The 8 Best Ballpoint Pens of 2020

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Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

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With all the writing instruments available these days, why choose a ballpoint? Because they guarantee a steady and reliable flow of ink, which is handy for those whose jobs require that they do a fair amount of legible writing over the course of the day. They don’t leak so you don’t have to handle them with kid gloves to avoid stains on your hands and clothing. The ink dries in a snap. If you want a tidy pen you can depend on, try one of these. We guarantee you'll love them.

Best Overall: The Cross Century Classic

The Cross Century Classic
 Courtesy of Amazon

The Cross Century Classic takes the honor of being simply the best ballpoint pen out there for a few reasons. First, you can’t top its looks: It’s made of rolled gold and it’s 10- to 14-karat gold filled. You can choose the filling you prefer or get a chrome-accented model for under $25 if you don’t want to stretch your budget to the breaking point. Cross offers lifetime warranties on all its products.

Of course, appearance is nice, but how does the Century Classic handle? Superbly. The weight is perfect and doesn’t grow uncomfortable in your hand after long periods of writing. It retracts with one easy, fluid twist when you’re done, and it handles any kind of paper. There’s no grip, however, and the tip size is 0.7 mm.

Best Ink: Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable

Uni-Ball has patented its “super” ink, which was initially developed as a fraud-buster due to its unique properties, and that’s what you get with this pen. It won’t fade and, best of all, it won’t smear if you spill a bit of your water on the page. It dries fast, so it won’t smear if you tend to be a top-speed scribbler. The ink is designed to stay put no matter how fast you write because it actually forms a bond with the paper.

The .7 mm width is the most popular version of this pen, but the Jetstream Retractable also comes in a 1 mm width if you’d like something more substantial. It’s nice looking, too, with stainless steel accents and an embossed grip.

Best for Everyday Use: The Pilot Better Ballpoint Pen

If you earn your bread and butter in the office trenches because you’re still working your way up the ladder, you’re probably rolling your eyes at some of the fancy, high-priced pens on this list. You might simply want something that writes and writes well, day-in and day-out — reliability at a nice, reasonable price that won’t mean giving up your morning lattes in exchange.

The Better Ballpoint is retractable, which means you can protect the ballpoint when you’re not using it and you won’t have to worry about losing the cap. It’s refillable, which makes it a good value, and the barrel is transparent so you can keep an eye on the situation — no sudden dry-ups without warning at a crucial moment. The grip is ribbed for firm handleability. The Better Ballpoint is a nice, sturdy fine-point for consistent use.

Best Fan Favorite: The Bic Cristal

The name Bic is pretty much synonymous with “pen” and the Cristal is said to be the bestselling pen in the world. Of course, that might be because it’s the standard found in just about every self-respecting hotel room worldwide, not to mention any other place where you might find a desk or writing space that’s available to the public. This Bic pen is literally everywhere.

The ball is 1.6 mm and delivers smooth, effortless, distinct flow, perfect for heavy-duty, everyday use. If this pen is guilty of any shortcoming at all, it’s that it’s not refillable, but that’s certainly not a big deal when you can buy a pack of 24 for about the cost of a pack of gum. And you won’t be surprised by running out of ink mid-sentence because this is the pen with the translucent barrel. You can see exactly how much ink you have left and know when it’s time to reach into that package for a new one.

Best Design: The Lamy 2000

The Lamy is made of fiberglass, so it’s designed to last pretty much forever. What’s more, it’s really attractive — so much so that it’s actually on display at the Museum of Modern Art and it’s won several awards for its design. You can probably expect a few oohs and ahs when you use it — or at least the standard question, “Where did you get that pen?”

The Lamy isn’t cheap, but it’s not the most expensive pen out there, either, and it’s worth the price tag even aside from its looks. It writes smoothly and efficiently. Of course, it does come with a giant free refill, which takes some of the sting out of the price tag.

Best for Versatility: The Fisher Space Pen

This one was originally known as the Bullet Space Pen back in 1948 when Paul Fisher first created it. The pen has undergone many upgrades since then, including a new ink cartridge that was introduced in the 1960s to accommodate a request by NASA for something that would write in really extreme temperatures, like 30 below to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The design allows you to write perfectly well upside down and in zero gravity, which is particularly notable because most other ballpoint pens rely on gravity to coat the ball with ink. This bestselling, highly popular instrument will literally allow you to write anywhere under any conditions. NASA still uses them.

It’s made of brass with chrome touches and it also comes in matte black and a larger “shuttle” version.

Best for Work: The Waterman Expert Deluxe Obsession Ballpoint

You might choose this Waterman if your workdays tend to be stressful. The Expert Deluxe Obsession ballpoint is the trademark blue that the company, first launched in Nantes, France in 1883, is known for. The color is known to be soothing, so this pen might provide a nice, calming influence on your day no matter what challenges it hurls at you.

The ink is blue as well, and the flow is distinct, precise and professional. It’s somewhat cigar-shaped, which might seem to defy handleability, but it’s actually quite comfortable, particularly if you find yourself having to handwrite for extended periods of time. All Waterman pens are handmade. So go ahead and treat yourself. This pen is more expensive than others on this list, but it’s so much more than a writing instrument. Waterman says it’s your “partner.”

Best for Durability: The Montblanc StarWalker

Montblanc is another well-known name in pens, and the StarWalker is designed to last just about forever, thus the hefty price tag. It’s Montblanc’s most expensive model — at least one version of the StarWalker runs into the $700 range — but some are much more economical than that. And you get what you pay for: long-term functionality and reliability, thanks to its black precious resin composition and ruthenium appointments and accents. There’s no cheap plastic to be found here.

At least one critic says Montblanc’s SkyWalker is the smoothest pen he’s ever used. It’s available in both fine- and medium-point and comes with the company’s signature Mystery Black Ink, although you can refill it with other inks if you choose. It’s available in six colors and the grip is a contoured barrel.