Ink Tanks vs Ink Cartridges: The Best Choice for You

Posted on Friday 12 April, 2024

Ink Tanks vs Ink Cartridges: The Best Choice for You

When navigating the printer market, two terms frequently emerge: "ink tanks" and "ink cartridges." Although they might sound similar, they represent quite different printing technologies. The main difference between ink tank printers and traditional inkjet printers is how they store and deliver ink.

Here's a breakdown of each, with a detailed look at their advantages and disadvantages, to help you decide which suits your printing needs best.

Ink Tanks

Continuous ink tank printers have built-in, refillable reservoirs for ink. These tanks are much larger than ink cartridges which allows them to hold a lot more ink. Ink bottles are used to refill the tanks as needed. While these types of printers do tend to carry a significantly higher upfront cost, they can be a much more economical option in the long run.

Another positive is that it is even less likely for the printheads to dry up when not in use as ink tank printers use an airtight tube to deliver the ink.

Ink Cartridges

These types of printers most commonly use disposable ink cartridges that normally contain both the ink and the print head all-in-one. Inkjet printers that use ink cartridges are generally cheaper to buy upfront in comparison to ink tank printers but replacement ink cartridges can be expensive, especially if you print frequently.

Being able to simply remove an empty cartridge and clicking a new one in makes the ink replacement process ultimately as convenient as can be.

FeatureInk Tanks Ink Cartridges
Ink storageRefillableDisposable
Ink refill methodInk BottlesInk Cartridges
Upfront costHigherLower
Long-term costLowerHigher
Risk of dried inkLowerHigher


The Ink Tank Investment Payoff

We’ve established that ink tanks are more economical long-term, but just how long does it take for them to start paying dividends over the cheaper printers that use ink cartridges? Let’s find out by comparing two popular multifunction printers: Canon MAXIFY MB5160 (ink cartridges) and Canon PIXMA G7065 (ink tanks).

At a surface level, there is a drastic difference in price between these two models, the printer with ink cartridges sells for roughly $240 while the ink tank printer is sold at around $640 - which is a difference of $400! That’s a steep hill to climb, but let’s break it down so we can see just how steep it really is…

Next to consider is that buying a 4 pack bundle of XL cartridges for the Canon MB5160 printer costs around $160, but a 4 pack bundle of inks for the Canon G7065 printer only costs about half as much. We also have to factor in the page yield differences between ink cartridges and ink bottles, of which the latter contains a lot more ink and allows printing of approximately 4x as many pages.

When calculating the cost of each printed page, it would cost 2.3 cents per page to print with the ink cartridges, which equates to $460 to print 20,000 pages. However, the ink bottles came in at almost a tenth of the cost at an estimate of only 0.3 cents per page (barely a quarter of a cent) which would only be around $60 to print the exact same amount of pages. There’s our $400 difference!

With the cost of ink, page yields and the printers themselves all considered, we estimate that the ink tank printer has paid for itself after:

  • 20,000 pages have been printed
  • The second replacement set of ink bottles have been purchased
  • 2 years, if printing at an average of 200 documents per week

Of course, these numbers may vary depending on how much ink is used to print each page. We’ve estimated this at 10% page coverage on an A4 piece of paper with equal amounts of black, cyan, magenta and yellow colours.

Why Ink Tank Printers Cost More

For decades, traditional ink cartridge printers have been sold at a loss to keep the hardware affordable and the manufacturers would make their profits back through the sale of their ink cartridge technology. However, because ink tanks use refillable reservoirs with even less barriers in the way of using even cheaper third-party ink, the manufacturers must make their profits through the hardware since it is not viable to do so through the consumables.

It is also worth noting that ink tank printers have a different internal design compared to cartridge printers which require additional components and manufacturing processes, this also contributes to driving up the initial price.

Making the Right Choice

Deciding between an ink tank printer that uses ink bottles or an inkjet printer which uses ink cartridges boils down to your printing volume, frequency, and budget. If you're a heavy printer who values long-term savings and higher print quality, an ink tank printer might be the right choice. However, for occasional printers or those prioritising upfront costs, a cartridge-based printer offers convenience and affordability.

Remember, the best printer for you aligns with your specific needs, whether you're printing documents, photos, or the occasional project. By weighing these pros and cons, you can select a printer that not only fits your budget but also your printing habits, ensuring satisfaction and efficiency in all your printing tasks.

Previous Who Else Wants to Know How to Calculate Printing Costs? Learn From These Simple Tips

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