Why is Printer Ink so Expensive? 


What do you think is more expensive – human blood or printer ink? The answer may surprise you.  

One of the most expensive liquids in the world is printer ink! When in cartridge form, printer ink can be more expensive than vintage champagne or, yes, even human blood.  

But whamakes printer ink so expensive? We’ve taken a look at some of the factors impacting the cost of ink cartridges. There are two main things that go into determining the cost.  

  1. The technology of printer ink 
  2. The profit margins 

The Technology of Printer Ink  

Consumers seem to underestimate the work that goes into optimizing ink. The technology and research that goes into creating ink are both labour-intensive and expensive. This translates to a more expensive product. 

In 2010, HP released that they spend over a billion dollars a year on research and development. This was over a decade ago, and technology is still evolving.  

Printer ink is a complex formula that has taken over 25 years to perfect. To get the best quality printing on an inkjet printer, the ink has to be completely free from impurities and be released at an exact flow. Inkjet printers use a tiny amount of ink in exact locations when printing. Ink has to be water and smear-resistant while not clogging or breaking the jets.  

When creating these ink products, safety and environmental sustainability also come into play. Many manufactures have environmental promises and sustainability practices. These also include programs that assist with the proper disposal of these cartridges. 

Do you know how to recycle your used ink cartridges? You can read an article about how to recycle them here.  

Your printer isn’t just using ink for your documents and images. Printer ink plays a bigger role in the machine than just physically printing on paper. 

Ink also helps with the maintenance of the printer. It’s used to help clean the printheads and assist with the longevity of your printer. Sometimes just as much ink is used in maintenance cycles as printing documents.  

The Profit Margins  

If you look at the bigger picture, ink cartridges are how printer manufacturers make their profit.  

Sometimes the better deal is to buy a brand-new printer than replace the ink cartridge. A new basic printer can cost as little as $40 but the ink cartridges could be twice as expensive.  Consumer Reports frames it like the original price tag of a printer is more like a down payment.  

The basic principle behind most low-end consumer printer pricing methods is, the more affordable the printer, the more expensive the consumables.  

Since buying a printer is only a one-time purchase, companies can sell the machines at a profit loss. 

Where they make a profit is through selling the ink cartridges. To keep the machines affordable, companies increase the pricing of the ink cartridge.  

This makes room for third-party generic ink manufacturers to step in and create a less expensive product for the consumer. However, manufacturers have created a few steps to make sure printers need to use only official cartridges, like microchips proprietary to each machine.  

It is highly recommended to buy ink cartridges from your printer manufacturer.  

Unbranded or generic ink cartridges may not work on your machine due to firmware settings. Third-party products can be less reliable and produce lower-quality materials. Over time, this may cost more due to the frequent need to replace the ink or any issues. 

While short-term, this may end up being a more cost-effective method, switching to a different ink may clog your machine and possibly destroy the printer head. This will end up causing headaches and a bigger bill at the end of the day.  

How to Save Money on Printer Ink  

If you are looking at saving money on printer ink, many manufactures now offer ink subscription services, which can optimize how you buy ink.  

Consumer brands offer these ink programs that can save you money. These programs range from sending discounted cartridges straight to your house or offer refill programs.  

If you are looking to figure out how to optimize your companies printing costs, we can help! Download your guide on how to evaluate and control your printing costs. 

Emily Adams
Digital Content Specialist 
Office Interiors 

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