Ink tank printer in office

Ink tank vs ink cartridge printers

by Angus Jones

If you are setting up a small business, chances are you will need a printer. We live in an online world, but every so often, you will need to print a shipping label, a paper invoice or maybe something for the kids. You can buy an inkjet printer from Officeworks for around $40, so why would you spend upwards of $300 on an inkjet printer with a tank? This guide will look at Ink tank vs ink cartridge printers and help you decide which is better in the long run.

An inkjet printer works by spraying ink onto a piece of paper to form text or images. A inkjet cartridge printer uses cartridges to store the ink which need replacing when ink runs out.  A inkjet printer with an ink tank has a refillable reservoir of ink which can be refilled from a bottle.

WHY should I buy an ink tank printer?

In this guide, we will purely look at the difference between a tank and a cartridge ink tank printer.  Read our guide to buying a small business printer to understand other variables.
This comparison comes down to the cost of printing over time.

An ink tank printer will produce approximately 6,000 to 7,000 pages per bottle of ink. A cartridge printer may print as few as 100 pages per cartridge. There is, of course, many variables’ ink bottle and cartridge sizes and the amount of ink required on each page.  For example, a half-page of text will use less ink than a page covered in pictures.

We will use today’s pricing from the Officeworks website of a cheap cartridge printer and a cheap ink tank printer for our comparison.

HP Cartridge printer cost: $38
Black cartridge $30.88 yields 120 sheets
Tricolour cartridge $30.88 100 sheets yields 100 sheets

Epson EcoTank printer $399
Black ink bottle $29 yields 6700 pages
Yellow ink bottle $29 yields 6200 pages
Blue ink Bottle $29 yields 6200 pages
Red ink bottle $29 yields 6200 pages

Printing cost of black and white:

Cost to print 6700 pages
Cartridge printer: $1698
Ink tank printer: $399

Cost to print 2 pages a day for 3 years. 2190 pages
Cartridge printer: approx. $555
Ink tank printer: $399

Printing cost of colour:

Cost to print 6200 pages
Cartridge printer: approx. $7200
Ink tank printer: $399

Cost to print 2 pages a day for 3 years. 2190 pages
Cartridge printer: approx. $2520
Ink tank printer $399

WHAT should you know about inkjet printers?

Inkjet printers will allow you to print in black and white or colour at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch.

Brand new inkjet cartridge printers tend to ship with smaller ink cartridges meaning you will be buying a new cartridge sooner than you think. Ink tank printers tend to ship with full bottles of ink.

An inkjet is better at printing photos, are slower than laser printers, and is not good for large volume printing.

Ink tanks printers will use the ink specially formulated for that printer. Cartridge units will accept 3rd party manufacturers ink. Thus, quality may be slightly higher from the ink tank.

Ink tank printers require far less maintenance.

HOW do I decide which printer to buy?

Please refer to Small Business Answers guide to buying a printer.
Here you will find the pros and cons of the different types and understand all the other options available to help you make the right decision.

If you want a cheap printer for a really small volume of printing the cheap cartridge printer will get you out of trouble. But if you plan to print more than 1000 pages (1 page a day over 3 years or 2 reams of paper) over the printer’s life in black and white, then an ink tank printer will definitely save you money in the long run. If you are printing in colour, this breakeven point will drop to around 300 pages.


Most printers allow you to print in eco mode, reducing the amount of ink you use on each page.  This is great for printing draft documents, with the downside being the tone is not as black, and colours are washed out.  It will, however, save you ink.

Small Business answers have been testing an Epson ET-2850. This all in one printer allows you to print, scan and copy from a PC(and Apple) or smartphone. It comes with a small1.44 inch LCD display that will enable you to do basic settings on the printer itself.  We liked the automatic 2 sided printing and the smartphone app control. This unit does not have a document feeder like higher models in the Epson range. Still, this unit would be more than adequate for most small businesses with its 100-page paper capacity.

Epson uses heat-free technology in their print heats which save electricity and is good for the environment.

Suppose pouring ink from a bottle terrifies you. In that case, Epson has a drip-free nozzle and refillable nozzle system in their ink bottles which makes the refill process painless. Each bottle is also designed so you cannot pour the wrong colour ink into the wrong reservoir.

SUMMARY – Ink tank vs ink cartridge printers

Buying a printer is not as simple as purchasing the cheapest model. When you look at the cost of printing over time, an inkjet printer with an ink tank definitely has a price advantage over an inkjet cartridge printer.

An ink tank style printer will have less maintenance and should give you years of service before you have to head out to buy new ink (depending on your print volume)

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