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Best Printers for Occasional Use

Best Printers for Occasional Use

Find the perfect printer for occasional use and print only when you want to, without worrying about  dried out printer cartridges.

It’s no secret that many are printing less these days.  Now that everything is just a couple taps away on our smartphones, the need for an everyday printer is rare for most home offices.  Printers can be nice to have for printing out one-off documents for work or your kid’s latest homework assignment, but in between prints, they can easily sit untouched for weeks!

For inkjet printer owners, a dormant printer can quickly be a problem if you forgo printing for even a short period of time.  Printer cartridges can dry out, the printhead can clog, and inevitably, you have to invest in a new set of pricey replacement cartridges.  Low cost compatible printer cartridges can alleviate some of that cost (more on that later), but if you want to get the best long-term print value, you need to find a machine that can weather that printer down time.

In this quick guide, we break down our four favorite printers for consumers that print occasionally.  Whether you just need black and white prints or full color photos, all of these machines can be used infrequently and still produce a quality print when needed.  If you are looking for a printer that won’t dry out, we cover it here!

To skip ahead to the printers, click the jump links below.  Or keep reading to learn more about what type of printer you should buy and the best way to save on printing costs.


What Type of Printer Should I Buy?

Two types of printers are preferred for occasional use: laser printers and ink tank printers.  Which one you choose all depends on the sort of printing you do.

Laser printers have long been a popular option for busy offices and are capable of handling large print volumes and text-based documents.  These machines use toner powder to produce a print.  A dry, plastic material that won’t dry out like an ink cartridge, toner powder can sit idle in the machine for an extended period of time.  If you don’t need to print photos, a good laser printer is the way go.

Ink tank printers, also known as reservoir printers, are a relatively new addition to the printer industry.  Instead of printer cartridges, these machines rely on an ink tank system and ink bottles to produce a print.  Ink is delivered from an ink bottle to the printer through an airtight tube, preserving the ink in a sealed tank until it’s ready to be used.  Ink tank printers are incredibly cost effective, printing thousands of pages for pennies on the dollar and can print anything a regular inkjet printer can, including high quality photographs. Most are more expensive than the standard inkjet machine, but thousands of prints per ink bottle and low operating costs make them worth considering.  Epson was the first major printer manufacturer to offer an ink tank printer option with the Epson EcoTank series but other major manufacturers quickly followed suit.  The Brother Inkvestment line, Canon MegaTank line and HP SmartTank line are all popular ink tank printer series that have been introduced in recent years. 

We answer all of the most common questions and include a list of our favorites in our best ink tank printer buying guide but our top printer for this article is the Canon PIXMA MegaTank G3260 we feature below.


How to Save On Printing Costs

Even if you don’t print a lot, replacing printer cartridges can get expensive.  One great way to save is with LD brand compatible ink and toner cartridges.  With cartridges available for thousands of printer models, including all of the printers mentioned in this article, you can get comparable print quality and page yield to the original brand at a fraction of the price. Check out the savings for each of our featured printers below!


Best Basic Monochrome Laser Printer

Brother HL-L2350DW – Buy on Amazon*

The Brother HL-L2350DW’s high yield printer cartridges and compact size make it an ideal candidate for consumers working with a limited a budget and a tight workspace. For an affordable price, you’ll get fast print speeds, easy to use wireless printing options and a handy automatic duplexer for efficient dual-sided printing.

Monochrome laser printers only print in black, so if you are looking to add some color to your prints, skip down to our color printer recommendations further down the page.

The printer works with two different cartridges sizes, the TN-730 standard yield and the high yield TN-760.  High yield toner cartridges are better option if you print regularly but occasional users are probably fine going with the standard cartridge. An original TN-730 toner cartridge from Staples prints 1,200 pages and sells for $41.99.  The high yield option prints 3,000 pages and sells for $74.99.

You can save up to 52% when you purchase the LD compatible version of the TN-760 cartridge, available for $34.99.  LD compatibles offer the same number of high quality pages as the original and are a much cheaper way to print.  The LD-brand drum unit is $29.99.


Best Multi-function Monochrome Laser Printer

Brother MFC-L2750DW – Buy on Amazon

Printer users desiring a bit more versatility will want to look at the MFC-L2750DW, a multifunction machine with convenient print, scan and fax capabilities.  Featuring print speeds of up to 36 ppm and a 50-sheet automatic document feeder for scanning multi-page documents, your office will stay productive, no matter how seldomly you might print.  Wireless printing options let you easily print from your smart phone, tablet or laptop.

Just like the previously mentioned HL-L2350DW, two cartridges are available for this machine; an original TN-730 standard yield cartridge prints 1,200 pages and sells for $65.49 and the TN-760 prints 3,000 pages and sells for $106.99.  LD brand compatible TN-760 cartridges are available for just $34.99.  A replacement DR-730 drum is $29.99


Best Color Laser Printer

HP Laserjet Pro M254dw – Buy on Amazon

With print speeds of up to 17 ppm, HP’s LaserJet Pro M254dw is a speedy laser printer that is perfect for small offices with basic color printing needs. Offering reliable, sharp text and vibrant color prints at a great value, this is a solid choice for consumers that need to print the occasional color document.  Mobile printing technology connects seamlessly to you smartphone and a duplexer lets you print on both sides of the page.  Unfortunately, the duplexer isn’t automatic, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for users with lighter printing jobs.

The printer works with four color HP cartridges that are available in a standard (HP 202A) and high yield (HP 202X) cartridge size.  Original replacement cartridges can get pricey, ranging from $64.99-$102.99, depending on the cartridge type.  Alternatively, high yield LD compatible cartridges are great deal at $49.99 each!


Best Ink Tank Printer

Canon PIXMA MegaTank G3260 – Buy on Amazon

Ink tank printers have slowly grown in popularity over the last couple of years, with the Epson EcoTank, Canon MegaTank, Brother Inkvestment Tank and HP Smart Tank all competing for your printing dollars.  The Canon PIXMA G3260 MegaTank is our number one pick because it offers the most bang for your buck at a price lower than most ink tank printers.  You get all of the multifunction features you need, plus wireless printing functionality that lets you easily print from a smartphone or tablet.

Thanks to the printer’s high volume GI-21 ink bottles, you’ll be able to print thousands of pages at an incredibly low cost per page, with the black bottle printing up to 6,000 pages and each color bottle printing 7,000 pages.  On top of that, Canon includes two additional black ink bottles with a new machine, offering a total yield of up to 18,000 pages.  That is a lot of ink.

Since this is a new printer, LD-brand compatible versions of the GI-21 ink bottles are not available quite yet but we will keep this article updated!  In the meantime, you can check out thousands of other great cartridges and office supplies on LDProducts.com.

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*Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices on www.LDProducts.com and OEM cartridge and printer prices from the listed retailers: Amazon and Staples. All products are reviewed independently. As an Amazon associate, LD Products earns from qualifying purchases through links on this page. All prices effective as of June 2, 2021.  OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.

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22 Comments

  • I was looking for a wireless printer and bought an Epson WF2630. It takes ink cartridges. Not happy with it. I print occasionally but when I do print it is for important reasons, tickets and such. The Epson seems to need more black ink when I used it for 10 pages 3 weeks ago and not again until today. SO disappointed and frustrated. Now I have to go purchase another black cartridge even tho it shows I have plenty of black ink it is not printing it as if I do. I am looking at an HP that uses toner not ink cartridges and it copies and scans.
    Will I have the same problem with the HP and toner, having to replace it after 10 pages if I do not use it every day but once a month.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Joyce,

      No, you will not have the same issue with toner cartridges. Toner cartridges use toner powder to create a print, which is a plastic like material, so it won’t dry out like an ink cartridge would. You can go weeks in between print jobs without worrying about dried out cartridges! They are a great option if you print occasionally. Hope this helps!

    • Using laser printers, you don’t have to worry about replacing cartridges for awhile. You should be able to find a good HP multifunction laser printer for what you need. You however need to decide if you need it to be a color or monochrome laser printer because for low volume use, I’m afraid a color multi-function printer might be too costly.

    • Exactly – this thing is a cruel joke. What is it costing us $2.50 a page to copy. 10 pages and the cartridge is dried up. first the black then 1-2-3 the color cartridges. $40.00 for 12 copied sheets.
      this thing is a disaster. I am shopping. No more Epson. they are a disaster

  • We bought an Epson EcoTank printer a year or so ago, for occasional use. It will sometimes go a month or two between print jobs. Its heads clog up quickly, and even the deep cleaning cycle (which uses immense quantities of ink) does not completely clean them. I would not recommend this product for intermittent use.

  • also have an Epson EcoTank- it dries up after only 2 weeks of non-usage. I need to spend about 45 minutes (and lots of ink) to unclog and clean the heads multiple times before being able to use it again.
    To top that off, horrible after sales support staff.
    Avoid this type of printer unless you’re printing on a a weekly basis.

  • Your article is titled Best Printers for Occasional Use, but your suggestion on the Canon Pixma focuses on the cost-effectiveness of the ink tanks. Do you believe this Canon Pixma dries out less and clogs less than other ink jet printers? Is there an ink jet multifunction printer that dries/clogs less (especially for the non-black colors that are rarely used). If you know you aren’t going to print for a while (e.g. on vacation), is there a way to store an inkjet printer so it doesn’t clog? Thanks

  • I bought a Brother DCP-T500W 3 years ago. I only used it to print probably 200 A4 pages mostly in B/W. However, I have had to buy a new set of ink as the machine used all the ink cleaning. It also filled up the reservoir for waste ink and caused problems. Nowhere to buy a new reservoir. Then the ink head blocked and the head was damaged trying to clean which was not easy. A completely rubbish machine. Now it is shut off and cannot turn on even with following instructions to reset.
    What machine can I buy that will not block and not use tanks of ink to clean itself regularly? Otherwise, it is best to get the printing done in a print shop although inconvenient. Any recommendations?

  • To prevent ink cartridges from drying out, I put them in a zip lock plastic bag with a damp paper napkin. I have to put them into the printer when I want that occasional print (or scan, grr, why does the printer insist the cartridges be installed when I only want to scan).

    Works like a charm, and save me much $ for the 20-30 pages I print a year.

  • My sister wants to buy a printer for her personal use because she wants to be able to save money since she constantly prints her thesis revisions lately, and she finds that going to have it printed by a business is getting expensive for her. Thanks for enlightening me that she can get two types of printers for occasional use which can help her save money in the long run. I think I’ll help her buy a printer from a printer supplier so that she’ll be able to get the model that she wants.

  • I want to avoid a Laser Printer due to the health and environmental issues from the fumes in the home.
    $250 for the Canon Ink Reservoir printer is rather steep. I just am tired of having to go to the library to print things when I need to.
    Any cheaper, long-lasting ink printers between infrequent printing times would be appreciated for someone on a very modest retirement pension!

  • I am in the market for a replacement printer and reading the review comments, I find that no one mentions software issues . I am
    currently a Linux Debian 10 user and have had support problems with both printers and scanners, particularly with Epson products.
    What is the likelyhood of software problems with the printers you recommended in this op-ed?

  • I need an 11×17 tabloid color printer for occasional use. Sometimes very occasional – a month might go by without printing. If I could find a color laser all-in-one that handles 11×17 I could use it for everything, but these apparently no longer exist and an inkjet is not fast enough for our everyday all-in-one use.

    Can you recommend an 11×17 ink tank printer that is more resistant to clogging (or easier to clean) than others? Preferably one with good Mac software (Brother software has been pretty good, HP sucks). Don’t need a very large ink capacity.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Michael,

      Take a look at the Brother MFC-J6945DW, it is part of Brother’s Inkvestment ink tank line and can handle up to 11″ x 17″ pages. Hope this helps!

  • I have had a lot of inkjet printers over the years. The first one, a B&W Canon was by far the best. Both HP printers have been painful both with software hanging if I did anything unexpected by the printer, and ink issues. If I remove a cartridge for any reason, the printer assumes I refilled it and very soon it refuses to print. Last time, I replaced the black cartridge, then a few weeks later put in a new color cartridge. Now it won’t put any kind of mark on paper at all. It is good business for the local print shop, though.

  • I bought a $49 HP DeskJet at Walmart. I print about four times a year, 5-10 black pages. They refused a return after the first printing pause I had, resulting in a dried up cartridge. I’ve had to replace the ink cartridge each time I need to print, so that is about 8 times during the last 2 years. The cartridges are about 20 bucks, but instead of getting mad, I get even. Each time I need to print, I return the cartridge, which they seem happy to replace. If they were smart they would have taken the printer back. Eight cartridges so far, is about $160. If I was printing color, probably double that.

  • I would never never never buy another canon printer

  • I have a MFC-J4970W Brother printer. Had to buy a black cartridge. I did. It would not work because it said I now needed color ink. There is no guaranteed that the printer will work. What can I do? Pleae advise….

    • Hi Beverly! Unfortunately, at this point, your best move is to replace what color cartridge is running low. If you are concerned about spending on color cartridges with uncertainty whether or not this will get your printer working, I suggest getting compatible alternatives that work just as well as Brother cartridges. That way it doesn’t feel like you’re throwing out so much money. Please keep me posted if replacing the empty color cartridge works!

      Best regards,
      Anna

  • I’ve owned a Canon Pixma 532 since it was first offered. I retired about a year ago and have used the printer infrequently since. However, even after a month plus of sitting idle, I’ve experienced no issues including any related to ink drying out. Am I lucky or is this model printer unique?

    • Hey Stan,

      That is remarkable indeed! Some factors to consider would be the level of humidity in the room where your printer is and maybe the cartridges are better sealed inside the printer which would make the PIXMA 532 a better printer model compared to others.

      Cheers,
      Anna

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