Ink is used as the printer prepares to print after not being used for a while. So if you print infrequently, that could mean more ink used for maintenance chores such as cleaning the print heads.
Consumer Reports designed a special test to see how much ink was actually making it onto paper. Testers printed 30 pages of text or color graphics intermittently over a three-week period. 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! They are the HP Officejet Pro 8600 and the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro 4000.
Test data also showed most brands had printers that used a lot of ink for maintenance as well as ones that were easy on ink. If they can keep ink usage down for some, they should be able to keep it down for all their printers. But the Brother brand stood out. All three of the Brother printers tested were frugal with ink at start-up. A Consumer Reports Best Buy is the Brother DCP-J140W, at $80.
You can save on ink no matter which printer you own by following this advice from Consumer Reports. First of all, try to print all at once rather than every few days. Also, leave your printer on between jobs. The tiny amount of standby power used will cost much less than the ink used up when the printer turns on.