Caran D'Ache Leman V2 Grand Bleu Fountain Pen

How Long Do Pens Last?

Pens are some of the most common writing tools that we use daily, so a pen that stops working at the most inopportune moment can be a huge nuisance. If you’ve experienced this or you’ve just gotten yourself a brand new pen and are wondering how long do pens last, we’ll give you all the details on the topic. 

We’ll go over the lifespan of various types of pens and the factors that affect their longevity, and give you insider tips on how to extend the lifespan of your favorite writing instrument. Without further ado, let’s learn how long pens actually last.

Pen Ink Longevity

Some types of pens generally last longer than others, with ballpoint pens being the most reliable ones in terms of ink longevity and cost efficiency. Generally, ballpoint and rollerball pens last for about four years, and fountain pen ink lasts even longer when they’re used occasionally. Fineliner pen refills, on the other hand, will last between two and four years, depending on environmental factors and storage. 

Let’s look at how long each type of pen lasts in more depth.

What's the Difference?

With so many pens available on the market today, understanding the differences between them and the ink they use helps us to better understand the longevity of each, so let’s cover that next.

Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint pens are writing tools that use oil-based ink, one of the thickest types of ink on the market. This type of ink doesn’t dry inside the refill or tip as fast as water-based ink, but it’s more resistant to fading. Because it needs a longer time to dry out, ballpoint ink can smear. 

These pens have a twist or click mechanism that lets the tip out, so if you want your pen to last longer, you should keep the tip inside when you aren’t using it. Ballpoint pens will last you for four years before they expire if you use them occasionally. 

To make sure that the ballpoint pen runs smoothly, store it in a dark place away from direct sunlight. The best way to store these pens is in an upright position with the tip of the pen pointed downwards, so it’s ready to use whenever you need it.

Rollerball Pens

rollerball pen

Rollerball pens use a water-based type of ink that’s similar to fountain pen ink, so it’s more fluid and gives you a smoother writing experience compared to a ballpoint pen. Rollerball ink dries out much faster than ballpoint, so you need to keep the tip covered to prevent it from drying out. You can expect a rollerball to last for four years before it expires if you use it occasionally. And the best way to store rollerball pens is in a horizontal position with the cap placed on after each use so the tip doesn’t dry out.

Fineliner Pens

fineliner pen

Fineliner pens are the go-to pens for pen enthusiasts who enjoy sketching. They require less pressure to write and don’t skip as much as rollerball or ballpoint pens. These pens generally use water-based ink, however, some use oil-based ink. Because they use a water-based ink that’s thinner, they dry out quicker than rollerball pens when you transfer the ink onto paper, and will last up to four years. Fineliner pens should be stored vertically with the tip faced down to prevent them from drying out.

Fountain Pens

fountain pen

Fountain pens have a metal nib that’s either made of stainless steel or solid gold and use water-based ink. This type of pen produces a fine, even line and works both with bottled ink that you refill once in a while or with a replaceable cartridge. Fountain pens are the most eco-friendly pens that are made with quality materials and can last you a lifetime if stored properly

Fountain pen ink doesn’t expire, however, the quality of the ink can deteriorate over time if it’s stored in unsuitable conditions, such as in direct sunlight or right next to a heat source. Under the right conditions, you can expect your fountain pen ink to last up to 60 years if the bottle is unopened. 

The best way to store fountain pens depends on how long you’re planning to store them. The minute you stop using your pen, you should cap it and store it horizontally to prevent spills. This position also works for short-term storage, since it both prevents the nib from drying out and the ink from leaking. For long-term storage, though, it’s best to completely empty your fountain pen and store it either horizontally or vertically.

Document Markers

Document markers are pens with a wide top that’s filled with ink. They come in a washable variety, often used by children, and a permanent variety, used by adults. They come in a wide variety of colors that are useful for labeling and marking. The average lifespan of most markers is between one and two years, but this depends from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Stylus Pens

Stylus pens are two-in-one devices that have a traditional pen on one end and a stylus on the other. A stylus is a tool that can navigate touchscreen devices and is made of rubber. It can be used to highlight, scroll, and select on your screen while keeping it free of scratches and fingertips. Most stylus pens will last between six months and a year.

Gel Pens

Gel pens use ink that’s made of pigment suspended in a water-based gel. The ink is thick and opaque, which makes it much easier to see on slick surfaces. These types of pens are mostly used for writing, illustration, bullet journalling, coloring, decorating pages, and customizing planners. Gel pens come in many unconventional colors and textures, such as fluorescent, shimmery, glittery, etc, and typically expire after a year.

Does Gel Pen Ink Last a Long Time?

Gel pens that are left open and those stored in a place that’s exposed to the sun tend to expire much faster than those properly stored. So, after you’re done writing, immediately close the pen and store it in the shade. 

These pens are known for producing smooth and vibrant lines, while the ink is much more resistant to fading and water than other types of pens. Gel ink is much thicker and skips more than rollerball and ballpoint pens, and it also takes much longer to dry compared to ballpoint pens. 

How long your gel pen ends up lasting depends mostly on its exposure to heat, sunlight, and moisture, and frequency of use. To ensure that your gel pen lasts for a longer time, choose high-quality pens and store them correctly. 

What Kind of Pen Should You Get?

The type of pen that best suits your needs will depend on a few factors, such as your writing style and how long you’d like the pen to last. If you want to choose a pen that will last for a long time, your best bet would be to purchase a fountain pen, since they’re made of the most durable materials. Fountain pen ink, on the other hand, can last anywhere between 10 and 60 years in an unopened bottle.

Another excellent choice for an EDC pen is either a ballpoint or a rollerball pen that has an expiry date of up to 4 years. Fineliners, on the other hand, are a great option for pen enthusiasts who are into both sketching and writing, and they are also quite durable.

The least durable options are markers and gel pens which tend to dry out in a year. Even though they’re less durable, they are great for highlighting and underlining important text and documents and come in a wide array of fun colors.


Do pens expire?

In general, fountain pens don’t expire, though some manufacturers give an expiration date to the ink, which can last for decades if stored properly. However, ballpoint and rollerball ink does dry out after four years if you don’t use it up. Gel ink has an even shorter expiration date, and most last between two and four years. 

How long does a pen ink last?

Even though pen ink doesn’t have an expiration date, especially when it comes to fountain pen ink, it does become insatiable after a while if it’s stored improperly and is exposed to external factors. But if you store it correctly, meaning in a dark and cool place away from humidity, you’re likely to use every last drop.

How many pages can a ballpoint pen last?

On average, you can expect a ballpoint pen to write about 100 pages of text or about 50,000 words before it runs out of ink. Generally, each person in the US goes through 4.3 pens in a year.


The lifespan of your pen will depend on its type, quality, and how often you use it, in addition to proper storage and environmental factors. While some pens last just a few months, others can last for years. 

If you learn more about the key factors that affect the longevity of your pen, you can prolong its life and avoid the ink from running out at an inconvenient time. 

Out of all pens, fountain pens last the longest. If you’re interested, check out our best fountain pens guide to choose your first fountain pen.

In the end, what matters most is not how long your pen will last, but the quality and durability of the ink once it gets on the paper. We wish that your favorite pen lasts you for years to come and helps you capture your most important thoughts.

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