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Whats the True Cost for Refilling Pens


Recently there was a post over on the Lifehacker website that discussed their readers favorite “budget” pens, and after reading through and thinking about why they were classified as “budget” pens, something struck me.  If these are truly pens for those on a budget or concerned with their cost, then the cost of refills should be a big factor along with the writing performance.  Today we will look at the question: Whats the True Cost for Refilling Pens?


To come up with the cost for refilling pens comparison above, we took the average cost of some of the top pens in the Lifehacker survey and compared them to the average cost of their corresponding refills.  The prices were sourced from Amazon from the most economically viable (ie. free shipping) options at the time, but please keep in mind that I know I’ve seen prices on Amazon fluctuate day to day.  The key column in the spreadsheet above is the one on the far right labeled “Refill Cost Difference.”  This column shows how much more or less expensive it is to purchase refills as compared to the cost of one individual pen with a refill already loaded in it.  Just like when you get behind the wheel of a car, in the chart above, red means stop and green means go.

Here is how the best and the worst of the pens identified shake out:

The WORST cost for refilling pens:

1.  The Uniball 207 weighs in as the least cost effective pen with the corresponding 207 refills costing you a whopping 86.1% more than if you had just bought yourself a new pack of pens.

2.  Next is the Pentel Energel Delux 3 Pack that will set you back almost 26% more if you buy the Energel refills instead of a pack of new pens.

3.  The Pilot G2 shows yet again why it is just not a great option for many reasons, and this time it is cost related, and has nothing to do with its poor performance.  A new pack of Pilot G2 refills will set you back 16% more than if you had just picked up a new pack of pens.

Now for the good news, there are some pens where it actually makes sense to pick up the refills instead of wasting your money and adding more plastic to our landfills, so lets take a look.

The Most Cost Effective Pen Refills:

1.  The 2 Pack of the Zebra F-301 yields a 63% savings when you pick up the corresponding 2 pack of Zebra F-301 refills instead of purchasing a new pack of pens.

2.  The 4 Pack of Pilot V7 RTs yield  a 30.7% savings when you buy the 2 pack of Pilot V7 refills instead of buying more pens.

3.  The Pilot G-Tec C gets you a much smaller 13.7% savings when you buy the single refill as compared to a brand new pen.


One of the most important things is to make sure you buy pens that you actually like using and that perform well on the paper you use them with.  This summary is meant to help by providing one additional input outside of the performance factors that are important to you.

All of the pens and refills selected were .7mm with black ink to try and keep the comparison as consistent as possible. Obviously  prices on Amazon do fluctuate, and may even be different for different users such as those of you with Amazon Prime or other cost saving options.  There may be better online or retail options out there, so it will be best to do your own research.

Although I do not have a good method for testing my hypothesis, I do still believe that fountain pens may be the most economical option for a writing tool, and if you use bottled refills they are also likely to be more environmentally friendly.  Check out some of our Beginner Fountain Pen Reviews if you have not yet explored fountain pens as an option.

©2017, Brian Greene. All rights reserved.


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