Cut the cost of printing: The best budget printers of 2024

Looking to spend less on a printer and still have plenty left over for paper and ink? Your search is over.

best budget printers

by Chris Duffill |
Updated on

Sometimes the best budget printers are actually multifunction printers for home use with a scanner and a large paper tray or two. But for others, the ideal printer is one that can handle thick paper or card for their colourful crafty creations or photo printing. But one thing's for sure, printing isn't a cheap activity – that's where a carefully chosen budget printer comes in.

So, what can you do with a budget printer? Surely being on a budget means lower print quality? Thankfully that's not the case, as there are plenty of affordable full-colour printers that offer excellent budget photo printing and more. Believe it or not, the prices of most printers are lower than they should be. And that's because the leading brands actually make their money out of ink or toner cartridges.

Best budget printers of 2024 at a glance

• Best overall: HP DeskJet 2810e – View at Amazon
• Best value: Canon Pixma TS5150 – View at Amazon
• Best for home office: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4820DWF – View at Amazon
• Best for photos: Epson EcoTank ET-8550 – View at Amazon

But what kind of printer is right for you? After all, there's not just the whole is laser better than inkjet debate to think about – you also need to identify your printing needs. Most people want the wireless printing option, but maybe you need one with Bluetooth as well. Perhaps you only need to print in monochrome for your home office documents, or maybe you're a designer who needs to print onto glossy photo paper?

But, being on a budget is a little more tricky than just choosing the cheapest printer. As we mentioned, it's the ink that really adds up. So, we've put together a buyer's guide at the end of the article to help you narrow things down. Our experts have also rounded up the very best budget printers for all kinds of uses – let's get printing.

Best budget printers of 2024

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best overall

Amazon/HP

If you're looking for a printer that can happily perch on your desktop without taking up too much space, the HP DeskJet 2810e is it. But that relatively small unit contains everything that the average user could need. You can print in full colour at a healthy speed of up to 5.5 pages per minute, but you also have a scanner and copier included.

And if you're the sort of user who needs to print from your mobile phone, there's an app that will let you do just that. You also have the option of subscribing to HP's Instant Ink service, which will monitor ink levels and make sure you're always ready to print. All in all, we think this is a stunning all-around performer at an excellent price.

Pros

  • A very well-specified basic colour printer that looks great on the desk
  • Integrated scanner/copier and wifi connectivity make this a convenient printing and scanning option
  • Six months of ink included and an extra one-year warranty if you use HPs Instant Ink plan

Cons

  • Quite a lightweight build in places

Best value

Amazon/Canon

Canon is a familiar brand to many and it's renowned for sheer print quality and vibrant colour prints. And that's partly what makes this Canon Pixma TS5150 even more impressive for the price. While it doesn't have the speed of our top choice, it is still a 3-in-1 printer, scanner and copier. It's another example of a compact and neat design that will fit anywhere.

Probably best suited for light printing duties, the Canon Pixma TS5150 is, however, still up to printing onto photo paper - and that's helped by its compatibility with XL (extra large) ink cartridges. So you'll be replacing cartridges less often. There's even an automatic power-saving standby mode to save energy, so for the budget-conscious, this is a great value option. We do think that the build is a little lightweight in less critical areas, like the feeder trays, but aside from that it's solid enough for the price. A handy Canon PRINT app lets you print easily from mobile devices too.

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight yet well-built – looks good in any home or home office
  • Compatible with XL ink cartridges for fewer replacements over time
  • Scanner and copier complete the package for a super-useful low-budget package

Cons

  • Build is fine but a little flimsy in areas like the feeder tray

Best for home office

Amazon/Epson

If you saw this Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4820 and thought it resembled those large printers you've seen in offices, you're not too far from the truth. Although it's not quite as large as its expensive office counterparts, this does benefit from some of the same features. Apart from having a scanner, copier, and Wi-Fi connectivity, there's also an automatic document feeder and large paper tray. If you're printing presentations or leaflets it'll even print in duplex.

Another welcome addition is a highly usable front control panel, giving you easy access to useful setup and print features. The print speed is a respectable 22 pages per minute for colour too. And speaking of colour, this has a PrecisionCore print head that Epson claims has a laser-like accuracy. All this for well under £150? It's a steal.

Pros

  • A large enough machine to handle larger workloads for busy home offices
  • Handy advanced features like a document feeder makes light work of copying tasks
  • Plenty of ink and paper capacity means you can spend less time worrying about replacing them

Cons

  • Fairly bulky – make sure it'll fit on your desk if you have a small home office

Best budget photo printer

Amazon/Epson

The Epson EcoTank ET-8550 isn't a cheap printer – but it is a budget option for anyone looking to print on a larger scale. This can take A3 photo paper and is, of course, an inkjet, so it's the ultimate printing solution for any photographer, paper crafter, or creative looking to display their work.

Other than that, it has a good print speed and both Wi-Fi and ethernet connectivity. Being capable of taking A3 does, of course, mean this is a little larger than most printers, so make sure you have the desktop space. But, that size does come with other benefits – as the printer uses refillable ink tanks. That means that you can buy bottles and replenish them easily and cheaply. Epson claims that one set of ink bottles will last for 2300 high-quality photos too.

Pros

  • Ink tank technology means cheaper prints and longer-lasting print capacity
  • Printing onto A3 paper means you can use this for larger framed prints and other projects like brochures
  • It's capable of printing onto card and craft paper

Cons

  • Takes up a lot more space than a standard home printer

Best budget colour laser printer

Amazon/Brother
Price: $1049.75

Laser printers may not be the cheapest to buy, but the toner in their cartridges works out cheaper than inkjet in the long run. This BROTHER HL-L8260CDW is well-suited to a wide range of printing applications thanks to its crisp laser detail and fast sprint speed. Although you can, of course, print colour photos and graphics with this, laser printers are best suited to documentation, and we think that's another reason why this is geared towards a home office as much as anywhere else. Unlike some here, there is no scanner though – but that's understandable at the price.

There's a large 300-sheet paper tray (that's 50 more than the previous HL-L3230CDW model) and the toners included will last for up to 3000 pages in black and 1800 pages in colour, too. Automatic two-sided printing at a scorching 31 pager per minute is another time-saver that makes this a brilliant budget colour laser option.

Pros

  • The large 300-page paper tray means you can fill it up and forget about it for longer
  • Automatic two-sided printing for easy leaflet or document printing
  • Included toner is enough for 3000 pages in black and 1800 pages in colour, so you'll be up and running right out of the box

Cons

  • No scanner included

Best budget portable photo printer

Amazon/Kodak
Price: $69.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$69.99View offer
Macy's$69.99View offer

For many, the KODAK name is synonymous with photography, and this Step Printer is the answer to your prayers if you just want a small and simple printer for your smartphone photos. Even better, this is a portable printer – small enough to charge up and take with you but large enough to produce 2x3-inch full-colour prints. We love the fact that this has been designed to put the fun back into printing your photo.

The best innovation here is that it uses no ink. Instead, it uses Zink (Zero Ink) coated paper. Load this up with self-adhesive paper, and you'll be creating shareable, displayable shots for your friends and family or crafting projects with ease.

Pros

  • It uses ink-free technology to produce stunning full-colour prints
  • Take this anywhere – the battery will last for up to 25 prints between charges
  • Puts the fun back into photography and takes your smartphone photos to a new level

Cons

  • Slow print speed compared to larger photo printers

Best for cheap ink

Amazon/Epson

Epson is back on our list with its EcoTank ET-2812. One of the main costs of printer ownership is ink, but perhaps one of the more wasteful and expensive types is the ink cartridge. A typical ink cartridge also contains some electronics to communicate ink levels and more to the printer. But here, we're impressed by Epson's ink tank technology which means you can refill the printer from plastic bottles instead.

And that adds up to some of the cheapest ink prices to be found. It's claimed that this comes with up to 3 years' worth of ink in the box - that's an astonishing 4,500 monochrome and 7,500 colour pages. We like the front-facing tank windows that make it easy to keep an eye on your levels too.

Pros

  • Enormous ink tank capacity and refillable at a lower cost than other printer types
  • Comes with lots of ink out of the box
  • Epson quality for accurate and vibrant colour prints on various paper types

Cons

  • Some find the app-based setup fiddly

Best portable smart printer

Amazon/HP

Although this HP OfficeJet 200 can actually work from the mains, it's packing a battery that can be recharged in around 90 minutes. It's also super-compact when folded, at only 19cm wide. That means that you can pack this into a laptop bag or backpack and take your printing jobs with you. We love the flexibility that this printer offers, but we do wish the battery lasted longer at just 10 minutes on a full charge. That may not sound like much, but given that all printers require a lot of power to move the print head and jet the ink, we think it's a handy backup option when away from the mains.

On top of those compact and portable features, this printer supports both USB and wireless connections, so you'll be printing in no time. There's a 50-sheet feeder and it'll print up to 20 mono pages and 7 colour pages per minute – that's impressive for such a small device. So if you're all about keeping your printer with you for those reports and presentations when you're on the move, this is it.

Pros

  • Extremely light and compact design means you can carry this in a bag
  • Wi-Fi and USB connectivity means you can print from all of your devices, including mobiles
  • A 50-page sheet feeder means you can print larger documents with less fuss

Cons

  • Off mains the battery only lasts 10 minutes, so treat it as a handy backup to mains in a pinch

Best black-and-white

Amazon/HP

We know that a printer that only prints in monochrome isn't the most exciting prospect for many, but if you're all about keeping things simple and fast, the HP LaserJet M110w Printer is for you. It's an understated device that delivers the precision and speed that you'd expect from a laser model. It'll churn out 20 pages per minute. And it's compact too – HP claims that it's the world's smallest laser in its class.

There are some extras though, like a scanner and and integration with the HP Smart App for easy wireless printing and scanned document cloud-based saving. We do find the design of this a little no-frills, but the build is the typically solid HP quality we're used to.

Pros

  • Fast mono printing speed for maximum convenience
  • Compact yet highly functional, this will fit onto any desk
  • Includes a scanner for extra flexibility in the home office

Cons

  • Wireless connectivity can be flaky for some users – go with USB instead

Best thermal

Amazon/Phomemo

Rrp: $149.99

Price: $104.99

Printing onto thermal paper isn't just for those receipt printers at the supermarket checkout. They can now do so much more, and of course, there's not an ink cartridge in sight. The Phomemo Thermal Printer can print on five different sizes of thermal paper – including sheets or rolls (useful for long banners); the largest being A4. It's portable too, so you can print anything in monochrome with ease.

If you're someone who needs simple and accessible printing for things like labels and signs, we think this is the ideal quick and creative printer.

Pros

  • Compact and portable you can print from anywhere – ideal for laptop users
  • Support for various thermal paper sizes means you can print labels and similar things without needing to trim
  • Extremely easy to use thanks to the companion app

Cons

  • Monochrome only and slower print speed means it's not ideal for those printing frequently

How to choose the best budget printers for you

What kind of budget printer you'll need is really down to what you'll be printing the most and how often. Printing should always be your first priority when looking for a printer, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look for other features. A scanner can come in handy, especially if you ever need to fill out forms manually.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are also great additions and will save you valuable time. Plus, being able to connect to a phone app should make printing a lot easier. So, what kind of printer user are you?

Casual and home use The main things that will impact your budget when looking for a printer are size and capacity. A printer designed for an office, or even a home office, will normally be large enough to hold more paper and take larger amounts of ink or higher capacity laser toner cartridges. And, of course, more ink capacity means more money when it comes to replacing them.

Anyone looking to do casual printing at home – whether that's letters and documents, presentations or digital photos – will save money by going smaller. For most home users, there's no point in buying a printer that can print on paper larger than A4. And, just in terms of cost, inkjet is much better than a laser printer.

Designers, hobbyists and creatives Much like the casual home printer, a creative on a budget will need a printer that isn't oversized. But you will need to make sure that it can handle paper, and even light card, up to the thicknesses you like to use for your projects. Most home printers can handle glossy or matte photo paper these days, but not all can handle the heavier paper that hobbyists use for crafting and so on. So, check the maximum weight – normally measured in gsm (Grams per Square Meter) – that your new printer can take. Printers like these can also make a perfect crafting partnership with dedicated cutting and label-making devices like the Cricut label machine.

Colour laser printers are renowned for their fast monochrome prints, and they can, of course, print in colour, but they're definitely the more expensive option. Some of the best budget inkjet printers outperform laser in terms of colour quality and that makes them ideal for those more creative users.

Photographers – If you're a keen photographer or designer and want to display high-quality prints of your work, aiming for a budget printer might be asking too much. While many of our recommendations above will print very well on photo paper, serious photographers need a lot more control over the ink and other settings. We recommend you check out some of the best advanced photo printers instead.

That said, the Epson EcoTank ET-8550 above is very well regarded for its vibrant and accurate colours and can print onto many weights and paper types – including photo paper. So, while you may not have access to the advanced tweaks and inks that professionals use, any budding snapper will love printing and framing their shots from one of these.

Plan for ink costs

It's reported that the price of ink for an inkjet printer can be higher per ounce than champagne or even gold. Yes, you read that right. And it's all down to the big players in the printer business. They formulate their inks to work perfectly with hardware so that colour reproduction, drying time and hardware like the print heads work as they should. They've even built ink cartridge detection into their printers to warn you if you insert one that's not from the same brand as the printer itself. But, as most savvy print fans on a budget will already know, if you dig around on the internet, you can find a great choice of out-of-brand inks that will work and perform perfectly well – and at a fraction of the price. Either way, whatever ink you go for, it's your biggest cost after the printer itself.

And the same goes for paper. The thicker and more quality the stock, the higher the cost. And it can really add up. If you're creative, it's highly likely that you'll be experimenting with various finishes and weights – and that, again, means some wastage. So, plan ahead a little and do your research – getting enough paper and ink to enjoy your new printer should definitely be part of your budget.

AN EPSON COLOUR PRINTER
AS WE INCREASINGLY WORK FROM HOME, OFFICE-STYLE PRINTERS ARE BECOMING A POPULAR HOME CHOICE © CHRIS DUFFILL, WTB

The big question: Inkjet or laser?

Inkjet printers use liquid ink when printing, whereas laser options use toner powder. The main differences are in quality; an inkjet printer will print in higher quality, but a laser printer doesn't smudge. Some laser printers also only print in black. Inkjet is also best for printing photos and colour artwork.

There is also a price difference, a laser printer may be more expensive to buy, but they're cheaper to run, and they're more efficient. Inkjet printers are cheaper to buy, but ink cartridges are costly and not as efficient.

AN EPSON COLOUR PRINTER
AS WE INCREASINGLY WORK FROM HOME, OFFICE-STYLE PRINTERS ARE BECOMING A POPULAR HOME CHOICE © CHRIS DUFFILL, WTB

FAQs

What features should I prioritise in a budget printer?

The first thing to look at is the price of the ink cartridges. Believe it or not, most printers are actually sold at a loss. The often high price of officially branded ink is where the manufacturers make their profit. This cost will vary from brand to brand and model to model, depending on the ink or toner capacity of the printer. So, make sure that once you have your budget printer, you can afford to get the best out of it. The key factor here is the stated number of prints that each cartridge can create. It'll vary, of course, based on what you're printing, but as an indicator of cost per print, it's worth looking into.

Other than that, look for a budget printer that has Wi-Fi connectivity to make printing easier and more convenient – it's a common feature on most models these days. Also, if time and noise are important to you, check out the print speed (normally in Pages Per Minute) and check out user reviews to see how noisy it is.

What's the best budget printer for home use?

The HP DeskJet 2720e we included in our list above is a great option for many uses, from documents and other light printing duties to printing on photo paper. It’s a great all-rounder from a respected brand and won’t cost you the earth to run.

Which printer has the cheapest ink cartridges?

If you're looking for cheap ink cartridges, that usually means you're looking at inkjet printer technology. Compared with the cost of a laser printer toner (or a 'toner cartridge') an ink cartridge is much less expensive to buy – but that's because of their capacity. You'll end up replacing them more often, whereas a more expensive laser toner cartridge will last longer. So, just going on cost per page, laser is better. But in terms of initial outlay, inkjet will get you up and running for less money.

Chris Duffill is a Senior Tech Writer and Reviewer for What's The Best. His background includes writing, editorial, marketing, design, video production and photography.

He specialises in home entertainment and audiovisual tech, including speakers, amplifiers, turntables, streaming media players, and TVs. He is also one of our resident experts in computing (PCs, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches), DSLR photography and all kinds of digital cameras. He also writes about retro gaming, game consoles and various electronic gadgets. If it plugs in, lights up or makes a noise, he'll write about it.

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