Cheapest Printer Ink

The Cheapskate's Guide to Printing

Melissa Riofrio was the first editor of PC World's Top 10 Printers. Yardena Arar is a senior editor for PC World. Special thanks to Jim Aspinwall, Gary Funk, Robert Luhn, and Rick Scheerer.

Whether your printer costs $40 or $400, the purchase price is only the first item on your new list of ongoing printing expenses. Over time, buying the ink or toner and acquiring media (paper, envelopes, transparencies) will very likely make a far bigger impact on your wallet. These costs will vary depending on what you print, how much you print, and what kind of media you use. Some expenses are unavoidable: Printing an 8-by-10 photo on premium, glossy paper will never be dirt cheap. Shaving cents off of other kinds of printing, however, involves just a little thought, effort, and advance planning. Read on for tips on how to choose and use your printer wisely-or perhaps not at all in some cases.

Know Before You Buy

Saving money on printing starts (ideally) before you buy the printer. Before you begin researching new models, make sure that you'll be getting the best printer for the types of documents you plan to produce. For more on the criteria you should use, see "The Right Printer for the Job, " and read our comparison of pricing versus print quality trade-offs in "The Best and the Cheapest." Once you start looking at specific models, make a point of checking the recommended print volume; if you typically print 100 pages a day, for example, don't buy a printer that's rated for 500 pages a month.

How much is that cartridge in the window? Replacement ink or toner cartridge costs represent a major part of your long-term printing expenses. As we learned when we researched Hewlett-Packard's $40 Deskjet 3520 (see "$40 Printer, $40 Ink"), replacing the cartridges can cost as much as buying the printer (see "Pay It Again, Sam: Ink Costs Can Dwarf Printer Prices"). In general, expect to pay $10 to $40 for an ink cartridge, and $60 or more for a toner cartridge.

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FAQ

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What is the cheapest printer ink?

Kodak - 10 Inkjet Cartridge - Black is $9.99 at Best Buy. Kodak makes some of the cheapest inks.

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