Will Discount Inkjet Cartridges Save You Money?

Category: Printing

Here's a recurring AskBob reader question: “Are discount inkjet cartridges really a good deal?” Some people say they're great and can save you lots of money. But will they ruin your printer, void your warranty, or provide poor print quality? So what's the scoop on those cheap ink cartridges?' Read on for my personal experience and advice concerning discounted, refilled or remanufactured inkjet cartridges…

Should You Buy Discount Inkjet Cartridges?

It's hard to ignore the significant price difference between “brand name” ink cartridges supplied by printer manufacturers such as HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark, and the “no-name” alternatives. Compatible off-brand, refilled or remanufactured inkjet printer cartridges typically cost 15 percent less than OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges at Staples, Best Buy and other physical retail stores that sell computer supplies.

Online, the deals are even more tempting. You may find websites selling discount inkjet cartridges costing 30, 50, or 70 percent less than brand-name goods. Nonetheless, many people shy away from buying refilled or remanufactured ink cartridges, for a variety of reasons.

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 "Epson compatible ink", "HP refilled cartridge" or "Canon remanufactured" inkjet printer 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 and page yield are the same as the OEM cartridge, and I save $42 (about 85%) 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.

Amazon also sells inkjet cartridges from a variety of third-party sellers such as Valuetoner, E-Z Ink, HOTCOLOR, and OfficeWorld. 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, refilled, or remanufactured ink cartridges. That's because they make more money selling ink than printers. Witness the $69.99 price tags on the Canon TS302 Wireless Inkjet Color Printer and the HP Envy 6052 Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer. If entry-level printers like these do come with ink, it's a small-capacity cartridge.

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 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. I have not had a problem since, but HP continues to nag me to buy their inkjet supplies.

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.

Try a Tank?

There’s one other option I should mention when talking about inkjet printing. The cartridge-free “tank printers” such as the $300 Epson EcoTank ET-2850. Epson says you can save up to 90 percent using their low-cost high-capacity replacement ink bottles, compared to the cost of ink cartridges. One set of replacement bottles is equivalent to about 80 individual cartridges. Each ink bottle set includes enough ink to print up to 7500 pages black, or 6000 color.

Epson was the pioneer in this field, but HP, Canon, and Brother also make tank printers. Check out the HP Smart Tank, Canon MegaTank, or Brother INKvestmentTank models.

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 "Will Discount Inkjet Cartridges Save You Money?"

(See all 34 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Paul Rosenberger
01 Oct 2021

Similar story. I have used an ET2550 (Epson Tank) for several years. Warning: I failed to refill my black ink recently. I then
refilled it and despite several Customer Service calls to Epson, have not been able to get black ink to print. Their advice was to try a "Power Flush" after refilling that tank. I am hesitant about trying it. I would appreciate any feedback. Several local computer services do not fix printers.

Posted by:

01 Oct 2021

After using refilled cartridges from a major office supply chain I found that the ink used in the refills was inferior. Pages of color images printed using the refills faded within a year yet the OEM printed pages kept bright for several years.

I quit using the refill services.

Posted by:

01 Oct 2021

After using refilled cartridges from a major office supply chain I found that the ink used in the refills was inferior. Pages of color images printed using the refills faded within a year yet the OEM printed pages kept bright for several years.

I quit using the refill services.

Posted by:

Brian B
01 Oct 2021

A few years ago I was using a Conon printer at the lower end of the price range. I went to the local computer retailer for replacement cartridges black and colour. As I was looking at the display of cartridges suitable for my printer, and muttering about the exorbitant price being asked, a salesperson stacking the shelves behind me came over and said not to buy the cartridges, but buy a new printer of the same model instead. He pointed out that the new printer cost $10 less than a black refill and I get the colours for free and a new printer.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I have been successfully using both 123inkjets and LD cartridges for years.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I Australia we have same Warranty Rules about using third party cartridges as USA. I have an Epson printer/scanner/fax that is about 8 years old and I have used third part cartridges since first I needed to change them. I had a previous Epson printer that I used the cartridges in, so I knew they were very good. I my opinion the cartridges I get, give a better quality print than the OEM ones.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I live in a rural city 300km west of Sydney. Australia. Some years ago I switched from "Brother" branded cartridges (AUD 185 for set of 1 BK +1 ea of M, C, Y)) from OfficeWorks (similar to Office Depot/Staples) to "Inkstation" branded cartridges at AUD 44 for the same set, including overnight delivery to my front door. I print a very large number of high definition colour 8x10 medical images. Recently reprinted an image from 3 years ago for a colleague, both using "Inkstation" inks. There is no measurable difference between the two. Under a 10x magnifier there is no bleeding of one colour into another, sharpness is superb, colours are accurate. There is also no measurable difference between these two copies, and the original image print from 7 years ago using a Canon printer and Canon branded inks. And a saving of 76% on current prices....

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

For many years now, here in Australia I have been using Inkstation, a company similar to 123Inkjets, for their third party ink cartridges in my Canon Pixma printer/scanner with great success. They also sell the genuine product for all brands as well as toner cartridges for laser printers. Never had a problem and the print result is indistinguishable from the genuine item. They also provide free shipping, within 1 to 2 days, for purchases over a certain quantity. Very inexpensive over time and a great product.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I have a Canon MP140printer/scanner sitting here. I printed about 50 b/w pages with it and had to replace the cartridge. I never used the colour but they were empty so I mortgaged the house to replace all the cartridges. I got approx 170 pages of b/w and when I tried to print colour...NOT ONE. I couldn't afford a second mortgage so I bought a Samsung b/w laser printer. I've been using it for a number of years now and have only had to replace the toner once. I bought one on Ebay for about 70% less than in the store. I've been exceptionally happy with the printer and the cheap toner. As for the Canon, I keep it around for 2 reasons. 1) A reminder, no more wasted ink from a piece of junk that constantly purges the cartridges 2) It has a good scanner so it wasn't a total waste of money.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

We have been using an Australian continuous ink supply from "www.rihac.com.au" made from recycled materials for at least 10 years. The last spare black ink bottle was bought in 2019 (after 5 years) for a Brother DCPJ152W flatbed printer. The other 3 bottles are still as installed. The first original cartridges were missing because this was a demo model "last in shop" printer bought in emergency, and Rihac were able to help with a a special starter chip for each cartridge by post! Amazing expertise and saving,--and all recycled.

Posted by:

Joe H
02 Oct 2021

After using HP and Epson printers with ink cartridges for many, many years, I finally got tired of always running out of ink when I would need it and bought an Epson ET2760. Its been a couple of months know and in spite of it nagging you to check the ink levels, they are still surprisingly high. I think its money well spent.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I have tried "non-HP" ink cartridges from 3 different sources, and found they don't last nearly as long as the OEM cartridges. Yes, they are expensive, but my experience is that they last much longer.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I am not so sure that HP is easily fooled. After some 10 plus years with their straightforward basic Deskjet printer which served me faithfully BUT with me topping up the cartridges - and giving me some
200 sheets per cartridge - time came for a change. I am now a very satisfied customer with the printer and scanner BUT come the time to refill the cartridges the machine stubbornly refused to print more that 20 sheets per cartridge !! I now can only use THEIR official cartridges. Can someone suggest whether HP ARE on the ball please?

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I've been using third party cartridges for many years in my Canon printer. I have had no problems but I printed a couple of photos for a friend about a year ago and I noticed recently that they have faded. Maybe OEM cartridges are best for printing photos..

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

The boys' dad just had to buy a new printer.
At least four people had tried to fix it, self included.

He'd installed refilled cartridges.
Got a system ink error.

That darn error would not go away!!!!

Take the cartridges out. With no cartridges in the machine, still the error..

Hp 3512 error code oxc4eb841e

Bought brand new cartridges. Error still there.
HP didn't want to talk to me. You needed a support plan???

So. He got a new printer.

He can't return the OEM cartridges because it was a private seller. (Still in box and up to date.)

Love to understand. Apparently the refills worked. There was a paper jam.
That error came up and wouldn't go away.
I spent hours online searching.
Lots of folk seem to have had the same problem. Nothing worked.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I have used both 123Inkjets and LD for over ten years. Original issues were that it wasn't good but lately they seem to work right away. I will continue to use both. My HP Photosmart C-4580 is 15 years old and still going strong.

Posted by:

02 Oct 2021

I have an HP color laser jet pro... that uses 4 expensive toner cartridges. I replaced the original ones with a "compatible" cartridge, but I had to cut something off the original, stick it into the replacement, had to use tweezers and kept dropping it. To sum up, the things were messy and difficult to install and I've gone back topaying the exhorbitant HP prices to preserve my sanity.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2021

I have two OKI laser printers, one mono, and one colour MFP; I've used aftermarket toner in both for years, with no problems.
When it comes to my Canon inkjet, as it's only ever used for seriously important things like family wedding and baby pictures, I use OEM cartridges; the cost difference isn't that great when only printing a few. I can also get OEM off the shelf at my local supermarket, 'copies' and refills need to be mail-ordered.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2021

I have been using the HP Instant Ink program for years and think that it is an economically great program. Monthly charges of $2.99 for up to 50 pages with rollover pages is cheaper than buying new cartridges.
They have other plans also.

Posted by:

21 Oct 2021

I have always bought my Printers, Canon, Dell, H.P.
and others at Costco. Costco had a good refill station and reasonable prices. Canon and H.P. started to not work properly, so I found it was cheaper to buy a new Printer than to buy their cartridges. I now decided to buy a ET-2750 with Tank
Cartridge refill, so far I have been very satisfied
with it.

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