Need small color printer for occasional use: how do I not get ripped off w/ink cartridge scam?

Title pretty much says it all. I know printers are cheap, but they bugger you on printer ink/cartridges.

Any suggestions for good ones? I’m in the US, btw.

Read the Consumer Reports Printer Buying Guide

I can’t give too much information that’s subscriber only. Canon Pixma MX472 and Brother MFC-J870DW are two you might want to look at.

You can buy refilled and counterfeit cartridges off of ebay. In many cases the print quality is as good as the official cartridges.

Another thing they sell on ebay, albeit not appropriate in your case, is a “continuous ink system”. This is a kit that includes hacked cartridges that will always report to your printer that they are full and these bottles of ink. A hose goes from the bottles of ink to each cartridge. With this setup you never have to change cartridges and you can purchase inexpensive bulk ink by the liter.

We switched to a laser printer for exactly that reason. The published per page costs are higher, but we never have ink cartridges dry out.

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

I solved the problem by choosing candidate models of inkjet printer, then researching whether I could buy third party refillable cartridges for them (and eliminating the candidates for which no refillables were available).

I ended up buying an Epson SX438W, then a set of refillable carts from ebay - now I just buy concertina bottles of ink (they have their own syringe needle built in) - and the ink cost is about 1/25th of original prefilled cartridges.

You can get aftermarket continuous ink systems where you install dummy cartridges and they are fed with ink via thin flexible tubes from large external reservoirs - I avoided these as they all look a bit Heath Robinson to me - and I don’t want to deal with a bulk ink spillage.

If you’re a Costco member, check to see if they refill ink cartridges at your Costco. They did at mine for a relatively low cost. I let my membership expire, so I don’t know if they still do this, but they did a year ago. They only refill certain makes and models of ink cartridges. But if your Costco does this and you’re already a member, then you could get a printer that took those cartridges.

How many pages per month are we talking? If you go ink but regularly leave it sitting idle for a month or so, you will end up with plugged up heads no matter what. At which point a low end color laser may be your best option. if its only a few pages a month, you might never use up the starter toner cartridges.

Yes, it you don’t print at least a few times a week ink jet cartridges plug up and you have to replace them. A laser printer can sit idle for months and the toner still works. It’s a much better deal long term. It’s a better deal even if you print constantly, IMO. The per page cost works out the same over 2 years between ink jet and laser (factoring in both machine cost and toner/ink) and you have the ability to let it sit and not worry about the cartridges rotting.

How far away is your nearest Kinkos or similar? We don’t have a printer, and the few times a year we need one (various forms, tickets, etc.) we just put the file on a flash drive and head down the road.

Just beat me to it… I have a Brother B&W Laser for general home printing needs, and on the relatively rare occasion that I need something in color, I just hit up Staples. Depending on how often “occasional use” actually is, there’s a decent chance that your local C&P option will be a better bet than the up-front and over-time costs of running a decent color printer at home.

also a copy shop would have a color laser which is better then color ink.

Thanks,all. Good suggestions, I think I’ll just use a local copy shop or library, since I print prob fewer than 100 pages a year at most and often go many weeks without printing a single thing. Appreciate the replies!

When you get a phone call from a random number and someone says “Hi, this is Felicia from Ink and Toner Plus, I just need to verify your printer make and model, could you read it to me, it’s usually located right on the front panel somewhere” just hang up.

This. I went through maybe 4 inkjet printers printing maybe a total of 50 pages (less than 20 pages per printer). I rarely print color, so I went with an HP color LaserJet. They are really cheap these days ( <$200) and the ink doesn’t dry out. I’ve only had mine for maybe 3 months, but I’m happy with it.

The LaserJet print quality is much shittier than the inkjet, but I don’t use it for printing out photographic quality stuff. I just get real photos done for cheap at Costco.

I probably print even less than a hundred pages a year, and I still like to have a monochrome laser printer at home. So I wouldn’t recommend relying on a copy shop or library for all printing. Just the color stuff. I had a monochrome laser printer for over a decade using the original toner cartridge, just because I used it so infrequently.

In that case, HP or Lexmark printers, which (the last time I looked) have the heads on the cartridges themselves, would be the way to go. True, the cartridges are that much more expensive because of this feature, but at least if the head does get clogged, all you have to replace is the cartridge instead of the printer.

I use a Canon MP 250 and go months between even B/W copies, color might be 3 -4 months. Maybe do 5 pages average when I do use it.

Never had a dry cartridge. This is the 5th printer I have had since 1996. It is the only one this good.

I also would look into seeing if you have a place nearby that will refill your cartridges for you. Our local Walgreens used to do that. (They may still, but I don’t have a printer anymore. The need to print doesn’t come up often enough anymore. I can always Internet fax anything I need to fill out.

  1. I’d concur that a small laser printer is a far better value for users that print infrequently. Inkjets perpetually degrade, clog and have to waste ink in cleaning cycles unless they’re used for at least a few color pages a day. Toner simply never goes bad.

  2. Refilled cartridges really suck for reliability and print quality. Some may be very good. Most are trash right out of the wrapper. There’s next to no way to know the difference, even when you buy the same product from the same vendor. Carts that leak, clog, and fail are simply no bargain. If you choose an inkjet, choose it by the most cost-effective commodity cartridges - do NOT buy the low end ones with unique or uncommon carts.

2a) Don’t buy more printer than you need. If you rarely do anything but business printing, don’t waste money (initially or down the road) on a photo-quality printer. They are much fussier and more prone to clogging and cartridge failure, especially when used infrequently.

  1. Some clone cartridges are better. I routinely use Xerox cartridges in my big HP, and they’re quite good in quality, don’t leak or fail mechanically, and are cheap enough that when they fail (typically electronically, not in the toner system) I’m still ahead of the game.

But unless you’re going to print a lot, and consistently, an inkjet is a bad buy all around.