The most expensive part of using a printer is the ink. Big brands like HP and Canon justify their prices by R&D, but are their policies fair? When a cartridge pack costs as much as the printer, customers feel cheated. Attractive deals for inkjet cartridges turn out to be consumer traps. Fortunately, some cheaper products offer comparable quality. Find out the best alternatives in our guide.
Printer ink may cost over $9,500 per gallon, which makes it one of the most expensive liquids on earth. Instead of going to the official store and splurging on an OEM cartridge every time, consider the alternatives. For customers of Smart Ink in Canada, the full pack of HP 902xl ink (4 cartridges) costs only $54.99. The original manufacturer offers each item for $23.99! It is easy to see that you can save hundreds of dollars in the long run.
Controversial Pricing Policies
Big printer manufacturers claim to invest millions of dollars in R&D to create innovative products and supplies. This is true — HP alone spends around $1 billion per year and holds thousands of patents. At the same time, you can buy its low-end model for less than $100. So, where’s the catch?
Big brands can afford to sell products at their break-even point or a loss. Their end goal is to capitalize on consumables. Buy a printer once, and you will need new cartridges for years. High prices for OEM supplies let companies make a profit. This logic is used by other industries, too. For example, you can buy a cheap razor handle and buy new blades every month.
As a result, customers feel they are treated unfairly. The demand for more affordable ink has given rise to a massive industry. Compatible and remanufactured products provide similar benefits at a low cost. The providers are not created equal, but you can find a trusted store with a bit of research. As independent brands do not spend so much on R&D, they can offer very attractive prices.
Compatible vs. Remanufactured
These alternative supplies are classified as compatible or remanufactured. The first group includes products designed and built from scratch. They are compatible with popular printer models but have important differences in design. This makes them original, so big brands have no grounds for lawsuits. They have tried to prohibit these products in the past to no avail.
Remanufactured cartridges are recycled original supplies. They are emptied, cleaned, refilled and sold again. The providers also replace any worn elements and test the products thoroughly before shipping.
In the past, consumers would take their cartridges to refilling outlets. Now, you can order a recycled product online with free shipping and extensive warranties. You get the best of both worlds: the original shell and cheaper ink.
Consumers who seek cheaper alternatives are tempted to refill their cartridges at home. This is hardly advisable. DIY guides may be misleading: this is a messy process that requires precision and careful measuring. While injecting the ink, you may create bubbles that will block your cartridge. If you touch the sensitive elements, the product will not be recognized by your machine. Finally, you mustn’t fill the shell to full capacity, as this causes leaks.
What Brands to Choose?
Cheaper cartridges can be found on numerous websites, but remember that their providers are not created equal. Unfortunately, this industry, like any commercial field, includes bad apples — fly-by-night providers selling inferior goods. To make sure you get the best value for your money, focus on these benefits. A top-rated store will provide the full package:
- Certified quality (compliance with quality standards like CE, ISO 9001, ISO 14000, Reach, or STMC).
- An extensive warranty covering both defects and transportation damage (as the typical shelf life of a cartridge is 2 years, look for a two-year guarantee).
- Free shipping with tracking.
- The ink/toner level tracking feature, which will notify you when the ink is about to run out.
- Customer support 24/7.
- Sustainable practices.
What About Printer Warranty?
Printer manufacturers may not prohibit customers from using cheaper supplies. As this is still a gray legal area, it is your right to choose any alternatives. They will not void your warranty. As long as you buy from trusted stores, you need not worry about damage to your equipment. Certified products are perfectly safe.
Yet, printer brands can hamper compatibility. Their firmware updates can program the printers to reject non-OEM supplies. In this case, you see an error message like “cartridge empty” or “cartridge not recognized”. Disable the updates to solve the problem once and for all.
Do research before buying from any third-party store and do not focus on prices alone. Compare different sources of information to make an informed decision. Complaints about shipping delays or poor quality are major red flags. Make sure you will get the full spectrum of benefits with sufficient guarantees.
Sustainability of Cheaper Cartridges
The printer industry generates a lot of plastic and electronic waste. Alternative cartridges let you decrease your carbon footprint. For example, a remanufactured product contains a recycled shell. Compatible supplies from eco-friendly manufacturers are recyclable.
Getting OEM products is not only expensive but also unsustainable. Why generate more waste? Even remanufactured cartridges have certified quality, and you can print more sustainably. You could also use paper made from recycled fibre. These products may offer superb quality and texture, just like premium office paper.
The Bottom Line
Thanks to the growth of the cartridge “aftermarket”, consumers have different opportunities to spend less on new ink. Whatever your printer model, you should be able to find a cheaper and more sustainable alternative. Trusted stores like Smart Ink offer products for printers from all major brands. They guarantee top quality and provide a warranty to give you peace of mind. With a little research, you will find the ideal product and save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run.