The Truth About Discount Inkjet Cartridges

Category: Printing

I am often asked: '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 discounted, refilled or remanufactured inkjet cartridges...

Should You Buy Discount Inkjet Cartridges?

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

Online, the deals are even more tempting. You may find websites selling 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 1975 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 an ink cartridge from a third-party seller.

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; or 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 and found that their products and prices are generally great as well.

Amazon also sells inkjet cartridges from a variety of third-party sellers such as CompAndSave, INKMATE, Memjet and HOTCOLOR. I have no personal experience with any of those sellers, so I'd advise you to check the ratings and reviews before ordering.

The popular office supply store Office Depot also sells their own brand of laser toner and 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. Witness the $29 price tag on this HP DeskJet 1112 Compact Printer and the $32 Canon Pixma MG2522 All-in-One Inkjet Printer, Scanner & Copier. If entry-level printers like these do come with ink, it's a small-capacity cartridge. The XL replacement cartridges for the Canon MG2522 will run you $55.

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. A while back, 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 "The Truth About Discount Inkjet Cartridges"

(See all 95 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

18 Apr 2019

Hi Bob, I have been using ink cartridges I buy from Ebay but may change due to PayPals expensive rates etc. I have a brother printer and got neart a entire box full of the four cartridges and extra black ink. They work fine, now and then the machine gives me a sound that one ink cartridge or another did not start properly but I fix it by resetting it. Got them all for less than $20.00 and they are a ink cartridge of four and black. Good deal I like with minor irritation of having to reset a cartridge or two. I do not like the price HP sells for since I found out that any ink cartridge cost less than 25 cents to actually make, in fact have read that several times. The printer companies say a lot of things, HP caught me up in the buy ink from them at low prices and then my printer would not accept other ink cartridges, so all, do not get into this HP insta ink thing. I actually threw out a practically new printer due to their lies and bought a brother. They companies that make these printers will tell you anything to get you to buy their INK which is way over price and often more than the original printer cost. A rip off a most are cheats. So get a good company you trust and by the cheaper stuff, and Bob is right, it does not void your warranty in the USA as I too looked up the law and even called a lawyer on it. All I studied was constitutional law, not state laws. Isn't it funny how we put up with computers for the sake of our enjoyment, and yet, we still continue to belies their lies. NOT anymore.... :)

Posted by:

Eli Marcus
18 Apr 2019

I have used many different kinds of third party cartridges over the years, and my experience has been mixed.
Most refilled or substitute cartridges have been fine, but some have given me faded colors, and occasionally even faded blacks...
The capacity, or number of pages printed also seems to vary widely from one cartridge to another.
Yes, the price is definitely a strong incentive to go for the substitute cartridges, but when I find a reasonably similar price for original cartridges, I go for the original.

Posted by:

18 Apr 2019

I have refilled ink cartridges for years and have purchased remanufactured carts. Never had a problem. When buying a new printer, always check and see whether refilled carts are available from 3rd party vendors. I also like to check whether the printer manufacturer uses chips on the cartridges to try to prevent 3rd parties from refilling. I generally will pass on those printers as too finicky in accepting refills

Posted by:

18 Apr 2019

I've used the Epson EcoTank printer for two years now and haven't had to refill the color tanks yet. I bought black Epson ink refills on Amazon for a reasonable price and have refilled the black ink once now.
Back when I used cartirdges I started buying them at Cartridge World (a national ink cartridge refilling company). They were nearby and would replace them if anything went wrong.

>>What about Ink refills for the Epson EcoTank printers? Any advice for what ink to refill the tanks with?

Posted by:

Gary Smith
18 Apr 2019

I've been buying generic refills for 20 years and rarely had a problem. Lexmark and Brother have been excellent on refills. But, I do not install firmware updates! If the printer is working fine, and they always are, then no need to update the firmware. Often the updates are just triggers to reject the generic cartridges. Amazon has been my cartridge supplier for the last decade. When the printer tells me the cartridge needs to be replaced I wait until I see evidence that it really is low.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2019

I have been using "pirate" inks in my Brother printer since the initially supplied ink ran out years ago.
On earlier printers I used the self fill inks from Woolworths.
Never had a problem except for inky fingers from the self fill days.
Don't know how much money I have saved but it must be lots.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2019

After my Lexmark printer gave me the "Not Recognized" message for the umpteenth time, I replaced it with a Brother Laser printer. Once I realised that I never needed color prints it was an easy decision. Gone was the half hour ordeal of getting the printer to accept new cartridges. The xerographic printer prints much faster, makes copies that won't smear, and even saves money on paper by printing on both sides. I will never go back to ink jet again. It should go the way of the dot matrix.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2019

In the past, when I was using a lot of ink, to print Acad drawings, I purchased ink from both LD & 123, never had any problems.
They, at that time, were recommended by PC World mag.
Now that I use less ink, I got lazy, and buy from an office supply store.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2019

A long time ago I bought ink from a well established online vendor who I will not name since it may be they have improved. Immediately after installing the cartridges in my Epson, it failed completely and even new Epson ink would not fix it. I have not tried since. I cannot figure out why anyone would buy an HP printer (you need a college degree just to tell it to print) as I sit typing on one of their branded computers. I bought Canon MG2522 at WalMart for about $20 and the ink was not horribly expensive at Office Depot. I like it, easy set up though it's a little slow, but I like to sip some coffee anyway ;-)

Posted by:

20 Apr 2019

I sure wish you could squeeze the size of the "mid-page" ad so that your text isn't covered up by it. You have a sentence that is covered up in today's message.

Posted by:

23 Apr 2019

After our Dell AIO died, clogged jets; took it apart and knew why they were. A virtual mess of ink in a big absorption pad. What a waste! That was it...decided to get a laser, canon, black only($80). Best decision ever made. Use generic cartridges and after 3 years have not had a problem. The is a red error light indicating cartridge is empty but a piece of black tape takes care of that. Oh, the days of dot-matrix printers and tractor feed paper, such memories!

Some suggestions: Do you really need color. What is the cost of OEM vs. generic cart before you purchase the printer. Check blogs/bulletin-boards/reviews on printer problems before purchase.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2019

This is the first time using remanufactured on my Epson workforce pro. Prints ok but has slowed WAY down. Once or twice I got a not recognize cartridge. But it prints ok anyway.

Posted by:

30 Apr 2019

For telling the details about inkjet printer.

Posted by:

David Whittaker
01 May 2019

I have a Brother low cost laser printer and save 80% on toner cartridges by purchasing them online.
I have had no problems in 15 years. I have even used toner refill kits with no issues (the mess however was not worth it!). The 3rd party cartridges have lasted as long or longer than the OEMs!

Posted by:

06 May 2019

I have used Office Depot refilled ink cartridges very successfully for several years for HP printers.

Posted by:

22 May 2019

I did a study on cartridge printers versus tank printers. I compared a popular cartridge printer from Canon, Epson, and HP versus their own tank printers.
Using their published page yields for cartridges vs ink tank yields I discovered that the page yield of a new tank printer with the initial charge from the included bottles of ink was equivalent to over $900 worth of cartridges.
Canon was the pioneer in 2015 and is a good choice. Epson is catching up. HP does sell tank printers and ink, but not in the US...

Posted by:

mich k
19 Sep 2019

Hello! Thank you for useful info re: 3rd party ink; I'm about to order some from LD products now.
I have to comment on this - after reading some of the comments on this article, I noticed the note you have to the right, about the spelling and grammar - now I'm truly laughing out loud. I spelled that out on purpose! People nowadays, especially on the web, HAVE NO IDEA what grammar, spelling, & punctuation are. And I'm not behind the times - I'm only 53. Glad someone else noticed the trend and actually put it on his site.

Posted by:

Pam Zemlin
06 Nov 2019

I have been using other than OEM ink cartridges for years in both my HP Zeen Printer (what a piece of junk...threw it out finally as was so fed up) and Brother printers. The cartridges usually work fine but find with the Brother generic refills my colors are way off. I do a lot of DIY card making and they are not nearly as pretty as they were with the OEM cartridges. Do you know of any fix for this issue?
Thank you.

Posted by:

07 Jan 2020

01/07/20 About 6 months ago I purchased LD Brand Ink cartridges for my CANON ipf8000 wide format printer. I did not see any perceivable differences so I recently ordered three more cartridges. The cartridges arrived, but were not LD Brand and were labeled "made in china" knockoffs. I called customer service to complain and return them. I was assured these would be fine in my printer and informed that if I wanted to return them for exchange the cost of shipping from the East coast back to the West coast would be at my expense... The recent holidays came up so I didn't get to it. I'm about to get into it with this company, call the California Consumer Agencies , etc. They sure know how to ruin a good customer relationship.

Posted by:

18 Feb 2020

LD Products are great! So is their tech support.
My HP (last, never again HP) printer started complaining about the LD ink. I called LD and they gave me a work around that fixed the problem.

Remove cartridges, unplug for 20 sec, replug and reinstall the cartridges. Worked well.

When you unplug a remote HP, it comes up with a new ip address. You have to

remove the printer (ctl panel), then add printer again. I add the last three digits of latest IP address (description) to avoid confustion. Have to do that for all computers using the printer.

Hope this helps! Thanks BOB for this forum!

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