Hands down the most common writing instrument, you have probably used or touched at least a hundred ballpoint pens in your lifetime.
And you have probably come to realize that not all ballpoints are made the same.
What to Look for When Buying Ballpoint Pens
When looking for a ballpoint pen, the ideal ballpoint writes instantly, does not skip or leave ink blots, and is comfortable to use.
Really, you want to avoid classic ballpoint pen problems...leaking ink...the pen drying out and having to draw circles on the back of your receipt for forever to get it going again...the writing line skipping...leaving little clots on the page.
A great ballpoint will avoid all of these standard ballpoint problems.
But to find the perfect pen for you, you will want to ask yourself a few questions:
- What level of comfort do I want? Ergonomic rubber grip for long periods of use? Something well-balanced but not catered to grip?
- How will I use the ballpoint pen? Do I need a durable pen that can survive the bottom of a backpack? Is the pen sitting on a desk making a statement when not in use?
- How much do I want to pay for my perfect ballpoint pen? Am I looking for the best pens to buy in bulk? Am I looking for my favorite pens to give as gifts?
With those in mind, I have a list of the best ballpoint pens by brand in all the categories you need to find your perfect pen.
First, I am going to talk about some of the big brands are in the ballpoint world.
Then, I am going into some general best ballpoint pens that are priced under $20 and are easily accessible at your local office supply store or on Amazon.
Last, I am going to go into the best brands in the luxury ballpoint pens category.
Pen Brands You Need to Know
BIC is the reason the ballpoint is the most used writing utensil in history. BIC took the original patent for the ballpoint and created the most recognizable ballpoint in the world: the BIC Cristal.
If you haven't used a BIC in your life (whether the Cristal, Round Stic, 4-Color, etc.), you either grew up in a hippie commune that makes their own quills or you are from a wealthy Russian oligarch's family that only touches things made of 23k gold.
BIC is the bread and butter of ballpoints, not surprisingly, they are incredibly good at making a decent ballpoint.
Most known for their rollerballs like the G-2 and their fountain pens (which are incredible), Pilot rocks a real solid ballpoint in the cheap category. Their ink tends towards a low viscosity, which makes it silky smooth for a more rollerball ink feel.
One of the first manufacturers of the ballpoint, Parker hit it big with the Jotter and has made it ever since.
People are brand loyal to Parker ballpoints for the sturdy design of the pens themselves (which are "luxury" with all-metal builds and precious metal materials), and the Parker Quink that is durable and paste-y.
Parker Pens are all refillable so no tossing the pen when the ink runs out, just get some refills.
Ultimately, you can't think of Uni Ball as a brand without thinking of the Uni Ball Jetstream Ballpoint.
We will talk about it more later, but as a whole, Uni Ball delivers low viscosity ballpoint ink that dries almost instantly and bonds to the paper so it won't smear.
Swiss craftsmanship that is a tier below Montblanc. Their designs range from fresh and modern to artistic and subtle.
Caran D'Ache tops lists of ballpoints for their seamless designs (the 849 literally has no seams) and the ink is dark, dependable, and smooth.
Luxury, Parisian, and smooth, if you have never touched a luxury ballpoint pen before, a Waterman will make it hard to go back to anything else.
Cheap Best Ballpoint Pens
What brand of pen is the best?
The best brand for a ballpoint pen is the Uni Ball Pens.
In particular, the Uni Ball Jetstream is the best of the ballpoint pens. Pen enthusiasts and casual users all agree, and it really is impossible to compare ballpoint pens with this one.
It's not just a good pen. Its fluid ink flow is entirely dedicated to the jetstream ink which has a low viscosity for a really fluid flow, yet somehow manages to still dry almost instantly and has a special patent that bonds the ink to the paper.
The downfall of the Uni Ball Jetstream is also a strength. It's a cheap pen so you can find and buy them easy as pie. Unfortunately, that means they aren't very impressive to look at.
They have to remain the best of the cheap ballpoints since there is nothing luxury about this pen except the smooth lines.
That being said...a little hack to consider.
Uni Ball makes the Jetstream ink refill in a special size: SXR-600-07.
The SXR-600-07 Uni Ball Jetstream refill is comparable in size to the Parker-style G2 refill which fits in anything from Parker, Caran d'Ache 849 Ballograf, Zebra, etc...
So you can always find a more luxury bodied pen that the refill fits in and turn them into the best ballpoint pens.
The best everyday ballpoint pen
The best everyday carry ballpoint pen is the Parker Jotter.
I guarantee you will not come across any pen aficionados who do not have at least one Parker Jotter in their collection. It has been a staple in writing households since Parker released it in the 1950s and revolutionized the ballpoint world.
What makes it such a good everyday pen?
The slim-barrel pen body is portable and constructed of stainless steel, making it an incredibly durable pen.
The click is snappy and efficient. The ink inside (Parker's patented Quink) dries fast and is ready to write.
There are no everyday writing tasks the Jotter can't handle. It's why it's a staple of pen lovers.
The most ergonomic pen
The best ergonomic ballpoint pen is the Pilot Dr. Grip Ballpoint pen.
Ergonomic pens are focused on alleviating stress and pain in the hand while writing and gripping a pen.
That pain can be from a medical condition such as carpal tunnel or arthritis, or it can be from a bad grip.
And how ergonomic pens alleviate that stress is through altering how you grip the pen. That can be by making sure the weight, grip, and ink are adaptable to different hand holds, or by changing the shape of the pen entirely.
The Pilot Dr. Grip Ballpoint falls into the first category resulting in a ballpoint that is not only a great pen for anyone with a medical condition, but also for anyone who happens to use one.
The grip has a special double layer of a firmer overcoat with a soft rubber underneath that allows for an easy hold without tension.
The pen is weighted towards the tip so less pressure is required to write.
The ink is low viscosity, which means it will flow more like a liquid ink than an oily one.
The Pilot Dr. Grip is also the recommended pen for Ease of Use by the Arthritis Foundation.
What is the best ballpoint pen to draw with?
The best ballpoint pen to draw with is the Bic 4-Color.
Ballpoint artists have long favored Bic as their writing utensil of choice due to its accessibility, the fineness of the point, and the oiliness of the ink.
The Bic 4-Color delivers not only the pasty, oily ink of BIC, it also has four refills of different colors (black, blue, red, and green) perfect for any ballpoint artwork.
Which brand of pen lasts the longest?
The brands of pen that last the longest are Uni Ball, Pilot, and BIC.
Really, this one is a hard one to gauge since how much you write is the major factor.
Ultimately, how long a pen lasts will vary.
Best Luxury Brand Ballpoint Pens
Overall, the best luxury brand ballpoint pens are by Caran D’Ache.
Caran D’Ache is the best for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the quality of the refill inside offers smooth lines and consistent ink flow that will always win out.
You always feel like you get your money's worth...or better.
Best Affordable Ballpoint Pens
The best affordable ballpoint pens are the Ohto Horizon Needlepoint Ballpoint pen and the LAMY Safari.
Ohto Horizon Needlepoint Ballpoint Pen
Credited as inventing the "rollerball", Ohto's Horizon Ballpoint writes deceptively like a gel pen.
The hexagonal body makes it easy to grip, and the click feels cool and modern.
It's a unique ballpoint with a very fine point (hence the needlepoint title) so if you prefer a fine-point pen, it's hard to beat.
The LAMY Safari
LAMY, like Caran D’Ache, pops up across the board as an excellent high end ballpoint at its entry level and most expensive.
The Safari is sleek with the signature LAMY clip and tripod grip. The accordion style click is interactive and fun to use and the plastic body feels surprisingly substantial.
It also has a wide variety of finishes and clip colors with limited editions always being released for a unique take on this new classic.
Best Gold Ballpoint Pen
The best gold ballpoint pen is the Cartier's Santos de Cartier Ballpoint Pen.
Masters of fine jewelry and watches, it shouldn't be a surprise that Cartier also puts its time and attention into making a sublime, Swiss-crafted gold ballpoint.
Best Luxury Ballpoint Pen
The best luxury ballpoint pen brands are Montegrappa.
Montegrappa has been handcrafting pens since 1912 in a small mountain town in Italy. All the romance you can conjure up in your imagination in that small story pretty much captures the beauty and excellence of these pens.
A Montegrappa ballpoint pen is an heirloom piece that writes exquisitely. My recommendation is the Elmo.
Best Ballpoint Pen for Gifts
The best ballpoint brands to give as gifts are Waterman and AT Cross.
Waterman pens are just downright excellent. Often compared to Montblanc, Waterman highlights Parisian excellence and design where Montblanc hallmarks Swiss.
The Waterman Hemisphere in particular is the best gift pen for its attention to detail and refinement. It also engraves beautifully, making it ideal for personalization.
With the trademark Mysterious Blue ink, the Hemisphere is one of the best pens for any writer.
Synonymous with American pen design, Cross pens offer the perfect range of price point for gifting a luxury ballpoint pen.
Are Montblanc Pens Worth It?
When I originally wrote this article, I had every intention of using Montblanc in my list of high end luxury ballpoints.
All my research told me they are one of the greatest luxury brands in the world and Montblanc pens have long been heralded as a status symbol of prestige and professionalism.
I purchased a Montblanc Meisterstuck for the article, and I have to say I was really quite disappointed in what I received.
I'll start with what I liked about the pen first.
It does write well. The ink glides smoothly with a moderate amount of pressure and leaves a fine, but very dark line on the page.
The design is classic. I will always be a sucker for black glossy lacquer against a soft yellow gold.
Sadly, that is where my likes end.
I want to be fair, and I am very open to a new experience with Montblanc and changing my opinion, but I would like to point out quite a few details that I found unpleasant in a pen with this pedigree.
I also should comment that I know Montblanc is one of the most knocked off brands in the world and I did my best to verify that my pen was not a fake.
The pen itself was much lighter than expected and the mechanism for the twist-action did not glide smoothly open and closed.
Montblanc's signature resin barrel seemed to be brittle, and I do have a concern about the durability of the pen and how much usage it will be able to withstand.
For these reasons, I have left Montblanc off my list of best brands, opting for brands like Montegrappa and Waterman as alternatives.
How do I know which style of pen is best for me?
The best style of ballpoint pen for you will be the one that feels the most comfortable when you hold it, writes easily with your grip, and that you enjoy writing with the most.
Start by trying the cheap brands of ballpoint pens.
Which one has smooth writing? Could you use it for everyday writing tasks? Does it feel like a durable pen?
Once you have a favorite cheap ballpoint, try some of the more affordable, entry-level luxury pens.
I would gravitate towards whichever brand best fits your personal style.
And remember, many ballpoint pens have interchangeable refills. If you find a fluid ink flow you love, see if you can match it with the barrel of your favorite pens.
That's all for the best brands of ballpoint pens from the cheap easy users to the high end luxury ballpoint pens.
What are your favorite ballpoint pens to use? Leave a comment below!And if you have any questions about different brands or refills for your ballpoint, check out our Ultimate Guide to Pen Refills.
Sam Di Nardo is the Lead Blogger at Dayspring Pens where she has become an expert in all things ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pen. Her current fountain pen favorite is the Franklin Cristoph Model 20 Marietta. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their growing family. Learn more about Sam's Bio.