back to article For a true display of wealth, dab printer ink behind your ears instead of Chanel No. 5

Printer ink continues to rank as one of the most expensive liquids around with a litre of the home office essential costing the same as a very high-end bottle of bubbly or an oak-aged Cognac. Consumer advocate Which? has found that ink bought from printer manufactures can be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party …

  1. Julian 8 Silver badge

    Had a problem with an old printer. Each time we went to print it had pretty much dried out - new cartridges or ink. 3rd party cartidges were really hit and miss, refilling original cartidges were also the same and often resulted in a new cartridge or set.

    When our son was doing his GCSE's and A levels it was getting ridiculous in costs as while we may not have so many dry out, the rate he could use them was mad.

    I went out and bought a colour laser instead. Only last year (year 4) did I need to replace the cartidges it came with and not too bad for all inks. Reckon I have another 5/6 years before the cartidges need replacing again

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


      If you use your inkjet once a week, it's pretty much guaranteed in my experience that your print heads will dry up before the cartridge empties out.

      I put up with this nuisance for more than a decade until I got fed up with the endless head cycling and wasted ink and paper and just bought a laser printer instead.

      One of the best purchases I have ever made. I bought it in September 2010 and it's still working fine.

      Laser printers are really affordable now, and you don't to need to print in colour as much as you think you do. Buy one that does scanner at the same time and you'll be able to use it for a decade or more.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        My B/W HP laser printer is much older than that & still going strong. I'm not sure I'd say the same thing about a newer HP.

        1. Old Used Programmer

          Or buy used

          I picked up a refurbished HP 2055dn last year for $127. New price at the time was around $650. Since those older HP office printers are built like tanks, I expect my kids will inherit it.

        2. O RLY

          I had a LaserJet Series II that finally kicked the bucket after more than 1 million pages (came from my office) and I couldn't find a replacement drum. Its SCSI interface ran to an old Mac Clone since the last PC I had with a parallel printer died well before the printer.

          Loved that thing, except for its power usage and noise :)

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Dried out print heads

      The trouble is that many people turn their printer on only to print, so it doesn't get to perform the normal inkjet maintenance cycle.

      Yes I know this consumes ink, but I've rarely had the problem (dried out ink head) on my home inkjet, whereas my inlaws are always having this problem; fortunately due to CoViD alcohol cleaner/hand sanitiser (need to avoid the variants with moisturisers etc.) is usually to hand.

      Through the high usage years, I switched to a continuous ink system. Which works well, unless you have small children with fingers into everything...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dried out print heads

        I leave it on and I do print more often, but I occasionally have clogged nozzles. So, if I need to print something serious I let it do a clean first. It's running non-original ink (I don't buy a printer unless non-original ink is available) and as it's HP I've disabled firmware updates (because that's how they introduce new "problems" with non-HP cartridges).

        I would have used a colour laser printer, but mine prints and scans doublesided A3 so it's worth the hassle, and when cleaned it does a good job as well, with no real banding to speak of. A3 colour lasers are still painfully expensive, not worth it for the bit of printing I do at home.

        About Epson, though, as far as I can tell their EcoTank range inks are actually priced sensibly. You pay a bit more for the printer, but it they had a decent A3 multifunction I would have bought that instead and use original ink - EcoTank inks were (last time I looked) comparable in price to non-original and in that case I would have had no problem staying with original inks.

      2. aregross

        Re: Dried out print heads

        Generally this works (only turning on an Ink Jet when you need to print). When left on, the coils at the nozzles are always on and thus are always warm. This is what dries out the nozzles and the cleaning cycle really REALLY wastes a lot of ink and doesn't always work.

        Also, a thin cloth soaked in WATER ONLY run over the nozzles will generally clean them up. It'll take a few print jobs to clear them out but it doesn't waste nearly the amount of ink that the cleaning cycle does.

        The only thing I use my ink jet now (Epson) is for making water soluable decals for car/airplane models, otherwise I too have gone the color laser route (had a Samsung CLX-2160N given to me) but it doesn't give me the resolution that my ink jet does.

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      I bought a post lease colour laser printer in 2014 for £50. I only had to replace the toner few months ago.

      Best investment ever.

    4. Dave K

      You just have to be careful as the printer companies often pull similar stunts with laser toners as well. Our Brother laser printer stopped printing several years ago with an "out of toner" error. After applying a strip of gaffer tape across the sensor, it printed roughly a further 1,500 pages before the toner actually started to become patchy.

      I've had similar experiences at work with HP colour laser printers insisting the toner is empty when it is anything but. Simple and uncomfortable truth is that consumer printers don't generate much profit for the manufacturers, so they make it all back with consumables - and this includes many laser printers too.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        If you are on the instant ink scheme, where the printer phones home and for £1.99 a month they send out new cartridges when your old ones are nearly empty (subject to a page limit). Miraculously, the cartridges on this scheme go on forever, so 12 months of £1.99 a month and they are still going strong.

        Funny that.

    5. Old Used Programmer

      That's my reasoning, too.

      Read enough stories about problems with ink jet drying out, so I've gone directly to color laser. But even there, it would cost nearly as much as the printer to replace cartridges with ones from the manufacturer.

    6. MonkeyCee

      Laser > inkjet

      In general, unless you have a very specific need, inkjets are a waste of money.

      A mono laser is about 40 bucks new, and should be plug and play (may have to check with current PrinterSpoolerMadness).

      Colour lasers are nice, if you want that sort of thing.

      Inkjets are just money makers. Check out most stores: 100 inkjets, 2 laser printers. Guess which one they make their money on :D

      Even if you need a proper inkjet, it's often cheaper to outsource your printing to a professional shop.

    7. eldakka

      From the mid 90's to the mid 2010's, my printer-buying procedure was to go to used office/computer equipment auctions (whether online or physical) and buy a used office laser printer for about AU$300 or so, explicitly choosing ones that come with mostly-full toner cartridges. I'd do this once every 4-5 years and end up with high-end (but ~5 year old) laser printer that, when new, was $5k+. And, since it's an office printer, a 75% (or more) full toner cartride it came with was good for at least 10k pages (since workgroup/office printers used 15-25k page toner cartridges), it would last 4-5 years until running out of toner it came with, at which point it was time to buy a 'new' 5-year old high-end printer.

      About a year ago I replaced my used (monochrome) printer with a brand new MFD-style 'prosumer' (AU$1500ish) colour laser. WIth laser's, the more expensive the printer the cheaper the consumables in addition to other higher-end (higher DPI printing/scanning for example) features with a more expensive printer. And the real benefit is not even so much the cheaper consumables, it's the higher capacity you can get so lazy people (like me) just don't have to bother with toner for a long time, most likely 3+ years. From memory a cheapie colour laser printer only has 2-3k page - especially colour - toner cartridges. The one I got came with 8k colour and 15k black toner, which means I can amortise the one-off $1500 over at least 3 years before I need to even think of buying new toner let alone a new printer.

  2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    Ditched inkjets

    We had always had inkjets. First, HP, then we tried an Epson. Always the same issue: whenever we wanted to print: ink problems. Either plugged orifices or "empty" cartridges, and even though 90% of the printing was in black, you always found that the other cartridges had to be replaced as well. We just did not print frequently enough to keep the ink system operational.

    Lasers were expensive, so we mostly ended up with Dad printing the stuff at work. Then came WFH. Several years ago, I had rescued a "free for the taking" LJ5 off the front porch of a legal office in town, and this seemed like a good time to try my hand at getting it working. The legendary repairability of the LJ5 was not exaggerated. I spent several weeks with screwdriver in hand, browsing the Web, watching YouTube videos and ordering parts. It ended up needing a new gear set, rebuilt fuser assembly and a new (refilled) cartridge, all of which were easily found online (there were a LOT of these printers made). While I was inside, I maxed out the RAM ($30) and added an Ethernet card ($15). I have to say, the LJ5 is a wonderfully maintainable product.

    Now, I have a network-connected, always on (it draws 7 watts on standby), reliable printer. It works with Linux, Apple and (with a bit of effort) my work Win10 laptop (I needed to find a working PCL5 driver -- HP seems to be trying to make the LJ5 obsolete). Couldn't be happier. Even with weeks between prints, it's perfect copy every time, and I'm still on my first cartridge (have 2 more Goodwill finds, NIB, waiting to be used).

    Thanks to Bill, Dave, and Canon, for a quality printer that still hasn't gone out of style!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ditched inkjets

      "(I needed to find a working PCL5 driver -- HP seems to be trying to make the LJ5 obsolete)."

      It's also PCL6 and Postscript 2 compatible by default. You should always be able to use something to print to that, although the "correct" drivers will likely have more functionality and allow more settings changes without having to resort to the printers own menus on the little LCD display, eg choosing duplexing etc if your printer has options fitted.

    2. MonkeyCee

      Re: Ditched inkjets

      HP Laserjet 3, 4 and 5 series are the best. Utter tanks. There was a LJ4 that had flipped it's page counter at least three times and still kept chugging along.

      They were both the best HP products, because they were great, and worst, because they didn't die.

      The modern clones are not as good (plastic instead of metal gears etc) but are still nice solid machines. Brother does some, I'm sure there are others.

      The HP4 really should win some design award :D

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Ditched inkjets

        They sell the printer at a loss, and hope to make the money on the ink.

        The printer is poorly made and falls to bit very quickly.

        I think there is a problem with adopting both of those business models.

      2. RobThBay

        Re: Ditched inkjets

        My ancient (from mid 90's) HP 6P is still going strong and I have 1 more unopened toner sitting on the shelf.

        I guess I'll have replace the printer after I run out of toner.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    "designed to function correctly with our genuine inks"

    That comment is arse about face: it is the inks which are designed to work with the printers, not the other way round.

    If some third party makes an ink that confirms to the printer spec - then it can be used. The printer should not care.

    Imagine the brouhaha if Ford cars only worked with Ford petrol, Ford oils, Ford tyres, ...

    (Other car makes are available)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      The problem is that not enough people react on this. They just accept the cost, shrug and get on with their lives.

      Look how long it's taken to start hearing about the Right to Repair (and people were getting riled up about that).

      This kind of news needs to repeated every day, every where, until people wake up and realize that ink is the new mafia domain, and we're all being held at gunpoint until we hand over the dosh.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "The problem is that not enough people react on this. They just accept the cost, shrug and get on with their lives."

        And as the article points out "Which is exactly what the Consumers Association said almost 20 years ago when it reported that printer ink cost around £1,700 a litre."

        I'm sure most of us had a deja vu moment on reading the headline, let alone the actual story. This story comes around every couple of years, but it's clear that it NEEDS to be retold frequently.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Setup cartridges......

    No mention of the nasty little manufacturers trick of supplying the printer with "setup" cartridges. Get barely 10 pages then off to buy ink paying more than you just paid for the printer.

    I have used 3rd party cartridges over the years with minimal issues. For my Canon the 3rd party cost less than 20% of the genuine ones. Mine nags they are non-genuine when you put them but after that all is good.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Setup cartridges......

      On the other hand, that's why one can pick up a little domestic printer with embedded server, WiFi, scanner, NFC, and all the other crap for about thirty quid. What they lose on the printer they make on the inks.

      1. Old Used Programmer

        Re: Setup cartridges......

        It's the business model invented King Gillette. Sell razors at or near giveaway prices and then make your money selling the blades to go with.

        A few years ago HP threw a hissy fit because people weren't buying their massively overpriced cartridges. So they announced that they'd sell the printers at a profit. (Big part of the reason why what was a $400 HP-2055dn is now a $650 HP-2055dn.)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Setup cartridges......

        "On the other hand, that's why one can pick up a little domestic printer with embedded server, WiFi, scanner, NFC, and all the other crap for about thirty quid. What they lose on the printer they make on the inks."

        Not sure who started that race to the bottom, but I first noticed Lexmark selling the dirt cheap and nasty little b/w inkjet printers many years ago so in my head, I blame them :-)

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Setup cartridges......

      I think the use of setup cartridges, nasty as it is, is because once upon a time the lower end printers came with regular ink cartridges, and it was actually cheaper to buy an entire printer (and throw away the old one) than to buy a set of replacement cartridges. The whole thing was ridiculous (and still is).

    3. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

      Re: Setup cartridges......

      "I have used 3rd party cartridges over the years with minimal issues. For my Canon the 3rd party cost less than 20% of the genuine ones. Mine nags they are non-genuine when you put them but after that all is good"

      My canon does the same with the non genuine cartridges, but absolutely refuses to use the non-genuine cartridges from my old canon printer- that are identical other than the identifying chip. Annoying as when my old canon printer died I bought another hoping that the box of cartridges I already had wouldn't be wasted. Got round it by swapping the chip from the empty cartridge to the full one whenever I change them. The printer just thinks it's empty but luckily lets me continue printing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Setup cartridges......

        It's one of the reasons you should stop updating firmware on HP printers the day you buy them (and it takes some effort to stop that, by the way, they're not stupid). Maybe this goes for Canon as well.

    4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Setup cartridges......

      I had a friend who was just buying a new printer every time it ran out. He believed that if he buys just the ink, it will last the same time and since printer with ink was cheaper...

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Setup cartridges......

      For some printers, those with separate print heads and ink reservoirs, the setup cartridges are to fill the ink lines. Personally, I would rather have a printer supplied without ink and take the hit on the first set of cartridges not lasting as long as subsequent cartridges.

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The ink mafia is the reason why I switched to a laser printer as they are now affordable.

    With ink printers, each time I needed to print I had to either buy new cartridges because they weren't working any more or a new printer because it was cheaper than to buy new cartridges. This time is over.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Ditto that. I dumped HP inkjet printers years ago due to the extortionate price of ink and their blocking use of third party inks. I happily use a Brother laser printer now. Its only black and white but don't really miss colour for my needs. It is vastly cheaper than HP ink. No more blocked nozzles either and similar problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Me too - I got rid of HP inkjet for a Samsung b/w laser printer - though HP is determined not to let me go and promptly went and bought Samsung's printer operations. Needless to say, support and everything is now down to the usual HP customer-hostile standard.

  6. goldcd

    I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

    £1.99 a month for 50 pages (and I think you can roll 100 over between months) - and easily covers my occasional printing needs.

    I know I could print pages cheaper using 3rd-party carts and a less draconian manufacturer - but it nicely shifts annoyances with one colour running out before the others, blocked nozzles etc onto HP.

    I pay £24 a year - and I have one less thing to worry about.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

      Just wait until you need to contact HP. I turned on my printer last night and the colour cartridge (a few months old, nearly full) had failed. A lot of faffing around and a previous cartridge works (surprisingly, given its been sat in a box for a while), so it's not the printer.

      I'll have to phone somebody when I get home. Ugh, phoning people. :-/

      I just hope, since it's probably their paranoid DRM that is acting up, that they'll get a replacement in the post really quickly. Luckily I have a basic cheap laser, so I'm not printerless. Still, to just die like that with no warning... Grrr...

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

        Follow-up: That phone call was fairly painless. I told her I'd already cleaned the contacts and tried an older one (which worked).

        She asked me to take out the black and close the flap. A few seconds later, oh yes it is defective. I guess the printer reports more to the mothership than it tells the user. There's a replacement coming...

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

      I should add, simple things get sent to the laser, the Instant Ink is used for colour and since I'm not directly paying for the ink, there's no difference between an A5 print to plain paper and a full colour photo print. So my fiver a month is a lot less than it used to cost to feed the thing.

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

      It may sound reasonable for first two years of use, but then this cost just adds up. I bought a laser printer in 2014 for £50 and only this year I had to replace toner that cost me about £30.

    4. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

      I've just rolled over and gone with HP's Instant Ink

      And you'll find that miraculously your cartridges just seem to last forever.

  7. GroovyLama

    The future is laser (for me)

    I got fed up with the hassle of inkjets and their costs when I was at university, and switched to a small Samsung Laser printer (monochrome). I can't remember the exact model, but it was a great little printer. The ink lasted for ages, and it had an "eco" mode you could switch on with a little button on the top, that used less ink. Print quality looked identical between eco and normal modes as long as it wasn't low on ink.I think I used it for a decade, with a few years of continuous printing of lecture notes and coursework while at uni. In the end the rollers wore out, and it couldn't pick up paper anymore. I probably could have kept it going but I passed it on to someone who was going to try and repair it for their own use.

    Last year just as lockdowns started, I bought a Brother DCP-L8410CDW - colour laser with scanner built in. Totally inappropriate for a home office, it just takes up too much space!

    But the printing quality has been fantastic. and it's been great both for work and also for home schooling. I've looked at costs for buying new ink for it, and while it will be expensive to get all the different colour cartridges (are they still called cartridges for laser printers?) as a one off payment, current estimates show I would only need to purchase it once every 24 months, which will make it very economical from a print per page perspective.

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: The future is laser (for me)

      I too, after my 15 year old canon had a gravity related incident, went for a brother laser printer. Quality is excellent, and it's even a colour, for less money than refilling the canon with genuine ink

      And, as it's a laser, I know the toner will be good for ages.

      I've had to throw catridges away because they "dried up"

      The brother sits there in Deep Sleep, but the second I print something from the iPhone, it's awake and printing within 15 seconds :-)

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The future is laser (for me)

        Had I not "lovingly restored" my LJ5, I would have bought a Brother laser. They come highly recommended, but you do need to make sure the one you buy has a network interface (it's an option on some of them)

        Also, beware that some laser manufacturers have "intelligent" cartridges that "expire". I'm looking at you, HP! (which might be why they are trying to remove drivers for the old LJs from Windows...cartridges don't expire)

        1. Tim 49

          Re: The future is laser (for me)

          Bought my HP laserjet 1320n duplex mono in something like 2007 for something like 300 quid. Still going strong, even though it nowadays prints about one page/month. Never dries out nor fails, although the 16MB RAM may be a bit of a limit.

          Apple seemed to remove the drivers with Catalina (and MS have also done so), but I just switched to a generic driver and carried on. Toner cartridges aren't chip-locked, so I'm able to refill them a few times - bought a soldering-iron hole borer and a bottle of toner powder & some bungs from one of the emporia who supply such things, and get about 4 fills per cartridge before the overflow chamber fills up. Makes them even cheaper.

          Sadly, cartridges for the 1320n are getting hard to find now. Whatever people think of HP nowadays, this printer's been brilliant value.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: The future is laser (for me)

            "Bought my HP laserjet 1320n duplex mono"

            That's really worth considering if any potential buyers are wonder. Paper is cheap, but if you use both sides, you can almost halve your paper usage costs. Ok, it's only about 0.3p per page, but that's still a significant portion of the per page cost of laser printing. It's less of an issue with inkjets where it can be 15p per page on pay as you go plans.

            Also, both ink and laser printer cartridges are almost always quoted with a "number of pages" they claim to print. This is usually calculated on 5% coverage, which is probably about a paragraph of text per page, so not really realistic in the real world.

    2. Robert Grant

      Re: The future is laser (for me)

      We have a huge Brother MFC-J6530DW from my dad's business after he retired. Inkjet, but no cynical pricing from Brother. Never had to worry about anything wearing out so far, and it does A3!

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The future is laser (for me)

      "are they still called cartridges for laser printers?"

      Yes, although depending on the printer make and model, it may be a lot more than just a toner cartridge, it could include the transfer drum and other parts too. And there's no ink in it. It's toner, a polymer powder.

  8. Cucumber C Face


    We gave up on third party suppliers for our Dell Laser printers after several companies' 'long life' cartridges gave up after less than 200 sheets of sparsely printed A4. Sadly resigned to paying Dell 75% of the cost of a new printer on each set of CYM and B cartridges.

    Any recommendations?

    And while we are moaning about printer rip-offs

    <rant>I only want to print in black/white - I even checked the box in the printer config. Why lock me out when only the f£*%ing magenta is gone! Let me guess...$$$$$</rant>

    Thank you.


    1. doesnothingwell

      Re: Conversely

      I used one color laser (Lexmark) that had a print black/white option but deeper in the setting it had print black using "black only." Yes, the dumb thing would use all the colors make black (photo accurate) so check your options thoroughly.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Conversely

        Sub pixel rendering, in effect, to increase the apparent resolution. For most people, it's not noticeable, but it looks good in the marketing when they can claim 2400dpi from a 1200 or 600dpi engine.

    2. aregross

      Re: Conversely

      "Any recommendations?"

      When I was In Charge (IT Manager) I tried a number of different laser cartridge rebuilders. The one I ended up using installed new image drums EVERY TIME they rebuilt one! Failures were almost non-existant and they would replace every one that failed prematurely. Look up Shadow Fax in Madison Wisconsin, you won't be disappointed!

  9. Annihilator

    "Consumer advocate Which? has found that ink bought from printer manufactures can be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party alternatives."

    Film at 11.

    Fun fact, I've just weighed a Gilette razor blade - somewhere between 2 and 3g. They would be cheaper if it were made of solid silver.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "They would be cheaper if it were made of solid silver."

      But wouldn't last very long :-)

  10. GlenP Silver badge

    At work we gave up on inkjets as soon as colour lasers came down in price to be Opex rather than Capex.

    My home printer is a Ricoh GelJet so I'm tied to manufacturers cartridges but the prints are more robust (used mainly for model buildings).

  11. Peter2 Silver badge

    The main reason for buying a inkjet printer is that they are cheap. This is however offset by the fact that a set of cartridges can cost (as per article) £107.98; and the cartridges supplied with the device will be a fifth of the size of the normal ones.

    Laser printers are more expensive, but at a rough guide to costs:-

    An ink printer will cost something like 8-20p per page

    A desktop laser will cost around 2-10p per page

    A network laser will cost around 0.2 - 1p per page

    So succinctly; in almost all cases it's cheaper to buy a second hand laser printer from ebay than buy a replacement inkjet cartridge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The main reason for buying a inkjet printer is that they are cheap"

      Actually, you find them at the opposite side of the spectrum - the cheap ones at one end, because they are cheaper to build than laser ones, and the expensive ones at the other end - because photo printing can't be really done with laser printers, as it is far easier to build printers with 10-12 inks, large gamuts, and very small droplets for high-quality prints, on different types of supports.

      It is true that the price per page is less relevant for the latter, especially if you sell the prints for a decent price.

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    from a reputable third-party supplier

    There's your problem right there. Who is a reputable supplier?

    My laser (Samsung MW2022 or something like that) is on it's second toner cartridge from Amazon. The first arrived broken (thankfully a paid return as I use Prime by preference for this reason). The one in it now promised 1000 pages. It is reading 44% after about 300 regular pages of text. Okay, it's pretty cheap (sixteen euros for about 800 pages comes to 2¢ a page), but still, the unmarked cartridge in it when I got it (second hand) promised 1000 pages and according to the counter racked up nearly 1200 before it ran out.

    So... Who is "reputable" in this market?

    1. Boothy

      Re: from a reputable third-party supplier

      I also got a Samsung a few years ago, the M2070W, just a B&W laser with scanner.

      I print occasionally, might be months with no printing, and then lots all at once. Not a good use case for an inkjet, which constantly jammed up, hence the switch to a laser.

      Had the printer a few years now, and I'm still on the original cartridge! Although I'm sure I should be close to needing a new one at some point.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: from a reputable third-party supplier

      Lately when ordering a new cartridge online I order two, one from two different suppliers.

      That way I figure one will get approx the rated pages and the other will still work just less ambitiously. Both together still less than half HP's opinion of themselves.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: from a reputable third-party supplier

      "Who is a reputable supplier?"

      OTOH, what's a page? Some might use a lot more ink than others.

  13. Licenced_Radio_Nerd

    Also switched to Laser

    I switched to a laser printer at home years ago after several years of inkjet printers drying out and/or using up loads of ink to get ready to print. Inkjets survive as their initial cost is much lower than an equivalent colour-laser, and people only see the sticker price, not the running costs. Of course, they are then caught out by the never-ending cycle of expensive inks, and they give-up and buy a new printer because it is cheaper. Nice little racket you have there!

    I always recommend people who print infrequently to purchase a laser printer (colour MFPs were quite were quite reasonably priced - before Covid!). The toner will happily sit there for yonks and simply print when you need it; plus the paper is usually contained and protected in a tray; and if you are clever, your MFP has a nice dust cover. Of course, the manufacturers have cottoned-on and the printers only include "shipping toner", which is usually 25% of a full cartridge. A full set of colour toner cartridges will also have you thinking of simply replacing the printer - once you have recovered from the heart attack! There is also the issue of obsolescence. By the time you have printed enough to need new toner cartridges, you may struggle to replace them.

  14. phuzz Silver badge

    It's not that inkjet ink has to be expensive either. Ink for commercial sign-making printers are in the region of £60 for a single colour, but that's 220ml of ink. In bigger quantities it's £125 for a one litre cartridge (although you'll need six per machine; cyan, yellow, magenta, black, and also light magenta and light cyan and white for better colour accuracy).

    These printers print on all sorts of materials, much of which is destined to be used outside on signs, so it has to be as UV proof as possible, so it's at least as specialised as ink for a desktop printer.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with third party inks is the lack of well known and reputable brands

    I would like to be able to buy inks from a reputable source that can warrant the characteristics of the inks they sell. I use an inkjet printer - a Canon pro photo printer - just to print photos, often in A3 format, on expensive paper too. The last thing I need is to risk non-reliable inks, in non-reliable cartridges, maybe recycled somehow several times. It looks that you have only expensive original inks, or very cheap ones from unknown brands.

    I agree that printer manufactures should publish the required specs, and allow to produce compatible cartridges, but I'd really wish to see reputable third-party inks brands - I know some in the US probably exists, in other countries I see mostly unknown brands, and if inks change enough between different batches it can be an issue - it means re-profile each paper used - and that has a cost too. And hoping they last as the original inks, as tested by third parties. Otherwise I prefer to buy the bullet and keep on using original inks with which I had no issues till now.

    In the film era you could choose from different suppliers of film and papers - and you knew all the major brands delivered reliable results. and you can use them in any camera because there were standards.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: The problem with third party inks is the lack of well known and reputable brands

      I would like to be able to buy inks from a reputable source that can warrant the characteristics of the inks they sell.

      Many years ago (before affordable colour lasers) we had a company push their "guaranteed" third party cartridges for HP inkjets, of which we had several. They even supplied some free samples which worked very well so we placed an order.

      A few weeks later I had to tell them to come and collect the cartridges and immediately process a full refund, failure to do so would result in a report to the Police for fraud.

      I could never prove it of course but they were repackaging genuine HP cartridges for the samples then sending their refilled ones when you ordered, they had the common problem of using a thin ink for ease of refilling with the resultant splatters on the printed pages.

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: The problem with third party inks is the lack of well known and reputable brands

      This is actually a really big problem. The 3rd party ink realm has turned into a race to the bottom. There appear to be very few good quality 3rd party inks, or at least they are invisible in the sea of mediocrity.

      Despite the ear-wateringly high price of OEM ink, it does tend to be very good quality. If their ink was reasonably priced, then I would buy it every time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem with third party inks is the lack of well known and reputable brands

      I’ve used laser printers in my home office for the past 30 years, switching to duplex colour about 15 years back as it didn’t work out much more expensive in the long run. My current one cost about £250 and just gets on with the job whenever asked. Used OEM toner for most of the time but switched to 3rd party ones last year - the OEM black cartridge developed a leak and toner went everywhere inside it. Considered a new printer* but, with nothing to lose, stripped it down for a thorough clean, dropped in a 3rd party replacement cartridge (£12) to test that the printer still worked after major surgery. Was fine, and that cartridge has stayed in, working great; my spare set, ready to fit when the warnings about low toner actually run out, is now 3rd party.

      I still have an inkjet that I just use for photos (on photo paper). That’s a situation where OEM materials can be better, especially if you need full colour calibration (and good fade resistance), but I’m trying out cheaper ones (£25 for 5 sets of 5 cartridges). Not trying to calibrate as I no longer run off prints for competition. The occasional one for display can be done through online services.

      *A new printer was actually cheaper than a full set of OEM cartridges - those in the printer are usually only half-full, at best, but it offsets the cost. Ridiculous, really, but repairs are rarely cheaper than replacement.

  16. lglethal Silver badge

    "In addition, the use of third party inks invalidates the warranty of the printer."

    This probably also goes someway to explaining why people stick with the higher priced "original" inks. Printers are notoriously unreliable. If you have a relatively expensive printer, having a working warranty is an important consideration.

    You might get cheaper ink, but if the printer than fails, and they refuse the warranty, you'll be significantly more out of pocket. That they can waive the warranty away like that just because of the ink used is really something that needs to be fixed in legislation. Imagine if the car company's tried to fix it so that if you bought one of their cars, you had to stick to one brand of petrol, or you invalidate your warranty. People would be in uproar (not to mention prices would skyrocket like ink prices have!).

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Warranty, what’s a warranty?

      I have an Epson inkjet MFD. It moans about non-Epson carts and warranties. It is also seven years old. What warranty? The warranty died years ago. Worse for Epson, I can get an eight pack of ink (two each cyan, magenta, yellow and black, all high capacity, from Amazon for under $40, while a three pack of cyan, magenta and yellow Official Epson Ink is $60 and a one pack of black OEI is $30. I can get twice as much ink for half the price from Amazon. The printer cost $160 or so, on sale at Walmart. Buying three sets of Amazon ink would keep enough money in my pocket to get a new printer. Spending a bit more would get a Brother colour laser, which I probably will get when the Epson dies. Their ink shenanigans have ensured that I won’t be buying another Epson.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Imagine if the car company's tried to fix it so that if you bought one of their cars, you had to stick to one brand of petrol, or you invalidate your warranty."

      FWIW, and I'm just being a bit picky here, but that situation does already exist. Like, for example, when unleaded petrol first came out. Or currently, where some car warrantees specify no more than E5 fuel and that's in the process of changing to E10 on the forecourts this year. (E5/10 is 5% or 10% ethanol) Although in practice, E10 should be usable in anything built since 2011, that still leave lots of cars on the road that will have to switch to so-called "premium" petrol which will remain E5 or lower.

  17. batfink

    £1369 a pint??

    Don't let my local know. Beer's expensive enough there already.

  18. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

    Balls to inkjets

    I'll stick with the LaserJet 2100 I pulled out of a skip 10 years ago, thanks (although the DeskJet 840 I had before that was built like a tank).

  19. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Last millennium...

    My criteria were a free software driver and 3rd party inks. Apart from the mostly empty cartridges the printer came with it has only been fed third party inks. The box of inks I bought about 5 years ago is running low and cartridges are now £7/set but there are continuous ink supply upgrades available...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Last millennium...

      "The box of inks I bought about 5 years ago is running low and cartridges are now £7/set but there are continuous ink supply upgrades available..."

      I ran an Epson Photo printer for a years on a CIF system. Ink bottle were cheap, way cheaper than even 3rd party replacement cartridges and it came with an adaptor to printer directly to printable CDs/DVDs which were all the rage back then. Far superior to printing on labels and sticking them on the discs :-)

      I used a laser for everything else.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Last millennium...

        > printable CDs/DVDs which were all the rage back then

        Still the rage now. Its pretty hard to find optical media that does not have a printable surface.

  20. Arandomloginid

    Even Worse…

    I had bought into the subscription plan, everything was fine. Worked out cheaper than new inks from the local shop. The cost went on my expenses…

    When I got made redundant I left the scheme. Luckily I had lots of ink left and a few ‘spare’ cartridges from the plan. Though it would tide me over tor a bit.

    The printer immediately refused to use genuine HP cartridges supplied under the plan! Scandalous! What a scam!

    1. Silver badge

      Re: Even Worse…

      Soon enough your petrol will have RFID nanobots a-swimmin' that will self-destruct and neutralize it should your 5G-enabled automobile be found to have an expired subscription to Motorhead Monthly.

  21. Anonymous Coward


    The Retail Price (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997 that obliges garages to show the price per litre of fuel should be extended to printer ink.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Mebbe

      Printing the pice per litre would use too much ink....

  22. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

    A Word for the EcoTank

    We bought an Epsom EcoTank printer before lock down. Myself and my wife both working from home as well as two kids home schooling all printing pretty much every day, and we are still not through the ink which was supplied with it for colour, and we've only used half of one new bottle (plus supplied ink) of the black.

    Oh, and the bottles only cost £10 each, or £30 for all four colours. It's never acted up significantly, certainly never blocked up, the only thing it's needed occasionally is a print head alignment.

    Of course YMMV.

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: A Word for the EcoTank

      They’re Epson. They’ll pull shenanigans. It’s what they do. When my current Epson dies, it’ll be replaced by a colour laser.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: A Word for the EcoTank

        I'll second everything in the above post...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Word for the EcoTank

      I'm still using the cartridges sold with the HP printer I bought for the first lockdown in March 2020, so my estimate is that per annum, they cost me less than my perfume (Hermès, not Chanel, though).

      I'm hoping the full replacement cartridges I bought will carry me through my retirement (or at least, the Y2038 bug).

    3. Periquet dels Palots

      Re: A Word for the EcoTank

      I bought an Ecotank too. It came with a full 250ml of black ink, and about as much color ink. It cost quite a bit more than a replaceable cartridge model, but hey, how much Chanel could I swap for all that ink?

      After 2 years and almost 3000 pages printed, more than half the black ink remants, and maybe 80% of color ink. And that's without any cartridge changes. Because Epson is not superinterested in selling me cheap ink bottles that last forever, it only uses what it needs.

      That is such a relief coming from a detestable Canon Prima that was equipped with 5 color ink cartridges plus black,. That ittle POS always mixed in every color even when printing BW documents. Every 30 pages, or so it seemed, printing stopped because the printer wanted to be fed with some color or another.

      If you don't want to be ripped off with print cartridges, avoid them altogether, and pay the vendor for what the printer costs. You cannot expect to pay 50€ for a color printer and scanner with wifi and internet and who knows, and truly believe you've covered the costs.

  23. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    This is another area where agencies that take tax payer money and are supposed to protect consumers just sit on their hands.

    The practice that companies do with ink printers should have been made illegal years ago along with the cancerous subscription models.

  24. Silver badge

    What do they put in the stuff to validate this insane cost, the blood of virgins and a spot of 1953 Chateau Lafite Rothschild?

  25. cornetman Silver badge

    If you want to print black, then it really is a no-brainer. Get a laser. The consumables don't go off (well they do eventually but toner has a fairly good shelf life).

    The colour route is less clear. Certainly the high cost of consumables for a colour laser are off-putting, if you are planning to stick with OEM consumables (which is recommended by most techies for the health of your printer) then if you print irregularly then a colour laser is also the obvious choice.

    I did use to print a *lot* of concert programmes on my old HP OfficeJet Pro 8100 and it was an excellent workhorse and fast to boot. Once that activity ceased, the clogging and general misbehaviour made it a terrible choice. Got a second hand laser and they are hard to beat.

    As a final comment, if you do a lot of printing, then a second hand office copier is great if you have the space. Patient looking on Craigslist and the like can often yield cheap or free machines and consumables are often very reasonable. Best if you can find one that has been well serviced.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "which is recommended by most techies for the health of your printer"

      In my work, yes, use OEM "because". Personally, I never buy OEM. On very rare occasions, I've seen printers with poor quality prints improve by replacing the toner cart, but generally only where the toner cart is more than just a toner hopper. The most likely fault from cheap 3rd part carts is poor seals on the mechanics and toner leaking out into the workings. But even that is pretty rare IME.

  26. Irony Deficient

    Litre of the office essential costs as much as £2,410 — up from £1,700 in 2003

    Frink tells me that £1,700 in 2003 is the equivalent of £2,747.78 today, so taking inflation into account, today’s litre at £2,410 is really 87.7% of the 2003 price in 2021 pounds.

  27. Roland6 Silver badge

    Previous Which report?

    The Which report is a little surprising, personally, I would have expected it to have referenced a previous report.

    Back in 2014 a full set of OEM inks for my new Brother printer was circa £70~80 from PCWorld/Staples with stores typically holding stock, I see Currys/PCWorld are still in the same price bracket, although only available via mail order.

    So this Which report doesn't seem to be reporting anything new about printer ink pricing.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Previous Which report?

      "although only available via mail order."

      Probably because every make, model and sub-model has it's own unique ink cartridge, no two being alike so it's not economically possible to stock the range in every branch.

  28. gryphon

    Old LaserJets

    Old HP LaserJets will just keep going and going in the main.

    4Si had a duty cycle of 75,000 pages per month, of course the feed rollers would need replaced and occasional fuser unit but they weren't that expensive proportionately.

    I also remember servicing 3Si's (for feed rollers again) which were on 1.5 million pages plus.

    More problematical were the smaller office / personal ones where you'd get people using non-laser acetate sheets or labels (remember those) which would melt onto the fuser. Kept me in a job I suppose.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old LaserJets

      The status page on my "free" LJ5 says 331k pages. I doubt I'll get to 400k before I expire, so plenty left for the next user!

      Firmware datecode says it's maybe 20 yrs old? Very clean inside, and I gave it a vacuum while I had it apart.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Old LaserJets

        "and I gave it a vacuum while I had it apart."

        Carefully, I hope!! Apart from the static charge build-up on vacuum cleaner nozzles when in use, toner powder will go straight through the filters and out the exhaust of most home vacuum cleaners.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Printer ink shouldn't cost more than a bottle of high-end Champagne

    Adam French, a consumer rights champion (wtf?!) sharing the SHOCKING revelations. Click here to subscribe to find out which champagne.

  30. Giles C Silver badge

    Printer ink isn’t as expensive as some things

    As a side note, someone pointed out that Zovirax (cold sore cream) costs £6.99 for a 2g tube.

    So that is £3495 per kilo.

    Makes ink look almost cheap……..

    1. aregross

      Re: Printer ink isn’t as expensive as some things

      But can you print with it?!?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ink tanks

    I've had my Brother colour ink tank wifi multifunction thingamajig for almost 2 years and I'm still on the first tankfuls (just).

    It stays in sleep mode, cleans the heads once a week automatically, and never complains.

    I print about 20 pages a week on average.

    Happy camper.

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