The Truth About Discount Ink Cartridges

Category: Printing

A reader asks: 'Are discount inkjet cartridges 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 cheap ink cartridges?' Read on for my advice about inkjet cartridges...

Should You Buy Discount Ink Cartridges?

It's hard to ignore the big price difference between OEM ink cartridges (an "original equipment" product 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 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 the HP 88XL 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 and found that their products and prices are generally great as well.

The popular office supply store OfficeMax 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. OfficeMax sells 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. 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. :-)

Personally, I've never had a problem with remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges. (I've 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 "The Truth About Discount Ink Cartridges"

(See all 128 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Greg Fontenot
24 Dec 2015

I started buying refilled ink jet cartridges from a local shop. I was happy at first, but I started getting fewer prints per cartridge. I ended up spending more money on refilled cartridges than I spent for new H.P. Cartridges.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

I greatly appreciate your help Bob and have applied many of your suggestions over time. I was thinking about trying remanufactured ink based on your recommendations. However, after reading these comments I pictured many of the reasons I stopped using these cartridges in the first place. I even tried refiling them myself and what a mess that turned out to be. Just not worth the time and hassle to try to recover from a misstep. Been there done that.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2015

I have used aftermarket inks (CISS) with Epson printer for years with great results. I'm now using InkProducts brand of refillable cartridges with my Epson XP-600. I have two set of carts, so I don't have to stop and refill so often; I just pop in a replacement when it tells me it can't recognize the cart. Biggest aggravation is convincing the stupid printer that I REALLY do want to use that non-Epson cartridge; it takes 6 button pushes to wade through all the dire warnings. I've heard that if you do the recommended firmware update on this printer, it will no longer give you all those warnings - it just will not work unless it's got an original Epson cartridge in place, but I can't confirm that. Print quality with InkProduct ink is great, so it's worth a bit of button pushing to save a ton of money.

Posted by:

25 Dec 2015

I have been using refilled cartridges for many years. In fact I generally refill my own cartridges. I have had some issues and questions about aftermarket inks used in printers with permanent printheads. These are subject to clogs and getting them unclogged can be a bear. Is there something proprietary about brand name inks that helps prevent clogs?
I generally use older HP printers with printheads in the cartridge. If these get a stubborn clog, just replace the cartridge. Refilling them is easy once you get the hang of it. Just pay attention whether to use pigmented ( generally black) or dye (color) based inks. I just refuse to pay $50 for an ink cartridge.
Before advising one of my friends in a printer purchase, I will research whether refilled Cartridges are even available. For some new printers they are not (yet), or chips in the cartridges prevent their reuse. In these cases, a cheap printer is no bargain. People just don't check on refill cost, and after buying a cheap printer are shocked when the "starter" cartridges run out of ink very soon and how much it costs to get new cartridges--often as much or more than the printer cost.

As to Debbie's post above regarding IP infringement. That case has long since been litigated when the ink manufacturer (I think it was Epson?) lost that case. The manufacturers then went to electronics (i.e. Chips) to try to prevent refills--and with some success. With some printers with an expired chip in the cartridge, the printer just will not work at all.

Posted by:

30 Dec 2015

Hi Bob! I really enjoy reading your newsletter and have learned a lot over the years. I've been using LD generic inkjet cartridges for about three years and have had to send about 8 of them back during that time. I have my original HP psc 2410 all-in-one printer and sometimes the printer does not "recognize" the generic cartridges. I phone LD and they send me replacements plus the envelope to mail the "bad" one(s) back to them. No hassle at all unless I need the ink right that second! Have also bought reams of printer paper from them at 92 Brightness and it has never ever jammed my printer. I've used other generic cartridge suppliers for over 20 years but am very happy with LD. Good customer service, too!

Posted by:

09 Mar 2016

I used off brand toner cartridges for my All In one Brother with no problem in the past. However the last one I bought 2 months ago is producing terrible copies: very dark, streaks, gray background. I cleaned the drum according to directions but it's not better. I called the company that sold me the cartridge and all they could advise is to send me another cartridge. Is my machine ruined? Should I buy the Brother brand cartridge? Please help.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Probably bad toner. I'd advise you try a Brother cartridge and see it it clears up.

Posted by:

10 Apr 2016

Used Sophia Global aftermarket ink. Colors and print quality as good as or better than OEM. Unfortunately, one day my Cannon MX 892 upped and died. Said, "Printer error (B200) ... Contact the service center." The service center said, "B200? That's a fatal error."

Cannon Community bloggers indicated error was related to print head. Not saying aftermarket ink caused this malfunction. Can't help but wonder...

Bought another $100.00 printer, still using Sophia Global's ink. So far so good.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2016

Recentlt bought from Amazon a Office World 950XL and 951 color cartridges. I bought 2 sets one for mys sons HP 860O offijet pro and my newer version.

This ink is cheap but it is total junk. All I do is clean and realign printer heads to get 1 page in which colors still smear.


I have been going to kinkos for prints. Maybe other work fine but this is jumk. On Amamzon web site there are reviews like this but I ignored them. What a nightmare!

Posted by:

14 Jun 2016

I have been using ink cartridges from in my Canon printers for several years now without any problems. Their prices are quite a bit lower than genuine Canon cartridges.

Posted by:

Tom Cavanaugh
09 Aug 2016

I own a 25 year old toner cartridge remanufacturing facility in Minnesota. As with everything there is a right way, wrong way, cheap way, etc. We guarantee yield, density, and performance to be equal or better than OEM. I would add that our defect rate in July 2016 was .32%. Are there applications where you should ONLY use OEM?....10 years ago I would've said yes, today I say no...ours are better and we've created jobs in this country providing them for you!

Posted by:

30 Aug 2016

I started buying non-OEM inks through Amazon late last year for my classroom printers (3 Canon Pro9000 MkII), for the obvious reason of saving cash. At $15 a cartridge, the printers have been bleeding my budget for years. The cartridges I bought loaded well, I had one failure out of about 40.
However, I have noticed a few prints that have been exposed to UV/Fluorescents are fading rapidly. I have some prints that have been hanging under the same light for 10 years that still look pretty decent.
Amy I wrong to cheap out or should I just try another manufacturer?

Posted by:

10 Sep 2016

I have been using non-oem inks for 3 1/2 years on my canon ip4920 and the results have been fantastic in printing greeting cards on heavy matte double sided paper from staples (which I got for practically free when they ran coupons on it a couple of years ago). I buy my ink from ink4work on Amazon and usually pay about $6.00 for all five of my needed cartridges, though I think the price has gone up a little. My printer died recently and I'm purchasing a new canon and hoping to get the same great results from the Amazon ink4work cartridges.

Posted by:

04 Nov 2016

I am using non-OEM toners on my Ricoh MP 5000 copier. My copier service tech tells me that I have to change the developers and " Also you will need to buy oem toner and remove the generic toners you have in the machine". I just bought a lot of toners and don't want to waste them.

Is this really necessary or should I call BS on the service company?

Posted by:

23 Nov 2016

I have used LD Products re-manufactured ink for 6 years. When my Canon printer quit working (not ink related) I had extra cartridges for it. LD replaced my extras with cartridges for my new printer. I also order ink for my neighbors and toners for our church. Never, ever had any problems with LD Products inks or toners.

Posted by:

26 Nov 2016

I looked up the the LD 60XL black and color on Amazon. The poor reviews of running out of ink and not printing more than 100 pages turned me off to the product. Plus they add shipping to the price of the cartridge. Not worth the chance since you have to pay to return defective product. thanks for you input anyway. Read each newsletter you send out and they have been helpful.

Posted by:

08 Dec 2016

I've used LD ink for years with great success. But I just "laid to rest" TWO printers in which I used recently purchased LD ink. Wonder if they have changed something. One, I'm SURE was a print head failure, and suspect the second was too. Tried cleaning the print head on the first, no go. The second was still under warranty, so I got it replaced.

Posted by:

08 Jan 2017

Have had similar experiences with LD Products over 2 years with excellent cust. service and only one bad cartridge of many I have used. If fact once they were out of a color and they sent a brand new Canon cartridge but packed in an LG box!! Don't know how often they do this, but it was really nice of them. I generally order from their other company called Ink Cartridges but at same location near Long Beach Airport, because their shipping is always free!!, but they don't have discount codes as often as LD. Merchandise and pricing is identical with both fine companies, but don't use their automated online system - for me it has never worked right - so I always order by phone and usually get my order in 2-3 days -very convenient, no clogging and I have saved a fortune by not buying Epson or Canon inks any longer. I recommend them highly too.

Posted by:
12 Jan 2017

on point and truth in this.

I've noticed some differences in colour saturation ect but they are easily rectified with slight adjustments in Print Shop pro (canon) The price saving is incredible to roll your own.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2017

I have been using non-oem ink for about 8 years on three printers. I currently have a Canon Pixma 922 (all-in one) inkjet. I have been using LD Products aftermarket ink for the last two years with excellent results. The saving are substantial

Posted by:

20 Apr 2017

I am just beginning research on inkjet cartridge options, so am glad to see this!!

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