Why is printer ink so expensive? – Simple explanation

One of the most frustrating things about inkjet printers is that the ink costs can stack up pretty quickly. This isn’t necessarily true for all ink printers, but the majority of them made by the main brands like Epson and HP can end up costing you quite a bit over the course of their lifetime.

But why exactly is printer ink so expensive, and does it really warrant its cost? And are there ways that you can avoid paying out high prices for your printer ink? Well, that’s what we’ll be looking at today.

Why is printer ink so expensive?

The reality is that printer companies make the ink quite expensive because it allows them to sell the actual printer at a lower cost. So, you may buy the printer for a fairly reasonable price, and then you have to commit to purchasing their ink cartridges; this is where printer companies really make their money.

You may see this type of selling strategy referred to as the razor and razor blades model, which uses a very similar principle. The idea is that you get sucked in by buying a cheap printer, and then spend more money on the ink cartridges than your initial investment.

You may only spend £30 or £40 on a printer, but typically it’ll come with limited ink supplies. Then, after a few months when you run out, you need to top up again. This isn’t the case for all printers, but it is how it works with the majority of them.

For many people it isn’t much of a problem, as they only print occasionally, and may only need to buy new cartridges yearly, or even less than this. If you only print once or twice a month, a low cost printer is perfect for your needs.

However, if you’re printing in volume, then high ink costs can really hit your bank balance, and you can end up spending more on ink than the printer itself within a few years. There are ways that you can help to reduce your effective printing costs, however.

How to avoid paying high ink prices

If you’re sick and tired of paying £30, £40 or even £50 for your ink cartridges, then there are ways that you can try to avoid paying these high prices. This might depend on the printer that you choose to use, but there’s also some things that you can do if you’ve already got a printer that has a high running cost.

Here’s just a few ideas which you can use to help reduce your overall printing expenses.

Use refill cartridges


Although all the big companies will warn you off using refilled ink cartridges, they do work well in most cases. Whilst companies have introduced a microchip into the cartridge making it more difficult for resellers to do this, there are still ways around it.

Often, you can syringe new ink into an older printer cartridge, and this can allow you to pay a lot less for your ink. You can typically find refill cartridges for sale online at a pretty reasonable price. They’re one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of printer ink.

Opt for a laser printer instead


If you don’t have to print in colour, then it’s definitely worth considering opting for a laser printer instead of an ink one. Why? Well, typically laser printers are more expensive than ink printers in the beginning, as the unit itself costs more than an inkjet printer.

However, a laser printer uses toner instead of printer ink, which is actually cheaper. Over the course of a month, you might not notice the difference in price. But over the course of years, you’re likely to save quite a bit by using a laser printer instead (probably enough to offset the cost of the printer in the first place).

This is why in the majority of offices, universities and other similar environments, you’ll find a large laser printer as opposed to a smaller ink one. I’d advise checking out some Brother printers if you’re interested in getting this type of printer.

Sign up to a subscription service

For the majority of people, I don’t recommend signing up to a subscription service (like HP Instant Ink). However in some cases, it can definitely make sense to use a subscription service instead of buying new ink cartridges.

Why? Well, typically these services work on a per page basis instead of charging for ink as it’s used. This means that if you print photos in full colour, then this is the same cost from your subscription as a text document in black ink.

So, for people who print in colour on a regular basis, you can save some money by using a subscription service. They start from as little as £2 or £3 per month too.

Do your research first

As always with any tech product, you should do a little research before you buy it. This isn’t some in depth mission you need to go on – usually just checking the reviews of the printer before you buy it can help a lot.

This can help you know what to expect when you actually buy a printer, and you can account for your expenses over the year. When you’re considering getting an inkjet printer, this is definitely one of the first things to think about.

Buy an Ink Tank Printer


Another way that you can reduce your overall printing costs is to buy a refillable ink tank printer. Although they are initially more expensive, in the long term they can end up saving you a lot of money.

Ink tank printers are generally increasing in their popularity, as users try and find a way to minimize their office outgoings each month. They can cost less than 50% of the price of using a standard ink cartridge, so it’s quite easy to see why they’re popular.

Opt for a certain brand

It’s no secret that some printer brands are very expensive, whilst others are more reasonably priced when it comes to ink. Typically, brands like Epson and HP have some of the most expensive ink costs out there.

If you compare this to the two other well known printer brands, Canon and Brother, they actually come out much cheaper in comparison. So, making sure you’ve got a printer that doesn’t have high costs is a good idea before you buy it.

Are ink costs justified?

There are those that think that high ink costs are actually justified by the big companies – obviously, the main people who think this are the companies themselves. And whilst they do probably charge too much, producing printing ink isn’t that easy.

A printer needs to drop thousands of droplets of ink onto a printer with precision accuracy, so we know that the technology behind them has probably been quite expensive to make. And much of printer companies cash gets spent on further research and development.

Whilst this may not entirely explain why HP, Epson and Canon’s printer ink is so expensive, it can definitely be factored into the price.


The reality is that high ink prices have been part of the printer industries method to making money for decades now. There are ways that you can navigate around the high prices and make things a little easier for yourself financially.

However in some cases, we just have no choice but to accept that printer companies set the market rate at what it is. The business model of the printer is typically low initial outlay with steady ink costs over time.

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About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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