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Published Dec. 21, 2021

Finding the best cheap printer for your needs isn’t always an easy task. For starters, you might need it for a set of tasks that another person might not find all that important. Even among photographers, use cases can vary widely. Some photogs want to run prints for proofs, while others may just need to print black-and-white documents.

Of course, most people need a printer to work on a variety of jobs and projects—not only for printing, but also for scanning and copying, and maybe even faxing. So, if you buy a single-function printer, you might save money. However, it might not be able to do the printing, scanning or copying jobs you need it to do.

Printer prices vary quite a bit–you can buy one for a little as $50 or spend more than $500. But one of the biggest factors in determining if any printer is in fact a cheap printer is figuring out how much you’ll have to spend on replacement ink cartridges. 

If you haven’t considered buying a printer recently, you’ll want to not only look at traditional inkjet all-in-one printers but newer AIO inkjets that come with large built-in ink tanks, which can hold as much as two-years’ worth of ink and allow you to drive down the price of ink, since these newer ink-tank inkjets waste far less ink the cartridges. Additionally, because all inkjet printers use ink to maintain the quality of the printer, the models will use up ink that is never used for printing. Be sure to do some research and read user reviews of those ink-tank models that are frugal in how much ink the models use for printer maintenance. 

There are other ways to consider saving money on printers, as well. One is to buy a laser instead of an all-in-one or regular inkjet. Laser printers use a much different process than inkjets, which allow them to print significantly more pages. So, for some photographers and consumers, a laser printer might make one of the best cheap printers.

Before the pandemic, many workers often had access to large-sized office printers that could spit out countless copies for free (at least to them). Working from home has upset that. Instead, people need to buy a printer and don’t want to spend a lot of money. 

But you’ll want to really think about what type of printer you’re going to use at home. When you’re looking to find the best cheap home printer, you, of course, want a model that has the features and capabilities for the type of work you’re doing. However, you should know that you’ll most likely need to be willing to live with some compromises once you choose the model. That’s because the best home printers, which have the most features and best performance, aren’t generally the models that are most affordable. So, carefully read through the following points below when considering what’s the best model for your budget and needs.

And remember: Timing is also an important factor when you want to buy an inexpensive printer. In fact, the holiday season can be a great time to buy a cheap printer, since many retail outlets are offering very good deals, particularly around Black Friday. Here are some other important considerations when looking to buy the best cheap printer:

Should you choose a cheap laser or inkjet printer?

The first decision you’ll need to make is what type of printer do you want to buy:  A laser or inkjet. By and large, most consumers tend to choose an inkjet, which, as the name suggests, uses ink (or ink droplets) to produce a page of text, a photograph, graphic, etc. Inkjets excel at doing a variety of tasks well. They also tend to outshine lasers when printing different kinds of photographs, such as borderless photos and printing on various types of paper, whether it’s matte or glossy or even textured paper. However, because ink is expensive and because the build quality isn’t always as high as what you’ll find with laser printers, inkjets may not be the best option if you are producing many projects made up of many pages.

On the other hand, laser printers, which use a powder form of ink, called toner, operate using a much different process. These machines are generally better built printers that can withstand printing out hundreds and hundreds of pages. Where laser printers have historically fallen short is in being able to print a variety of types of printing tasks—such as photos, graphics, and text. Laser models tend to do best when only printing text.

All-in-one or single function?

Another factor you’ll want to consider is when your home or office needs an all-in-one printer (or AIO) or a single-function printer. As the name indicates, AIO models print a variety of jobs—photos, graphics and text—while also being able to scan, copy and fax. Single function sticks to one job—printing. And that can really make a difference if you want to buy a higher-priced single-function high quality photo printer. You can produce large prints–some can print as large as 17 x 22 inches, and there are pro models that can print even larger.

Color or Monochrome?

This decision is really for those who are deciding to buy a laser printer, since there are very few black-and-white-only inkjet printers. For most people, inkjets make the most sense since they tend to do the best job at printing color photographs, graphics and text. But if you only intend on producing monochrome pages of text, then a monochrome laser printer might be your best option and might save you a lot of money.

Other important features for a cheap printer

Be sure to carefully consider what features are important to you when buying the best cheap printer. That’s because the cheapest models tend to have the fewest features. Here are some extras you may want to have on the model you want to purchase:

  • Connectivity: Almost all printers connect via USB, but many can also connect to your home network (if you have one) via Wi-Fi as well as through a wired Ethernet line.
  • Ink cartridge or Ink tank? Ink cartridges hold significantly less ink than models with ink tanks, which can, in some cases, hold enough ink to use for more than two years, which can help you save quite a bit on ink. 
  • An automatic document feeder (ADF): What’s nice about this automated feature, which can save you lots of time at your printer, is that you place the pages of your document into the feeder that you need to scan or copy, and the printer does the rest. 
  • How many ink cartridges or tanks? And can you still print when one is empty? Printers vary in the type of ink cartridges or tanks they use. Some have only two, black and color. Others, like pricey photo printers, might use nine or ten. Be sure to check the following: If one ink cartridge runs out of ink, are you still able to print?
  • Controls: Some controls appear on many models. Some, like a touch screen LCD, are generally found on step-up and premium models. And some, like memory-card slots or USB media slots, are found on fewer and fewer each year.

The best cheap printers—reviews

Best cheap printer overall: HP DeskJet 3755

Key Features

  • Weight: 5.13 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions: 6.97 x 15.86 x 5.55 inches
  • Type: All-in-one inkjet printer

Why It Made The Cut:

With no frills or extras to clutter things up, this basic model offers a refreshingly simple process. 

Pros:

  • Inexpensive to buy and to run
  • Easy to use
  • Still prints when color ink cartridge is empty
  • Wireless

Cons:

  • Offers fewer features than other models
  • Isn’t as fast as other models

If you’re on a tight budget or you don’t have a lot of space in your office, this printer is both compact and inexpensive making it the best cheap printer overall. It’s also relatively cheap to run. It’s a decent all-in-one model for a variety of tasks. HP claims it can print about 8 black-and-white text pages per minute or up to 5.5 color pages, which is decent. It will also continue to print if the color cartridge runs out. So, if you just need to print out pages, it’s able to do that even without a color cartridge. However, it isn’t the quickest printer in the market. 

It does a very good job at printing wirelessly—it can print using Apple AirPrint technology. It’s also compatible with the HP smart mobile app.

Best photo printer: Canon Pixma MG3620

Key Features

  • Weight: 11.90 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 17.7 x 6 inches
  • Type: All-in-one inkjet printer

Why It Made The Cut:

This budget-priced all-in-one Canon inkjet printer may not have a touchscreen LCD or offer separate ink cartridges, but it does a solid job across a breadth of office tasks.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Offers duplex printers for printing documents on both sides
  • Scans documents quickly and easily
  • Wireless

Cons:

  • No touchscreen LCD
  • Doesn’t offer separate color ink cartridges

If you’re a photographer but can’t afford an expensive single-function printer, you might consider buying this inexpensive all-in-one . As the best photo printer it’s quite easy to use and intuitive, and offers features found on pricier models, such as an auto-duplex printing feature, to print on both sides of the document. It also has a flatbed scanner, which some budget models lack. In fact, it scans documents quickly, which can be useful in both home and office settings. It’s also very easy to set up.

If you live in an apartment or you just don’t have a lot of extra space, this printer may also fit the bill since it’s compact and can fit into many small offices or home settings. It’s wireless, too, so you can print from just about anywhere in your home. You can also download Canon’s PRINT mobile app, which makes printing from mobile devices easy—you can print and scan photos and documents directly from iPads or iPhones via AirPrint or from Android devices via Mopria and Google Cloud print.

Best ink tank printer: Epson EcoTank ET-2720

Key Features

  • Weight: 12.67 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 14.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Type: All-in-one inkjet printer with ink tanks

Why It Made The Cut:

If you’re looking to save money over the life of a printer, an all-in-one with ink tanks are you best bet. And this Epson is the best ink tank printer to buy.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive for an AIO with ink tanks
  • Has a small display screen
  • Ink tanks cut down on ink costs on a printer
  • Wireless

Cons:

  • No automatic document feeder
  • Lacks auto-duplexing capability
  • Lacks Ethernet connectivity.
  • No memory-card slots.

Like all ink-tank models, this Epson EcoTank wireless all-in-one provides you with easy-to-fill, supersized ink tanks, which Epson says will provide you with ink for up to 2 years. The printer uses 4 different colored inks: black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

Since it’s a budget model, it does lack some important features you’d find on other models—for instance, there’s no ADF or auto-duplexing, and it also doesn’t allow you to connect via an Ethernet cord. And it lacks memory-card slots. It does have a small display screen. What’s nice is that its ink-tank design not only saves you money, but it produces less waste, since you’re not always buying ink cartridges. Since it’s an all-in-one, you can also copy and scan, in addition to printing.

Best monochrome laser printer: Brother HLL2395DW

Brother

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Key Features

  • Weight: 22.7 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 16.1 x 10.7 inches
  • Type: All-in-one monochrome laser printer

Why It Made The Cut:

If you only need your cheap printer to produce black-and-white pages of text, this all-in-one laser model is ideal.

Pros:

  • Low printing costs
  • Has 2.7-inch LCD display
  • Inexpensive for a laser printer
  • Great for printing from mobile devices
  • Large 250-sheet print tray

Cons:

  • Doesn’t print color

This Brother monochrome laser printer has a large, 250-sheet paper capacity tray, which is great for printing out long documents or multiple copies of a document making it the best monochrome laser printer. It can handle both letter- and legal-sized paper. It claims it can print out 36 pages per minute. Plus, it has a flatbed scan glass for quick copying and scanning. You can connect to it via a USB cable, your Wi-Fi network or with an Ethernet cable.

It’s great for printing from mobile devices, since it’s compatible with a number of apps and Wi-Fi printing technologies, including Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print 2.0, Brother iPrint and Scan, Mopria and Cortado Workplace. It also lets you print from and scan to popular Cloud services from its 2.7-inch color touchscreen display, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, OneNote and more.

Best portable photo printer: Canon Selphy CP1300

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.90 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 7.1 x 2.5 inches           
  • Type:  Compact dye-sublimation photo printer

Why It Made The Cut:

If you’re only looking for a cheap printer that produces 4 x 6 digital prints, this small, portable, dye-sublimation Canon printer does an excellent job.

Pros:

  • 3.2-inch touchscreen display
  • Easy to use
  • Small, compact and lightweight
  • Wireless

Cons:

  • Limited to only printing photos
  • Prints only 4 x 6-inch size photos

According to Canon, photos dry very quickly on this Canon Selphy printer, but they’ll last for decades. If you use Canon’s Print app, you can print wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet. It can print photos as large as 4 x 6 inches, but can also print in other formats and different sizes, such as stickers and 2.1 x 2.1-inch squares. Also includes fun modes, like its photo-booth mode, which lets you print out two strips of four images each on 4 x 6-inch photo paper, which can be cut in half for photo strips.

If you want to print directly from the shots you captured on your SD card or on photos stored on a USB flash drive, you can make your selections using the tilting 3.2″ LCD touchscreen display. You can also buy an extra battery pack (which costs extra) if you want to operate the printer when you’re not near a power source.

FAQs

Q: What type of printer is cheapest to run?

To figure out which printer is cheapest to run, you have to consider a variety of factors, including the sale price, what type of ink cartridges or ink tanks it has and what you intend to use it for. Generally, monochrome laser printers are the most inexpensive to run if you only intend to produce black-and-white pages of text. However, if you’re printing a variety of color and monochrome text projects, all-in-one ink-tank inkjet printers tend to save you money since they can store a lot of ink that will last for many months.

Q: What is a monochrome printer?

Monochrome printers are simply printers that only print in black-and-white, instead of color. Most often these types of printers are laser printers, although occasionally you’ll be able to find a monochrome inkjet printer.

Q: Are there other ways to save money when printing at home?

If you’re looking to save even more money when you’re printing, consider trying some of the following tips: First, try getting more text on each page you want to print. You can do this by reducing the size of the print font or making the margins narrower. Also, if you’re not printing the final draft, look for a setting on your printer called draft mode, which generally prints out text that isn’t as dark or smooth. But draft mode uses less ink. Also, only use your best paper stock for the completed project. Otherwise, just use plain paper, so you don’t spend a lot by wasting more expensive paper stock.

Methodology

For our ratings of best cheap printers, we chose current models from some of the major brands that produce all-in-ones, single-function prints, and laser printers. We researched and selected the models that included the broadest spectrum or features and capabilities, and also which met the needs of most users as well as which models and printer types are most affordable.

We also looked at printers that were compatible with both Windows and Mac (the most current operating systems for both), as well as other connectivity technologies, including USB, wireless, Bluetooth and more.

A final word on the best cheap printers

Although you might not have a problem with printing pages of text or even graphics that aren’t perfect, chances are you’ll be less tolerant of a printer that produces sub-par photos. Here’s a few tips to help you get better results when printing photos on any inkjet printer:

  • When you shoot photographs, be sure you photograph at the highest resolution setting.
  • Learn how to print your photos at the best resolution setting for the size of paper you want to print on (and be sure to heed any resolution warnings).
  • Choose high-quality photo paper for your final photographic prints.
  • Avoid using third-party inks.

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