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Are cheap printers worth it?

Our lab tests reveal if a cheap printer is really worth buying, or whether it will end up costing you more in the long run

Are cheap printers worth it?

When choosing a printer, you might be tempted to go for the one that costs the least. But the reality is that you could spend far more on ink or toner than you initially paid for your printer.

This means that knowing what your running costs are going to be is just as important, if not more so, than what’s on the price tag. That’s why we tell you what our estimated running costs are for every model we put through our rigorous lab tests – so you can easily compare costs and won’t get caught out.

We take a look at some of the latest and cheapest ink cartridge, ink tank and mono laser printers to see what you can expect when it comes to features and long-term costs.

Don’t want to pay through the nose for a pricey printer or get stung with high running costs? See our expert pick of the best cheap printers to buy and run

Four cheap printers

Below are four currently available printers and their key features – two ink cartridges, an ink tank and an inkjet model. Each is at the cheaper end of the spectrum for their type, showing that even when it comes to ‘cheap’ printers there’s a lot of price variation.

It’s impossible to know by looking at the specs just how efficient or wasteful a printer can be, or how much you’ll need to spend on replacement cartridges. That’s why we publish detailed information in our expert printer reviews on running costs for every printer we test.

Our research has highlighted time and time again that often there’s more to saving money on a printer than buying the cheapest one.

Of course, running costs aren’t everything – particularly if you only need to print occasionally or, conversely, if you are prepared to pay for the best quality. Nor does it take into account how quick or noisy a printer might be. Scroll down past our table to find out more about each printer we tested.

Printer Price Nine-year running costs* Total
Canon MG3650S £40 £603.72 £643.72
HP DeskJet 2720e £54.99 £214.92** £269.91
HP Smart Tank Plus 555 £175 £22.68 £197.68
Brother DCP-L2510D £135.99 £204.48 £340.47

*Based on printing 20 pages of black text and 10 colour images (or black and white images for mono printer) every month

**Running cost based on using HP Instant Ink subscription service (keep reading for more information)

Canon MG3650S £40

Canon MG3650S
  • All-in-one colour ink cartridge
  • Double sided printing
  • No document feeder

This cartridge printer is about as cheap as printers get – and it comes with some handy features, like double-sided printing and a scanner/copier. Most cartridge models are expensive to run, and this is no exception.

We estimate you’ll spend around £67.08 a year on ink. Printers last an average of nine years – meaning you could find yourself spending an eye-watering £603.72 over the life of the printer.

See how well it prints, scans and copies in our full Canon MG3650S review.

HP DeskJet 2720e £54.99

  • All-in-one colour ink cartridge
  • No double-sided printing
  • No document feeder

This printer is compatible with HP’s Instant Ink service, where ink is delivered automatically when you need it for a monthly fee. If you were to buy your own ink, this model would set you back a whopping £97.92 a year, or £881.28 over the lifetime of the printer.

Printing the same number of pages with an ink subscription would currently cost closer to £23.88 a year, or £214.92 over the printer’s life. You’ll be at HP’s mercy if it decides to raise its prices in that time, though.

Interested in an Instant Ink subscription? Read our full HP DeskJet 2720e review to see how this model fared in our test lab.

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HP Smart Tank Plus 555 (£175)

HP Smart Tank 555
  • All-in-one colour ink tank
  • No double-sided printing
  • No document feeder

Ink tank printers, which use refillable ink reservoirs instead of cartridges, tend to be more expensive to buy but much cheaper to run. We estimate this model will cost just £2.52 a year to run, or £22.68 over the lifetime of the printer.

The most expensive ink tank printers can cost well over £600 – which might make you question whether this one prints well enough to justify the long-term savings.

Read our full HP Smart Tank Plus 555 review to see how well it performs.

Brother DCP-L2510D – £135.99

Brother DCP-L2510D
  • All-in-one mono laser
  • Double-sided printing
  • No document feeder

Like most laser printers, this model is mono – meaning it can’t print in colour. Laser printers are usually at their best when churning through reams of black and white text, though. So that might not be a problem for you.

Home laser printers tend to sit between ink cartridge and ink tank printers in terms of both price and running costs.

This model costs around £17.04 a year to run, or £204.48 over the lifetime of the printer.

See how well it prints in our full Brother DCP-L2510 review.

Still not sure which printer type to go for? See our detailed guide on how to buy the best printer.


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