may want an ink tank printer
If you regularly print a lot of colour documents (say 300 or more pages per month), consider an ink tank printer. Variously described as bulk-ink printers, continuous ink tank printers or supertank printers, they include the Epson EcoTank, Canon MegaTank, Brother’s awkwardly-named INKvestment, and HP’s SmartTank.
Ink tank printers flip the traditional business model on its head: rather than buying a printer at low cost and spending big on ink and toner, you’ll pay more for the initial printer purchase but save on running costs.
Ink tank printers use a single high-capacity cartridge with multiple ink tanks inside. Rather than replace the tanks when you need more ink, you simply refill them yourself from ink bottles or bags that generally cost less than standard ink cartridges.
Whereas inkjet printers usually require the use of three inks (cyan, magenta and yellow), an ink tank printer lets you use a single colour (and refill with the same colour rather than having to replace all three). And you won’t be refilling them with anything like the same frequency you need to replace ink cartridges — a single refill should be enough to print 6,000 or more pages.
Refillable mono laser printers
The bulk-ink model isn’t just for inkjet printers.
HP’s Neverstop mono laser printers use a refillable tank for the toner, rather than toner cartridges. Refilling the toner is reportedly easy, according to early reviews, while the cost per page is rated as low as one cent.
Toner refills are good for 2,500 pages, but the toner tank reservoir will hold enough toner for 5,000 pages, and you’ll get a warning when it’s half empty. Fill it up and you can keep printing and, like the name says, never have to stop because you run out of ink.
So you already have a printer, and you want some easy solutions to reduce your running costs?
2. Print in Draft (Economy) Mode
Let’s start with the obvious. If you’re printing black and white text documents for your own use (and not to present to a customer or client), do you really need high quality? Perhaps you can get away with draft mode (sometimes called fast or economy mode). Check your printer settings if you want to switch to a lower-cost ink mode.
With draft mode, you’ll typically use as little as half the ink you would use when printing normally. And there’s an added bonus if you have limited patience — your pages will print faster.
3. Change your font
A way to save ink that isn't obvious and may surprise you is to simply change your font. Tests show that using Times New Roman instead of Arial can save around 27% in ink usage.
4. Print Only What You Absolutely Need
Do you really need to print the entire document? And, if you’re printing from a webpage, do you also want to print all the ads, images, and readers’ feedback?
Sometimes reading things on screen and making a couple of notes is good enough. Or, rather than print out page after page, consider printing to a PDF document that you can save on your drive or in the cloud for easy access whenever you need it.
Don’t forget to preview your document before you print it. Webpages in particular will often print differently than they appear on the screen, and you will save on paper as well as ink by choosing Printer-Friendly mode and selecting exactly which pages to print and not to print.
5. Print text in black ink only, and print colour only when it’s necessary
You’ll reduce the amount of ink you use and save money by printing in grayscale, particularly if your printer is one that mixes ink from colour cartridges to create black.
To print in black and white rather than colour, go to settings and select “grayscale” or “black ink only”. Make this your default setting if you seldom need to print in colour.
6. Keep inkjet printer nozzles clean
Over time, the printer ink nozzles in inkjet printers can become clogged with dried ink. If your printer has an automatic head cleaner, it will be able to clean its nozzles without your having to remove or open up the unit. If not, and if you use your printer a lot, you should be checking and cleaning the printheads every 2-3 weeks.
To clean the nozzle heads, remove each printer cartridge, wiping the bottom (where the ink comes out) with a damp paper towel or lint-free cloth.
7. Use all the ink or toner in the cartridge
Treat the alerts that you are running out of ink or toner the way in the same way that Italians think of traffic lights. That is, take those alerts as a suggestion only.
Check ink and toner levels and use these prompts to order new printer cartridges if necessary, but more often than not you don’t need immediate replacements. Gently shaking printer cartridges (carefully, mind) will redistribute the ink or toner, and you can usually make many more prints before you need new ones.
8. Super-size me - use high yield cartridges
Another way to save? Some inkjet and laser printers accept high-yield (often designated ‘XL’) ink and toner cartridges, which deliver a lower cost per page than their standard-capacity counterparts. They are the same size as regular cartridges but they aren’t compatible with all printers — be sure to check the specs for your printer to make sure they are an option.
Expect to pay more upfront for high-yield cartridges than standard cartridges but they are an economical choice if you regularly print a lot. An XL cartridge will typically print at least twice as many pages as a standard-capacity cartridge and, in the long run, it can be more cost-effective to use these types of cartridges.
But if you have an inkjet printer and you rarely use it, stick with standard ink cartridges so you don’t waste money on ink that dries up and is no longer usable.
9. Use compatible and remanufactured ink cartridges
Regardless of how much printing you do, you can also save a significant amount of money by opting to use more affordable third party ink cartridges. These are described as compatible or remanufactured toner and ink cartridges as opposed to genuine printer-branded cartridges.
What’s the difference between remanufactured and compatible ink cartridges? Compatible or aftermarket ink and toner cartridges are brand new cartridges manufactured by a third party. Remanufactured inks and toner, on the other hand, are third-party refills of recycled, cleaned and rebuilt OEM cartridges.
Under the terms of the NZ Commerce Act 1986 and Fair Trading Act 1986, printer manufacturers cannot require that you only use their original inks and toner, or other consumables (such as drums and print heads).
Printer manufacturers discourage the practice, but it is your choice whether or not to use third party ink or toner.
Warranty terms vary by printer manufacturer, so check first for any stipulations about using compatible inks. Generally speaking, if your printer is still under warranty and needs repair the manufacturer will cover the damage — unless, that is, it can be proven that using compatible cartridges directly caused the malfunction.
If you have purchased or plan to purchase an extended warranty, be sure to check the terms closely. Because extended warranties are optional, manufacturers can set their own terms and they often make extended coverage conditional on your using genuine inks and toners.
In the unlikely event that your warranty is declined because the printer malfunction is due to the use of compatible cartridges you purchased from Good Egg, don’t worry — we have your back.
Ask the manufacturer to provide evidence that your use of our third-party cartridges is the cause, and we will work with our supplier to repair your printer. If necessary, we will replace it with an equivalent model of the same or better specifications (up to the value of $1,000+GST).
No question about it — using remanufactured or compatible inks and toners will save you a lot of money. At their best, third-party ink and toner cartridges can match the page yield you get from pricier printer-branded cartridges, with little to no perceptive difference in print quality.
At Good Egg, we use and recommend Icon inks and toners. They’ve been on the market for over 10 years and come with a 12-month guarantee. Rest assured — if you are not satisfied with their performance or the quality of your prints, then we will supply a replacement product at no cost to you.
10. Ink subscription services
Some printer companies now offer discount ink subscription schemes, notably HP with Instant Ink. If this sounds like something you need, check the specs closely to see which printer models are compatible, and make sure to read the fine print for your subscription plan.
Ink subscriptions work best if your printing volume is somewhat consistent. That’s because you pay a monthly subscription fee based on your estimate of the number of pages you will print per month. It doesn’t matter what you print, whether it’s photos and images or just text, or whether it’s colour or black and white).
Ink subscription services require that your printer be connected to the internet, as the printer will order new cartridges automatically when you’re getting low.
With HP’s Instant Ink your unused pages roll over, and you can change the plan or cancel at any time. Delivery charges are included in the subscription cost, so unless you need to print more pages than you’ve allowed for in your monthly plan (and you have no rollover credits), all you pay for ink is the monthly subscription fee.
You don’t need to print a lot to make use of the service (HP Instant Ink starts at just 15 pages a month for ink; 50 pages a month for toner). But because subscription inks contain even more ink than high-yield cartridges, the programme is geared towards heavy users.
Ready to sign up for an ink subscription service? There are good reasons to do so — you shouldn’t have to think about ordering ink again, and nor should you run out. And if you have estimated your printing requirements correctly then buying subscription ink will mean you get cheap printer ink — cheaper, at least, than buying original ink cartridges. What’s more, your commitment is only month-to-month so you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel the printer ink service at any time.
But it pays to check the details of any plan and read about other people’s experiences before you commit. HP’s Instant Ink, for instance, has its supporters, since you can get a steady supply of cheap ink without getting caught short. But there have been complaints about what qualifies as a printed page, the cost per page for exceeding your monthly page limit, and caps on the number of rollover pages.
To recap, there are several ways you can save money on printer ink cartridges, without sacrificing print quality:
- Pick a cost-effective printer — one with low per-page printing costs.
- If you print a lot of colour, consider buying an ink tank printer. Or an HP Neverstop mono laser printer if you print a lot of text but don’t need colour.
- Alternatively, if you are a heavy user and your printer is compatible, purchase high capacity printer ink cartridges.
- Cheap ink cartridges mean big savings. If the price of genuine inks is a concern, consider buying high-quality compatible cartridges or remanufactured products instead of paying for the pricier original cartridges. Third party compatibles vary in quality so look closely at guarantees and customer reviews.
- If you print a lot and your usage from month to month is fairly consistent, you can get cheap ink with an ink subscription service.
- Keep your printer well-maintained. Depending on use, you may need to check and clean inkjet printer nozzles every few weeks.
- Think before you print. Do you really need colour? Do you really need to print anything at all? When you do need to print, use your computer’s Print Preview settings to make sure you are printing only the pages you want, and select draft mode if the print quality is not a concern.