New tests by Consumer Reports found some thirsty printers guzzle a lot more ink than others, and it's ink that never even hits the page.

The ink is used during the inkjet printers' maintenance cycles.

"Ink is used as the printer prepares to print after not being used for a while," said Consumer Reports' Paul Reynolds. "So, if you print infrequently, that could mean more ink used for maintenance chores like cleaning the print heads." 

To see how much ink acutally hits the page, Consumer Reports printed 30 pages of text or color graphics over three weeks, imitating real life printer use.

Some printers were much less efficient with ink. The worst offenders used as much as $120 a year in ink that never gets used to print anything.  Those printers were the HP Officejet Pro 8600 and the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro 4000.

Tests also showed that most brands had printers that used a lot of ink as well as some that were easy on the ink. For example, Consumer Reports found HP's Envy series used relatively little ink for maintenance while the Photosmart series used a lot more.

One brand stood out: Brother. All three Brother printers were frugal with ink at startup.  Testers named the Brother DCP-J140W for $80 a best buy.

No matter what  printer you use, there are some ways to conserve ink.   First, try to print all at once rather than every few days.  Also, leave the printer on between jobs.  The amount of standby power used will cost less than ink.  Print in draft mode for less important papers. And, consider buying a laser printer as a second printer and use it for black and white text.

Printers with lowest maintenance costs:

  • Brother DCP-J140W:  $0
  • Epson XP-800: $14
  • Brother MFC- J4510DW: $15
  • Brother MFC-J4410DW: $16
  • HP Envy 120: $18
  • Canon Pixma MX522: $20
  • Epson XP-600: $20

Printers with highest maintenance costs:

  • HP Officejet Pro 8600: $126
  • Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro4000: $122
  • HP Photosmart 7520: $108
  • Epson Expression Photo XP-850:  $100
  • Canon Pixma MX922:  $86
  • HP Photosmart 6520:  $82
  • Canon iP7220, iP7250:  $61