How To Get The Cheapest Printer Ink Cartridges

by , Last Updated: 11 November 2014

We show you how you can save money when buying new ink cartridges for your printer.

Ink cartridges inside printer

When buying a new ink cartridge for your printer costs as much as buying the printer itself, it's hard to believe you are getting value for money. High street prices for new printer ink cartridges generally start from at least 20, which can seem a hefty sum to pay, especially if you use your printer frequently and find yourself having to fork out for this every month or so.

The cheaper alternative to buying branded ink cartridges on the high street is to buy generic ones online instead. Although many sites that offer cheap ink cartridges aren't worth a look, there are plenty of others that offer good quality cartridges at much more affordable prices than high-street varieties - and they'll deliver the same high performance.

You can also save money on your ink-expenditure by refilling your old cartridges, and even make money by recycling them.

Where should I buy online?

The best places to buy online will offer prices that rival those on the high street, but also give you good deals on delivery, and information on finding the right cartridge for your printer that is easy to follow. The generic cartridges offered on these sites are often half the price of branded products. Many stock remanufactured cartridges, which is when empty cartridges are professionally cleaned, refilled, and repackaged for re-sale.

Here are some printer cartridge websites to try:

  • Cartridge Save - free delivery, a 30 day money-back guarantee, and prices start at around 15.
  • IJT Direct - cartridges for a wide range of printers, and prices start at around 11.
  • Ink Factory - free delivery on orders of 10 or more, and prices start from around 14.
  • Refresh Cartridges - free delivery, and prices start at around 8 for remanufactured cartridges.
  • - a huge range of hundreds of cartridges for as little as 7.50.
  • Phoenix Direct - extremely low prices starting at 3.99, and free UK delivery.

How will I know which cartridge to buy?

First, you'll need to have a look at the printer you're using and find its brand and model number. For example, the brand could be Lexmark, Epsom, or Hewlett-Packard, and so on. The model number will usually be clearly marked on your printer and will look something like Z601 or SP9500.

Then, use your chosen printer cartridge website to find the cartridge that will be compatible with printer. For example, if you are looking for a Canon Bubble Jet i250, you can either find this in the 'Canon' area of the website or by simply typing the model number 'i250' into the search box. You can then choose if you want a black or colour cartridge - most sites should stock both, and the black-only cartridge will be cheaper.

How will I know if they'll work in my printer?

As long as you correctly identify the model number and brand of your printer, and choose your printer cartridge accordingly, you should get a cartridge that is as compatible with your printer as one you might have bought on the high street.

Cartridges bought online should also offer the same quality as those bought on the high street, as long as you buy the correct model. To give you peace of mind many online cartridge merchants will offer you a money-back guarantee if you aren't completely satisfied.

Do make sure to check the legitimacy of the website before you buy, however.

More ways to save on your ink costs

Re-filling your old ink cartridges

Instead of buying a brand new ink cartridge, you can choose to have your empty ones refilled at a fraction of the cost. This can be done by taking your old ink cartridges to stores such as Cartridge World, where they will refill your cartridges with ink for you.

You can also refill your cartridge yourself, by purchasing a refill kit from a stationery shop such as WHSmith or Staples. This should come with instructions telling you exactly how to go about refilling your own cartridges.

Recycling your old ink cartridges

You can also recycle your ink cartridges by sending them to sites such as Cash for Cartridges, who pay 3 per cartridge.

With sites such as these, you open a recycling scheme with them and send off your empty ink cartridges. They then pay you for the number of ink cartridges you have sent to them each month by cheque. This can be a good way to do your bit for the environment and make a little pocket money for your trouble.

Finally, a tried and tested home method that can get extra life out of ailing printer cartridges is to just give it a good shake - this should prolong the amount of ink for a little longer, at least.


The advice in this article seems to me generally helpful but I am not so sure that there are "plenty" of generic ink cartridges available on line that "deliver the same high performance" as those referred to as high street varieties - presumably meaning the ones sold under the name of the printer manufacturer.

The Consumer Association's Which? has tested, compared and reported on quite a number of ink cartridges intended for specific printers and obtained from various on line suppliers. I was interested only in those for the old HP Deskjet printer I have just taken back into use. Although much cheaper than the HP branded cartridges, none of the generic ones they tested performed as well. Some from very well known sources gave such poor results that they were not considered worth buying. Only one colour cartridge came close to giving as good a result with photographs as did the equivalent HP one. I wish I had seen this report sooner, but now intend to try a comparison myself!

by Anonymous, 4 Sep 2009

Never mind CW they drill open your cartridges. Use INKE Cartridge Saverstore. Generic Cartridges at Internet prices and refills in a great vacuum based sytem not opened and glued up.

by inke, 31 Aug 2012

i am not interested, theres no subsitute for Quality..... as a graphic design student i had to have the best quality Colour Reproduction, so i had an epson printer and cartridges..even my tutor remarked how surprisingly excellent the colour was in my pictures

by maggi0, 1 Aug 2013

HOW do you give an ailing printer cartridge a good shake, haha ...
pick up the printer and shake it,
once the cartridge is out it cant go back in.. :)

by maggi0, 11 Oct 2013

Compatibles in 2014 are far better than they used to be. As long as you avoid cheap Chinese imports and go for reputable brands such as Jet Tec or Internet-ink ( Abitech) you'll find reliable cartridges, excellent colours and more pages for your money. The only downside is fade resistance, which the best companies will admit isn't as good as using a combination of the same manufacturer's printer, ink and paper. (But what happens if one of those items isn't from the same manufacturer? I've never seen comment on that). For everyday purposes, and reasonably long- lasting prints good compatibles are unbeatable economy.
If you want archival quality, go for OEM ink and printer and print on archival paper (standard manufacturer's paper isn't archival though still expensive).
I use Internet-ink cartridges and Ilford paper. I've had framed prints in a north-facing room for up to five years that still look good. The ink comes from a German factory which runs basic tests on print fading with their inks and which is trying to close the gap between their product and 'original' inks and is probably slowly succeeding. I'm sure that the likes of Jet Tec do the same.
What would help us all is a thorough, independent test of compatible inks from the major producers and retailers on different papers on different machines, including fade-resistance tests. Compatibles can be cheap and nasty or cheap and good.

by Indy1, 5 months ago

People have a choice to make between Genuine, Compatible, Re-filling or Continuous Ink Systems. It generally depends on what printer they have and how much money they have, as to what choice is 'best' for each individual.

A standard home user or small business would probably be better off using compatibles (or remanufactured if their printer is a 2 tank only affair).

Those that are a bit more 'techy' than the average home user may opt for continuous ink system to save many even further.

Those using higher end 'graphical' printers for businesses, photography prints etc are more likely to want/be able to spend £250 a pop on a set of 8/10/12 inks for their £500+ printer, and will nine times out of ten, opt for Genuine cartridges.

I've never seen enough difference between compatible's and genuine's to warrant the excessive expense personally.

by LegoHead, 3 months ago
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