Five Ways to $ave on Ink – We Analyze Ink-Saving Programs, Strategies, Technology, and Printers

Our Analysis

Epson – There’s no doubt that the Epson CISS-equipped printer is by far the most economical printer of the group at any print volume and can save you as much as about $2,200 in a three-year period compared to the next most-economical printer in the group. It can also save users as much as approximately $5,100 over a comparable Epson printer that’s not equipped with CISS.

HP – The HP printer with HP Instant Ink is the second-most economical among the group. We of course recommend HP printers and All-in-Ones that are eligible for the Instant Ink program, and that you subscribe to the program, as it can save you as much as approximately $2,650 over a three-year period versus the same printer that’s not enrolled in the Instant Ink program.

Brother – The Brother INKvestment printer model is the third-most economical in the group. When shopping for Brother printers, it’s definitely worth it to spend the extra $50 or so and purchase an INKvestment model, as it can save you as much as approximately $430 over a three-year period over its non-INKvestment equivalent. If you print very low volumes (see below) and are not interested in ink programs or CISS, you can save approximately $2,000/$1,678 over a three-year period if you choose the MFC-J6920 over its Epson/HP counterparts.

As This Relates to Monthly Print Volume – With TCO spreads of approximately $100/$155 at 50/100 pages per month, it appears that just about any of the printers will do the trick and it boils down to how often you’ll have to shop for and install new ink cartridges.

Business-As-Usual Printers – This study proves that old-school printers with the “razors-and-blades” marketing strategy are effectively dead in-the-water for business use where print volumes exceed 100 pages per month.

Keep in Mind – All printers have different features sets, which means that some are better for your applications than others. For example, some can scan and print with A3/US Ledger-sized documents, some are better at printing photos, some have touch screens for much easier use, some are easier to manage over the network, while others are better for scanning and document distribution. This means that ultimately, the most economical printer may not be the most suitable for your actual needs.

We offer a wealth of information on this Web site (Hands-On Test Reports, reviews, product comparisons, product announcements, etc.) that analyze the capabilities of virtually every printer. So, we recommend that you start your research here by using the site-search and category boxes located in the top of the right-side bar. Once you’ve selected the printers with your ideal functionality, narrow them down by selecting the most economical of the group. You can also download and use our TCO worksheet that we hope can help you finalize your decision.

Five Ways to Save on Ink (Ranked)

  1. Buy any Epson printer that has an Epson factory-installed CISS. Note that there are several different models with different price breaks and capabilities.
  2. Buy HP printers that are Instant Ink-eligible and subscribe to the HP Instant Ink Program. There’s a wide range of Instant-Ink capable printers available from HP.
  3. Buy a Brother INKvestment model. There’s a limited number of INKvestment models to choose from. However, if you print very low volumes and/or don’t want to get involved with ink tanks or programs, Brother’s non INKvestment models have an industry low cost of ink.
  4. Print less. Bookmark Web pages and archive emails and PDFs, but don’t print them. Our study shows that printers with new ink programs and technologies don’t achieve significant savings if used at print volumes less that 100 pages per month. If you limit printing with your existing printer, you’ll extend its useful life and save ink and money.
  5. Finally, you can also achieve significant savings by managing your printed output by printing in black-only, grayscale, or draft modes. Black ink is far cheaper than color ink; grayscale printing uses significantly less color ink; draft mode uses significantly less overall ink; while black-only and grayscale draft modes use the least and second-least ink possible. Go into your printer folder, right-click on the printer, and select “Preferences.” From there you can set your quality/color modes and they become the default. Then, from that point on, when you need to print using the best quality, select “Printer Properties” before you print and select either “Normal” or “Best.”

UPDATE: This post has been updated with the more economical pricing and yields for Brother MFC-J6920 XXL ink. The previous version of this post was based on pricing and yields for MFC-J6920 XL ink.

Additional Resources

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