What Printer Uses the Least Amount of Ink?

by David W. Berner; Updated September 26, 2017
Computer printing can be costly.

Generally, the higher-priced printers use the most inexpensive ink cartridges and less ink. Conversely, the less expensive printers tend to require more expensive ink cartridges. In many cases, inkjet printers require more frequent ink cartridge changes than laser printers. But sometimes printers and computers that permit changes in printer settings can allow for a more economical use of ink for any printer.

Inkjet Pinrters

You can usually buy an inkjet printer for $50 or less. But overall, inkjet printers use more ink much more quickly than many other printers. For example, according to a CBS News report, the Hewlett Packard DeskJet D1660 printer is a good buy at around $40, but the cost of the cartridge is around $30 and usually prints around 200 standard print pages at a cost of about 16 cents a page. The report says many other printers yield far better cost ratios.

Laser Printers

These printers don’t actually use ink; they use toner. But it is essentially the same thing. Most laser printers are more expensive than inkjet, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars. But the ink/toner cartridges are far cheaper than most inkjet cartridges, costing just a few dollars for the smaller desktop units. The toner cartridges also tend to have a longer lifespan than inkjet cartridges, resulting in a better cost-to-print ratio.

Changing Printer Settings

Putting your printer on certain settings can save you money on ink cartridges. These settings vary from computer to computer and printer to printer. But generally you will save on ink if you navigate to the printer setting on your computer and change the default setting to “low quality.” As an example, on a Windows computer, go to Start, then Printer, then right-click. A printer settings menu will pop up. The contents here will depend on the kind of printer you have, but many will offer options of printing quality. If you do a lot of printing, choose “low quality” as the default. You can change the setting back manually as necessary.

Finding Affordable Ink

One popular way to save money on ink is to purchase generic cartridges or have your cartridges refilled either at an ink store or do it yourself. There are a number of specialty stores that exclusively sell printer cartridges and refill old ones. There are also kits you can buy showing you how to inject new ink into old cartridges on your own.

Buying the Right Printer for Your Needs

If you print only occasionally, you are probably best with buying an inkjet printer. They are inexpensive machines and reliable. But if you print frequently or if you own your own business, you may consider a monochrome laser printer. The ink costs are less than an inkjet. However, if you are printing color documents on a regular basis, your best bet is a color laser printer. They are generally the most expensive printers, but you’ll save in the long run with inexpensive ink/toner costs.

About the Author

David W. Berner is an award-winning journalist, writer and broadcaster. HIs memoir, "Accidental Lessons," was released in February 2009. His audio documentary, "Pebble Beach Stories," celebrates the ties between golfers and famed California golf links. Berner has covered stories as diverse as the 2008 presidential election to coyote sightings in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

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