Should You Buy Discount Inkjet Cartridges?

Category: Photography

A reader asks: 'Are discount inkjet cartridges really a good deal? I've heard they can ruin your printer, void your warranty, and that the quality is lacking. Others have told me they're great and can save you lots of money. What's the scoop on those cheap ink cartridges?' Read on for my advice about refilled or remanufactured inkjet cartridges...

The Truth About Discount Ink Cartridges

It's hard to ignore the big price difference between "brand name" ink cartridges supplied by HP, Canon, Epson Lexmark or another manufacturer, and the alternatives. Compatible off-brand or remanufactured inkjet printer cartridges typically cost 15 percent less than OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges at OfficeMax, Staples, and other physical stores.

Online, you may find discount ink cartridges costing 30, 50, or 70 percent less than brand-name goods. Nonetheless, many people hesitate to buy no-name or remanufactured ink cartridges.

There is a persistent rumor that using anything other than manufacturer branded OEM cartridges will void a printer's warranty. That is not true, at least in the United States. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C.A. 2302) forbids the conditioning of a warranty upon the purchase of any product or service "which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name." In other words, your printer's warranty cannot be voided just because you used a non-OEM ink cartridge.

Discount Inkjet Cartridges

Whether an off-brand compatible or remanufactured discount ink cartridge will perform as well as an OEM cartridge depends, of course, on how well it is made. A fly-by-night outfit may use inferior inks that don't produce vibrant, non-fading colors; skimp on cleaning print nozzles and other parts; and skip quality control testing to save money. Shoddy cartridges can leak and ruin the electronics of a printer.

Discount Inkjet Cartridge Suppliers

To find a reliable supplier of discount ink cartridges, try searching for your printer model online along with keywords such as "compatible", "refilled" or "remanufactured" ink cartridges. Look for suppliers who have loyal fans and have been in business for a number of years. Also look for warranties provided by suppliers. One supplier I've used is LD Products, which has been around for over a dozen years, and offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products.

Here's a personal example: My HP OfficeJet Pro uses a cartridge which retails for $49.99. LD sells a remanufactured replacement cartridge for $8 that works beautifully. Print quality are page yield are the same as the OEM cartridge, and I save $42 on each one! For years, I was buying the expensive HP-labelled cartridges from an office supply store, under the false assumption that generic or remanufactured cartridges might not work in my printer. Of course LD also offers replacement ink cartridges for Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Lexmark and other popular brands.

If this sounds like a sneaky advertisement for LD Products, well, it's not. I'm just a happy customer passing along a tip, and LD doesn't give me any special treatment or incentives. I've also used 123Inkjets.com and found that their products and prices are generally great as well.

The popular office supply store Office Depot also sells their own brand of inkjet printer cartridges, which they say are manufactured using ISO-certified processes, and are made "to meet OEM performance standards." These ink cartridges are guaranteed compatible with the OEM branded cartridges in quality, reliability, and page yield. Office Depot, Staples and other office supply stores sell replacement cartridges for Canon, Dell, Epson, Hewlett Packard, Lexmark and many other printer brands.

Ignore the Scare Tactics

Printer manufacturers, of course, don't like it when people use compatible or remanufactured ink cartridges. That's because they make more money selling ink than printers. So OEMs have tried many ways to discourage consumers from buying discount ink cartridges, and have also tried to sue remanufacturers out of business. Generally, courts have upheld consumers' rights to save money with compatible and remanufactured ink cartridges. In May 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Lexmark, which was suing a company that sells refilled ink cartridges. That's legal affirmation from the high court that third-party companies have the right to continue selling refilled or remanufactured ink cartridges. So the best OEMs can do today is to try to scare you.

Some OEMs include software with their printer utilities that checks the "authenticity" of newly installed ink cartridges. If the software detects a remanufactured cartridge, a warning pops up on your screen telling you that the cartridge is not "genuine" and "may" damage your printer. If this happens, press the "I Like To Save Money and You're Not Scaring Me" button.

But sometimes OEMs take it to the next level. Last year, my HP printer displayed a message saying that all four of my (third-party) inkjet cartridges “appear to be damaged” and I could not print anything. HP had effectively locked my printer with a software update, in an attempt to force me to buy their cartridges. Fortunately, the nice folks at LD Products were willing to replace my cartridges.

Personally, I've never had a print quality problem with remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges. (Years ago, I ruined a few shirts while trying to refill my own cartridges, but that's another story.) Using them is a great way to save money and recycle plastic cartridges. Some remanufacturers partner with local charities to collect empty cartridges, paying a bounty on each cartridge to the charities. That's a good way to spread the benefits of recycling around.

Have you tried using discount inkjet cartridges, either compatible or remanufactured? I'd like to know your experience with them. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Should You Buy Discount Inkjet Cartridges?"

(See all 62 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Tazio57
13 Jun 2017

I have boycotted HP ever since they refused warranty on a printer that was received as a Christmas gift. The printer failed in January. Without a receipt there was no warranty. I had registered the printer with HP online on Christmas day but that did not matter to HP. It seems HP will use any excuse to avoid warranty coverage.


Posted by:

Ivan
13 Jun 2017

Hi Bob, I am using printpal.com for recycled ink cartridges, never had a problem. They carry all cartridges for all printers I ever had.
Thanks for your daily very useful articles!


Posted by:

Phil
13 Jun 2017

Bob, your article sounded just like you were working in my home office. Particularly the paragraph regarding the HP firmware upgrade. One day my yellow ran out on my HP OJ Pro 8600. After I replaced it with my LD Products cartridge I was presented with the message 'cartridge appeared to be damaged'. I installed a second yellow with the same result. I called LD support and explained the situation. They immediately knew my problem, asked me what I had in inventory and they would replace all cartridges. I had a new shipment in two days. Because of superior customer support I will buy from no one else.


Posted by:

Mo
13 Jun 2017

What about the HP 8000 series inkjet that seem to have a chip and an expiration date to make you buy "fresh" and HP only cartridges. Any override for that?


Posted by:

Robert Williams
13 Jun 2017

Like Mike, I too bought refills from Costco for my HP Officejet 6700 premium printer. After about 8 months my printer wouldn't print anything anymore. Found out the printing head was plugged (according to Google/HP research).New printer so I'll stick with HP ink.


Posted by:

Bob Anderson
13 Jun 2017

I too have been using LD cartridges for all my printers. I also use LD refill kits. Both cartridges and refill kits are excellent. LD uses pigment ink in their cartridges and refill kits. Some remanufactured ink cartridge companies use dye ink, which is not compatible with pigment ink. If an old cartridge isn't properly cleaned before it is refilled, it may have both pigment ink and dye ink mixed together and cause the ink nozzles to become clogged. This is most usually the problem with remanufactured ink cartridges. LD also sells their ink cartridges and supplies through Amazon, which at times is cheaper than what LD sells the same exact thing for.


Posted by:

Joe M
14 Jun 2017

I have used LD Ink for several years. Outstanding service from them. Recently one new cartridge from them would not work, sent LD an email about it and was sent another one (by Priority Mail) that did work. Will continue to buy from them.


Posted by:

Eldred Coot
14 Jun 2017

I found the re-manufactured cartridge for my old HP printer worked much better than the brand name. The ink was much more smear proof.


Posted by:

Robert A.
14 Jun 2017

I've been using ink cartridges for my HP inkjet printers refilled at Costco for several years now, with absolutely no problems. The price is right, with a typical refill going for about $10.00, per cartridge, and in the monthly specials booklet, sent to members, earlier this year, the refills were going for about $8.00, compared to the $65.00 to $80.00 price for a set of two black ink cartridges or a set of three color cartridges.

And the refills at Costco are filled completely, effectively making it an equivalent of the HP "X" fully-filled versions, rather than the standard "A" versions that come from the factory only half filled.

Talking with the folks at the Costco refill counter, they say Costco does intensive research with leading ink producers to have an ink formula that is nearly identical in quality and performance to those used by the major printer manufacturers, just as most of the Costco private label Kirkland Supreme products sold in other parts of the store, are as good, if not better, in quality, than a comparable well-known branded product, for much, much less. And Costco guarantees the cartridges to performs as well as the ones for the OEMs.

I'm curious about Epson's thoughts on the use of aftermarket ink sold in refill bottles, for it's recently introduced "Eco-Tank" series of printers, introduced in 2016, which don't require individual cartridges, but rather have refillable larger capacity tanks. It seems it would be difficult, if not impossible to identify third party ink, since there doesn't appear to be any computer chips attached to the holding tanks of the Epson printers that could identify aftermarket inks, which could send out warning messages, or booby-trap the operation of such printers.


Posted by:

Neville G
14 Jun 2017

I used an alternative to the official Epson refill to save money (a bit over half price). The first 2 pages came out beautifully, the third was a bit poorer and the fourth etc pages were virtually blank. Went back to the Epson cartridges until I later scrapped the inkjet for a colour laser printer, which has worked well for many years. My next printer will also be a laser, not an inkjet, though probably just black and white as I rarely use the colours.


Posted by:

storm
14 Jun 2017

I went crazy with Epson printer not recognizing cartridges. It would take a half hour of fussing to replace a cartridge. Then I asked myself how frequently I needed color printouts. Scrapped the Epson and bought a Brother B&W Laser printer for about what it cost to replace the Epson cartridges. I will never buy or recommend Epson for anything. The laser printer is wonderful. Prints clearly and so fast it is scary.


Posted by:

Wilf Comeau
14 Jun 2017

Hi Bob
A very well written article and past due. I've
been using HP printers for some years and have
found it cheaper to purchase a new printer rather than buy new cartridges. I basically do the same as Robert A. and get my cartridges filled at Costco. They do a super job, everything has a warranty if required and no arguments. HP is
constantly trying to stop my printing without
success.


Posted by:

Slopski_68
14 Jun 2017

I have been using Inkfarm.com cartridges in five or six HP printers for as far back as I can remember and have never had a problem! When printers died, Inkfarm bought back unused cartridges I had on hand. Their week-long sales for every holiday you can imagine usually feature a 20% price reduction and free shipping.


Posted by:

PeteFior
14 Jun 2017

Hi Bob:

I'm a bit surprised that you failed to mention discount laser cartridges which are widely available - including from LD. I have been using LD B&W laser cartridges for about 4 years, with excellent results and and savings of about 50%. I would never go back to using troublesome inkjet printers for B&W work - laser printers are faster, not subject to clogging with occasional use, and produce superior results!


Posted by:

Sara
14 Jun 2017

I've used online vendors(inkjet superstore and 499inks) for both my color inkjet and monochrome HP printers for the past 12 years and have never had any problems. The inkjet cartridges are about $8 each; the monochrome laser cartridge was $19 and they all work fine. I might be hesitant about color laser cartridges. At my former workplace we found that HP color cartridges (which were very expensive) worked much better than OEM cartridges.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
16 Jun 2017

I have been using individual colored cartridges since Canon first put them on the market back in the late 1990's. I believe it was the Canon BJC3000 Inkjet Printer that had 4 individual ink cartridges. I loved it and never went back to having my ink cartridges any other way!

Finally, my Canon stopped working and I got me a Brother MFC 240C an individual ink cartridge printer. I loved that one, because I could also sent a stand alone fax from that machine. I started using re-manufactured ink cartridges when I got my Canon. I have used several different companies. Right now, I am using Mertline's ink cartridges. They are the cheapest for my Brother MFC J4510. I can get a set of 1-Black, 1-Cyan, 1-Magenta and 1-Yellow for $14.99. I don't care if the color is vibrant or not - I use my printer for personal, not business usage. To be honest - Using Brother's brand the color isn't vibrant either. }:O)

I have used Ink Barn(yes Barn), GotInk4U, 123Ink and now Meritline which has been the cheapest over all and the same re-manufactured ink cartridge company.

Today you can get a Black Laser Printer for about the same price as an Inkjet Printer. The Colored Lasers are still a bit more expensive but they have come down significantly. The next printer I will buy - It will be a laser one. Right now, my currant printer is good to go. }:O)


Posted by:

Bill Saidel
18 Jun 2017

For text,I'm convinced on saving with refilled or 3rd party cartridges. However, no one mentioned high-qality photoprinters specifically. I use a Canon Pixma 9000 for photoprints. What are the comments specifically about the use of third party refills for ink-jet qality photopapers?


Posted by:

Chuck
19 Jun 2017

It's been several years but I had an Epson and replaced with ink from a remanufacturer that is still in business and is pretty reputable. I got maybe 10 pages before I had to replace the printer as it wouldn't even work with OEM cartridges anymore. I have never tried it again but maybe they are better now.


Posted by:

David
21 Jun 2017

Hi Bob, first I would like to thank you for your helpful articles. It is the best resource I have. That being said, I, like you, refilled (attempted) my own cartridges for many years. Even had a device to reset the cartridge so printer didn't know. If you don't fill them before they run out it's hit or miss.
I have also used many remanufactured cartridges with no problems. The last ones came from House of toners on Ebay. I have also used inkmyjets.com on ebay. Both have been reliable with great quality.


Posted by:

Mike
26 Jun 2017

I have used Sophia Global through Amazon for years. Pennies on the dollar compared to OEM. I use them for both of my Canons. They have a 2 year warranty on the cartridges. Have never had a chip failure. The only thing that I can't speak for is the quality if printing photos. They look fine but will the colors last has yet to be determined.
On a side note: Amazon apparently stopped selling them in the past 2 months and I have ordered directly from their website. Free shipping, too!


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