Why is Printer Ink Expensive?

ink expensiveWhy is printer ink expensive? Many years ago, wireless phone companies started offering subsidies on new devices to induce customers to sign long-term contracts. Nearly a century ago, Gillette gave away razors at reduced prices in order to increase the sales of their high-end razors. But when it comes to ink jet printers, it’s often much cheaper to replace a printer than to replace the cartridges for it.

Often when you buy a new inkjet printer, whether HP, Epson or whatever, they’re relatively cheap. For $50 or less you can buy a pretty decent inkjet printer that will serve your home printing needs well. But there’s a reason why the inkjet printers are cheap. Your newly purchased inkjet printer comes with only half-empty cartridge, that will run out or dry up within a few months after purchase. That being said, when it’s time to get new ink jet cartridges for your printer, you’ll likely pay more for the set than what you paid for the initial printer purchase.

Even though the predictions are optimistic of a paperless world, we seem to be printing as much as ever. Reading long documents on a screen is no picnic. My desk is full of printouts. Also, many companies now charge you for mailing paper bills, forcing you to print copies yourself if you need more than an electronic record.

It’s Expensive Because It Can Be Expensive

HP one of the most recognized IT companies, dominates the market for printers and ink – HP has a 42 per cent market share, more than the next two competitors combined. So, why does printer ink cost more than the printer it self?

There’s a a reasons, and it has very little to do with the cost of the ink, but rather the answer lies in the marketing. Printer ink is so expensive because manufacturers can make it that expensive. It costs more than it should.

But there’s more to this.

Aside from good marketing, ink also happens to be one of the most expensive liquids anywhere in the world. Do you know how expensive regular printer ink costs by the gallon? I’ll bet you did not know that you could buy one gallon of black printer ink for the same price as 982 cartons of milk! You can buy 742 bottles of hand lotion for the same cost as a gallon of black printer ink! The graphic below illustrates that.

printer ink expensive

Ink technology is expensive to develop, and you pay for reliability and image quality. These liquids are completely different from a technology standpoint and users concerned about cost per page can buy “XL” ink cartridges from developers such as HP that last two to three times longer.

Possible Solutions

Most ink jet consumers avoid the awful price of a new cartridge by using places such as the local dollar store which fills my cartridge for half the price. But what most don’t consider is that the print quality is awful and refilled cartridges last 50% less than brand new ink jet cartridges. Why? Technology of course. Those little micro chips you see on the ink jet cartridges work in sync with the printer. and most are one or two use and done.

The other solution (and my favorite) is to just buy a laser printer, and problem solved. I bought a HP laser printer for for $110 + tax, comes with a drum that will print thousands of pages. And toner is much cheaper than ink any day. Laser printers don’t jam or dry up, because toner is a dry powdery solution already. Some of you will argue that toner is expensive as well, and I agree with you. However, the yield on a toner cartridge is much larger than the one of an inkjet.

Lastly, you can tweak the settings on your computer and adjust the resolution on your printing. So, rather than full rich prints for home use, you can decrease the resolution by up to 50% per print.

Final Thoughts

There’s no point refilling your own or paying someone to refill it for you when you can get a brand new 3rd party replacement for that cheap. It is true that using 3rd party ink can impact print quality or the life of your printer. But if you buy well-reviewed quality ink, you shouldn’t have much of a problem. And even if it breaks after 2-3 uses of cheap ink, you can buy a brand spanking new printer for less than $50 anyway – no big loss!

But since I gave up on printer ink expensive ways long time ago by upgrading to a laser printer I haven’t looked back since. Maybe it’s something that you should look into for you everyday black&white printing.

Readers, Do you still use ink jet printers? Have you or would you upgrade to a laser printer?

Thanks for stopping by.



  1. That is an interesting info graphic. I never thought about it much, but it makes sense. I don’t print much, so I never calculated.
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  2. I have a printer and I take the cartriges to Island Ink Jet for inexpensive refilling.

    I don’t print much anymore and I send larger jobs to a local business supply store to save my ink, my time and to keep my stress level at a minimum.

    I am technologically challenged and printing has always been a terrible ordeal accompanied by cuss words and threats directed at an inanimate object that prints on my command but I can never figure out the commands.
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  3. OMG! I hate buying printer ink. We recently got rid of a printer that was horrible. We had to change the ink after printing like 20 pages. Half of the time, it didn’t even work. Ugh! I hated that d@mn thing!
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  4. Ahh the good old theory of Supply Vs Demand!
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  5. Good post Eddie. We use an inkjet and HATE buying new cartridges, I never thought of how expensive it is to make, etc. We’ve tried getting them refilled in the past but almost never works as a solution and becomes more of a hassle. Thankfully we don’t print a whole lot so the expense occurs very infrequently.
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  6. I see all your points from a PF point of view, but I think it’s kind of ridiculous to be telling people that “you can just buy another printer anyway!”

    It’s that kind of attitude that makes our culture so disposable in terms of being able to just toss a printer in the garbage because you ruined it from buying cheap printer ink, when you should be buying the real stuff.

    Can you imagine saying that for a car?

    “I used cheap gas, and it made my motor overheat and burn on long distances, but who cares? I can just BUY another car, and keep paying for cheap gas.”

    (And that’s a true story, we bought cheap gas from an Indian reserve and it almost ruined our car before we realized that it was making our motor smoke. We’ve since gone back to the franchised brands for gas stations).

    Alternatively, pay for it sheet at Staples or something and print as little as possible.

    I HATE buying ink cartridges myself, but it’s a necessary evil, and I try to limit my printing, especially to just black and white.
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  7. I stopped using inkjet printers ages ago, mainly for the reasons you mentioned! I bought a low end HP laser printer. The toner that came with the printer lasted me 5 freaking years – this is through university, printing gobs of notes every week! After that, the print quality started going down and I eventually replaced the toner a few years ago. Still going strong though!
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  8. You’re right – the cost per page on laser is a lot lower than ink. And laser doesn’t dry out. Our print quantity on the sole ink jet printer we have has gone down so much that the ink has dried out. We now only use it for scanning now.

    And the growth of scanning/emailing has also decreased the need for a fax machine. Any more, I’d just as soon prefer using a PDF on my computer to paper.

  9. We bought a LASER printer for our office last year. We were spending several hundred dollars a month in ink, which is ironic because we are all electronic now, but people still need statements and receipts, I guess.
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  10. I’d rather pay for an expensive laser printer for just one time, rather than having to pay expensive ink cartridges many times. I am actually into laser printing these days.

  11. I refilled the same ink cartridges so many times, it eventually got to the point where they told me I needed to get new ink cartridges. They somehow managed to get so dried out. We finally got a laser printer and I will definitely start using it to print stuff. If and when I need to print stuff, that is.
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  12. Hey, we have a printer that’s even cheaper than a laser printer. It’s dot matrix and uses ribbons! Yes, you have to leave the room while it prints. Who cares? I always need more tea anyway. (Ok, we do have another printer too. But you’d be surprised how much we use the dot matrix!)

    Another interesting calculation is the price per pound for Tic Tac breath mints. Quite breath taking!