How to save money with HP Instant Ink and other low-cost printer ink programs


Cost-saving ink strategies

One of the most common complaints about printers is that ink is too expensive. You can invest a lot of money in replacing cartridges, which all too often have limited capacity and run out quickly. In general, the more expensive the printer, the lower the ink costs. Often times, budget inkjet and all-in-one printers have the highest cost per printed page, reminiscent of the old strategy of giving the razor away to get you on the blades.

The good news is that most of the major printer manufacturers in recent years have adopted inkjet printers at an unbelievably low cost of ownership, using different strategies. HP sells ink through multiple subscription plans through its Instant Ink program, which enables significant savings in color costs. Other companies, including Brother, Epson, and Canon, have similar (though not subscription-based) cost-saving initiatives.


HP Instant Ink: Subscription-Based Savings

HP launched its subscription-based Instant Ink program in 2013 and has since grown to more than 8 million subscribers. It supports a large number of HP inkjet printer series, and has also been expanded to include toner for laser printers. Signing up for the Instant Ink program is built into the set-up process, where you can choose between Instant Ink plans or opt for the traditional model of buying ink at retail or online when you run low. Instant Ink-enabled printers span a wide range of printer types, both home and office models, and include Editors’ Choice models such as the OfficeJet Pro 9015e and Envy Pro 6452 All-in-One.

When you sign up for an HP Instant Ink plan, you pay a monthly fee to print a set number of pages per month. The plans are based on the number of pages you print, not how many ink cartridges you use. Your monthly fee pays for ink, shipping, and recycling of used cartridges. A printed page does not matter whether it is a black and white document, a color document or a photo.

Instant Ink subscribers can choose from five tiers, all at monthly rates: $ 1.25 for up to 15 pages, $ 3.99 for up to 50 pages, $ 5.99 for up to 100 pages, $ 13.99 for up to 300 pages and $ 28.99 for up to 700 pages. The 15-page tier used to be free, and customers who already had this plan still don’t have to pay a monthly fee, but new subscribers do. If you’re printing more than your quota, automatically purchase sets of 10 to 50 pages for $ 1.25 (pages per set vary by plan). If you don’t use up all of your pages in a month, you can extend a month’s pages to advertise on pages that exceed your monthly quota. HP calls its service a subscription, but you don’t have a contract and you can cancel your plan or switch to another at any time.

HP points out potentially significant cost savings compared to the traditional single ink cartridge payment model. The cost per page ranges from 8.3 cents per page for the lowest plan to 4 cents per page for the premium plan. Since the plans don’t differentiate between black and color pages, Instant Ink can save you a lot of money if your primarily color printing is used. Be aware, however, that if you don’t use all the pages allotted or frequently print more pages than your plan allows, your savings can be dramatically reduced. If your main printing is in black and white, you can actually save money by buying cartridges the old fashioned way.

HP uses “smart” cartridges that monitor your ink usage and the number of pages printed, and automatically send you replacement when your ink runs low. Your printer must be connected to the internet for the ink cartridges to record the ink and page data and transmit it to HP, and you may not be able to print if it is offline for an extended period of time. If you cancel your subscription, your Instant Ink cartridges will be deactivated and you will have to purchase standard cartridges in order to use your printer again.

For laser printers, HP offers five similar tier monthly toner plans ranging from $ 2.99 for up to 50 pages to $ 36.99 for up to 1,500 pages.

The best HP Instant Ink printers


HP Smart Tank Plus Bulk Ink Printer

Starting in 2019, HP has embarked on another path to offer its customers inexpensive ink with the Smart Tank Plus 551 and Smart Tank Plus 651. These cordless all-in-ones come with up to two years of ink bottles that you add to the printer’s reservoirs when they run out. Additional ink is also sold at a steep discount. The cost per page is roughly 0.3 cents for black pages and 0.9 cents per color page, in line with similar offerings from Epson and Canon that we will discuss shortly. The catch is that you pay a heavy upfront price for these printers, and the two models above are relatively sparsely equipped. We hope that future models can be more feature-rich.

HP Smart Tank Plus 551 Printer with ink bottles

In the same vein, HP launched the Neverstop line of refillable toner laser printers in 2020, including the Editors’ Choice Award-winning Neverstop Laser MFP 1202w.

The best HP Neverstop and Smart Tank Plus printers


Brother’s INKvestment Tank: long-range cartridges

Brother is saving businesses (including home offices) a pretty penny with its INKvestment Tank all-in-one printers that use low-cost, high-yield ink cartridges. Most of these printers use the same set of cartridges, with the black cartridge having a claimed yield of 3,000 pages and each color cartridge having a yield of 1,500 pages. Brother has produced a number of excellent INKvestment Tank Printers including the Editors’ Choice Brother MFC-J6945DW. Running costs are less than one cent per page for black printing and less than one cent per page for color printing.

Brother INKvestment printer with ink cartridges

The best Brother INKvestment tank printers


Epson EcoTank and SuperTank printers

Epson launched its first EcoTank printers in 2015 and continues to introduce new models, including everything from simple small office equipment (Epson EcoTank ET-2760) to more expensive, feature-rich options (Epson EcoTank ET-4760 of Editors’ Choice ). For most of these models, Epson sells bottled ink that you can fill into reusable tanks that are attached to or built into the printer. The highest capacity SuperTank printers use ink bags that are similar to infusion bags and are attached to clips in a slot. There is no need to pour ink on these models; You just need to make sure the ink bags are securely in place.

Epson EcoTank printer with ink bottles

Regardless of whether the ink comes in bottles or sachets, it has an extremely low cost per page, around 0.3 cents per black and white page and 0.9 cents per color page. One caveat is that the initial purchase price for these printers is very high considering their features and performance. Even if they come with enough ink to last a long time, you pay a sizable premium upfront.

Recommended by our editors

Don’t worry about ink spilling from bottles into tanks. With the various EcoTank printers that I have tested, the worst that has happened is I got a drop or two on my hands, which is a small price to pay for the amazing ink cost savings you can get after running through Your initial ink allocation.

The running costs of standard Epson inkjet printers have also decreased, with many selling black ink for less than a dime per page and color ink for less than a dime per page. This is low enough for many personal and business uses. Before making an upfront investment in an EcoTank printer, make sure that the printer you purchase is the most appropriate model for your needs. Here’s how to choose the best printer for your needs.

The best Epson EcoTank Pro printers


Canon MegaTank ink bottle printer

In late 2016, Canon launched its first MegaTank G-Series ink bottle printers, which are very similar to Epson offerings in terms of concept and cost savings. Designed for home or home office use (or both), these printers have a modest feature set for their upfront pricing; The real advantage is the astonishingly low running costs (0.3 cents per page for black ink, 0.8 to 0.9 cents per color page). This, combined with their excellent print quality – including the high quality photo prints Canon is known for – makes the MegaTank models a welcome addition to the ranks of low-ink-cost printers. Canon has steadily expanded its MegaTank range in recent years: The Pixma G5020, Pixma G6020 and Pixma G7020 have each earned our Editors’ Choice award.

Canon MegaTank printer with an open tank

The best Canon MegaTank printers


Inexpensive ink is the future

Readers of our printer reviews are still complaining about the high cost of printing, but the noise has died down in recent years thanks to these bulk ink and subscription ink approaches. Market pressures are likely to continue to keep ink costs down on at least the most popular printer lines, and printer manufacturers are likely to extend the savings to a wider range of models. There are now models with low ink costs for a wide variety of applications, from home and home office printing (including photo printing) to medium-sized business printing. With a little luck, complaining about ink prices will soon be a thing of the past.

Check out the different bulk ink models on our list of the best inkjet printers, and if you’re still wondering whether to buy an inkjet or a laser printer, broaden your search to include the bulk toner types in to include our laboratory-tested offers for the best printers.

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