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Some printer brands have a feature you can enable that will generate an automatic order to send ink when you are low. The ink they send is the same as what you’d buy on Amazon or at Staples. It’s a convenient service and possibly useful for some people.

Some people prefer to simply have additional ink available at home for whenever it is needed instead of hoping a delivery comes on time. This document offers some considerations to decide if automatic ordering is right for you.

Companies like Brother, Canon, and Epson help customers have more options, more convenience, more savings, and a more positive impact on the environment by allowing ink to be purchased online, in-store, or with auto-order plans.

Warning Regarding HP InstantInk

With the HP automatic ink replenishment subscription, called InstantInk, HP will take control of your printer and render it unusable with any ink other than the special cartridges they send in the mail.

Here are some of the drawbacks and considerations with the HP subscription:

  • Costly — The HP subscription is advertises as giving you up to 50% off. However, if you printer fewer pages or too many pages in a monthly cycle, you’ll be paying a premium. You’ll save money by just purchasing the high capacity ink cartridges.
  • Delivery Issues — If a cartridge doesn’t arrive on time, or arrives defective, you’ll be stuck and unable to print until you get the situation resolved.
  • Inconvenient — You can’t just go to the store and buy ink anymore, even genuine HP ink, because the printer will reject it. The only way to correct the problem is to login to your HP account and unsubscribe from the InstantInk subscription. It’s not an intuitive process and requires several steps.
  • Not Eco Friendly — The cartridges that come with the HP InstantInk program are not the high capacity eco-friendly cartridges. It’s better for the planet to use high capacity cartridges.

Benefits to Buying Ink As Desired

Despite the promised convenience of automatic ink replenishment, there may be reasons to buy the ink on your own terms. If you buy ink online from your preferred vendor, you may earn points or have access to other discounts. For example, you can use your Best Buy rewards to buy ink. Staples has a special program with cash back on ink purchases and cash rewards for recycled cartridges.

Defective or Dry Cartridges

If you’ve not used your printer for a while, the cartridges can run dry. Sometimes cartridges can be defective or printing poorly despite head cleaning. In these cases, an automatic order may not be sent if there isn’t a low-ink message being sent to the vendor. Only having extra cartridges at home will help in this situation. As mentioned above, if an ink subscription refill arrives and is defective, you’ll need to go to the store anyway.

Big Print Jobs

If you have a big print job to get done over a weekend, your ink level may drop low enough to trigger a replenishment order. Yet, depending on how much printing you need to do, the ink may not arrive in time for several big print jobs.

Visual Level Check

Ink tank printers used bottles of liquid ink. They typically have a window that shows the level of each ink color. It’s an easy way to be aware of your ink levels. If you don’t have an ink tank printer, then you will need to rely on your printer software’s estimate of the ink levels.


As you can see from the considerations mentioned above, in subscription plans may fit some people’s needs and not others.