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Printer ink cartridge prices: A rip-off or what?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 4, 2013 7:30 AM PDT

Printer ink cartridge prices: A rip-off or what?

First I'd like to apologize if this comes off as a rant, but this has been bugging me for quite some time. Recently I went to the local giant retailer to buy some replacement ink cartridges. The colors and black cartridges needed replacing, and in total the four cartridges would cost me more than $60 dollars. While looking at the cartridges I couldn't help but notice that some of the HP inkjet printers on the shelves cost less than my four replacement cartridges. And for $10 dollars more I could just buy a brand-new printer similar to mine with fresh ink and all. I was quite baffled and I struggled to understand this logic. For a while I stood there debating whether I should just buy a newer printer instead of replacement ink, but then I thought what a waste it would be, as my printer at home works perfectly fine.

I just don't understand the logic here; why are ink cartridges so darn expensive? My four cartridges cost as much as a brand-new printer. Why wouldn't you just buy new printers every time the ink ran out? Long story short, I ended buying the cartridges, but I felt cheated knowing that the cartridges cost more if not the same as a new printer. Surely I can't be the only one who feels this way. Are there alternatives to buying those expensive cartridges or am I stuck having to go through this debate again several months down the line? How does everyone else deal with it? Opinions welcome. Thank you in advance.

--Submitted by Marilyn M.
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by Dafydd Forum moderator / October 4, 2013 7:41 AM PDT

I'm in the UK and buy cartridges for my Epson all in one for £7.95. I print a lot of photos and they come out fine.


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me too got a epson sx 400 all in one
by luc-nava / October 11, 2013 5:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Agreed.

i have a epson sx 400 for sometime now,- drow away HP, CANON, and many Others brand wich suked a lot of money for cartridges. use it ona standard base, color photo b& w. get replacement compatible cartridges for only 6,95 euros, epson charges 10 ,95 - the only think is..when the color run low or out, it won't work on black only. try to use it only on black,, it will not work unless al the color are filled.
better than before when i use to buy a new printer every time i run out of cartridge, cause it was cheaper !

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Throw away my HP - NEVER
by B1nmidm0 / October 14, 2013 1:33 AM PDT

Maybe you don't use e-printing, but for those of us who do, e-printing greatly improves the enjoyment of our multifunction printer. Your advise about using black and white is sound and of course I always use draft mode only since that uses even less ink.

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two better than one
by MisterRealtor / October 14, 2013 4:23 AM PDT

I find having two multi function printers works the best. A B&W plus a color. The B&W lasts forever on one cartridge and then a brand new replacement one is only about $40 and I usually lasts a year and I print a bunch.

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Already there
by B1nmidm0 / October 14, 2013 4:46 AM PDT
In reply to: two better than one

I too have decided this works best except only one of them has e-printing. What I like is wireless printing within the home. It changes the way we print though my older HP takes forever to spool. ALL these printer companies have us by the wa-zo and there's not much we can other than print less or look the other way and accept they've got us:)

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I forgot about that
by MisterRealtor / October 14, 2013 6:15 AM PDT
In reply to: Already there

The wireless function along with networking and that W7 allows for EZ networking and printing as well. Sure has made life much easier.

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True, Dafydd
by munda10 / October 11, 2013 5:14 PM PDT
In reply to: Agreed.

Many people are now buying alternative ink cartridges, meaning that the printer manufacturers can't make the profit through selling inks. This probably is the reason why printer price range has gone high!

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Alternative ink is useless.
by laurieprior / October 11, 2013 7:20 PM PDT
In reply to: True, Dafydd

I've tried using alternative cheaper ink cartridges on Canon; HP; Epson; and several other makes since the early days of Seikosha Dot Matrix printers. They have always disappointed. The black ink usually floods a smudgy mess all over the paper. The colour inks are dreadful. I'm thinking particularly the red ink which varies from a vile purple tint to a strawberry blancmange pink and results when printing normal colour prints is 100% awful and leaves the print un-usable.

I also tried refilling cartridges by DIY method and letting the Ink shop do a refill - still the problem existed.
After market alternative cheap inks are a waste of money and time.

Another annoying thing about them is that the ink status monitor doesn't recognize the cartridge as authentic and throws a tantrum, refusing to indicate the ink-level. This is just another trick by the printer makers to push you into only using their monstrously expensive inks. They could manufacture them and put them out at a much cheaper price, but they seem to have jumped on the bandwagon and noticed how people will pay big money for ink because they find printers so useful - I mean just look at how expensive and inconvenient it used to be when to make photos you had to send the film roll into the manufacturer for processing or take it to your local camera shop and wait a week for them to come back processed or stand around while they printed your film roll on a giant Xerox type machine and you paid them about $20 for the privilege. So now we can all do it at home ourselves, it seems such a novelty that people pay the makers too much.

What do the printing ink and printer manufacturers then do? They charge more and more exploiting the public and laughing all the way to the bank. Sadly this is our fault but there's not much we can do about it other than point out the maker's greed and see if they will listen. I doubt it will work.
I currently have a Canon MP270 and the ink costs are crazy. I find the best deal I can and use it economically as my own damage limitation. That's not meant to sound smug, but it's all we can do until they make printers cost more and ink cost less, and offer better warranty service on printers that fail.

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Alternative Ink is Useless,
by jon.hedge / October 11, 2013 10:15 PM PDT

Sorry I disagree, I live in the U.K & have an Epson Stylus SX 215 3 in 1 & use alternative inks for it all the time, I use Computer Essentials Flatpack T 0711 - 714 (T0891-4) which cost me £10.00 ($15.00) for 8 cartridges, They are not perfect if You are entering photo's in a Competion or for a professional use but are fine for general use, I also have a Canon Pixma 1500 printer & use Phoenix Inks in that, but that is just a standby printer

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Go laser
by marpincan / October 11, 2013 10:44 PM PDT

Go with laser printers and never look back! I did.

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(NT) still expensive
by wildhunt57 / October 12, 2013 2:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Go laser
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Problem with lasers
by sparker55 / October 12, 2013 3:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Go laser

Laser printers, especially color, may be a good alternative, but the problem is not with the printer, it's with the paper. While any good copy or printer paper will do for general printing, high quality photo printing requires high quality photo paper and you don't generally find that kind of quality available for laser printers. The heat of the fuser tends to melt any coating and you can't use ink jet paper because the toner won't adhere properly.
So, if you can good quality papers for the laser printer, then it's a good alternative, although color toner cartridges are also very expensive.

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Seems to me...
by JCitizen / October 12, 2013 3:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Problem with lasers

That lasers are fine for folks that only print once in a blue moon. Maybe finding an inkjet, or alternative, that can stand periods of inactivity without drying up would be the solution - but even those technologies have their trade-offs.

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Laser printers are no better
by snulton1 / October 12, 2013 2:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Go laser

I have found that when I need to purchase the replacement toner cartridges for my Brother 4040, It will cost me slightly less than buying the newest replacement printer. When I have to replace the Drum as well, I will just scrap out and buy a new printer. The price per copy is the best with the Brother laser printers but with the technology changing so rapidly it doesn't make sense to pay more to keep an old one going.

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If you use them a lot...
by JCitizen / October 12, 2013 4:24 PM PDT

It may pay to use printers that have the drum integrated with the toner cartridge - that way you never have to replace the drum. It gets replaced with the toner cartridge - the costs can be very economical that way. I used to work in high production environments, and there was a reason we used many laser printers, including the color ones. For small jobs each client had a smaller monochrome laser printer in their office. and an inkjet for even smaller color jobs. If they had a large job, they sent it through the network to the large color laser printer at the head office. We were a non-profit and had to watch our pennies, so I guarantee you it pays better that way for large production users. For smaller volume, YMMV.

Of course - all you have to do is look at the page volume cost and it is obvious that lasers are cheaper. Just because the toner costs, doesn't mean a lot when you are getting 6000 pages per cartridge. Photo printing will use more ink and toner, so photo printing costs a lot no matter what.

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Lasers for colour are not cheap!!!
by Alpha P / October 13, 2013 5:13 AM PDT

I have been victimised by this rort as you all have.
Success with refill ink has been reasonable but not trouble free. It has become more troublesome as the manufacturers add more smart chip technology to the ink cartridges. The saving has varied from 10-25%.
The cost of downtime is also huge and my last Epson took me over 12 months to get various repairs and then a replacement provided. Epson are however excellent on telephone support. Not being able to complete a project can cost days of lost productivity sometimes.

My last purchase I sprung for a colour laser for general colour printing. It has been even more expensive than the inkjet. I calculated that the true cost has been 50 cents a page overall including the 6:1 ratio of monochrome, so the actual cost of colour has been huge. Roughly $1500 for 1500 pages. And many of these pages had minimal colour, while a few had a page fully colour.

As mentioned above a laser does not print onto photo paper and for photographs is fairly hopeless unless you want newsprint quality. The quoted cartridge life for the colour toner is often 5-15% which really is no more than a colour logo or a few underlined words, so when you come to print images or graphs alone, you may only get 100 pages from a $250 (times 3) set of cartridges.

I figured one issue with inkjets that a laser would overcome is the cleaning wastage and infrequent usage blockages. I know my Epson inkjet could use an entire set of cartridges with say a dozen cleaning cycles, so consider a clean costing $10 a time. However I was wrong. While blockages have not been a problem, I have had to replace 2 toner developer units in my Kyocera FS-C2126 MFP after only 1600 pages, costing $500 a time for the parts and service.

I would recommend that you NEVER retain a colour laser beyond it's warranty period and preferably get one that has a per page service contract built in.

Lasers too can have third party refills, but also have chips in them and the printer startup procedure even looks for authentic OEM cartridges and reports on them. The situation seems to be now that lasers are getting cheaper and less reliable and the replacement toner is going through the roof. If shopping, look at the refill costs and service contracts above all else.

The philosophy 'obviously' is to extort the users for the maximum money possible. They even change the printer models as quickly as they can to a) make your printer 'old' and no longer supported, b) thwart attempts for the after-market refill people to keep up with the new toner cartridge requirements, c) reduce second-hand parts availability for any particular model, d) sell maximum stock to dealers to cover all models or to stock up before it goes out of production.

My second laser (an Apple LaserWriter NTX) did one million pages faultlessly and only ever needed toner cartridges. Additionally it was smarter than average and reported things such as page jams and no paper or wrong paper size selections straight back to the computer that sent the print job. Every printer I have owned since then has been a nightmare for service calls; before first use even, the week after the warranty expires, during the warranty and even unusual problems during normal usage requiring telephone support.

Epson support has been good. Brother support has been OK but apparently normal for them to consume parts and sometimes the software shipped is 3 years old. Canon has a myriad of software options that drive you insane - they can and do work, but take a lot of setting up. HP support is a joke, even repairs take 3 attempts with wrong parts etc and then only last 30 days once completed. Kyocera seem to be above the printer being anything to do with them - they just say 'that's the way it is' so pay and fix it or buy a new one.
I have never had any luck getting the Windows WSD (not sure if that's correct acronym) setup to work. Now I would just bypass it by default. Web searches reveal nothing but trouble. Apple computers just seem to find the printer, ask if you want to use it, and do the whole setup with no more than a 'yes' required. The whole industry needs a rocket, a revolution.

So only remedy is shop by consumable cost, service availability and warranty period.

bypass printing and spend the hundreds of dollars consumed on things like a bigger better screen, PDF workflows, email, broadband, flash drives, DVD burners and the like. Eventually printing will go the way of the Polaroid, so try and get to the front of the curve now and save the hassle.

Enough said!

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Laser printers
by marpincan / October 13, 2013 10:04 AM PDT

Well I have a Konica Minolta magicolor 2500. I ordered replacement toner and chips on e-bay for $100 including delivery (supposed to be good for 6000 pages). That works out to 2 cents a page or so. Sometimes i use my printer every day and sometimes it sits for a month. No clogs or other problems and when i need it to print it does. I do not print a lot of pictures but do print lots of color presentations and stuff. I find that for picture wall mart is so cheap that it is not worth printing my own as I usually do not have high quality paper kicking around any way. I would expect the same costs for toner kits for most other color laser printers. Some research on the internet is required before you buy. I also have 3 other Mono lasers various manufacturers (all purchased for $100 or less) and have got 2000 sheet refill toner kits for each for under $20 delivered. I have had these for around 5 years or more and refilled the toner and replaced chips on each one and no problems - when needed to print they do - I put 3 kids through university with these cheap printers. They are not supper high quality printers but they are cheap and reliable which is what a lot of people are looking for. You can spend a fortune on inkjet cartridges or you can get reasonably good results with a laser for a much better price.

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Many in my area use services too..
by JCitizen / December 15, 2013 1:11 PM PST
In reply to: Laser printers

My brother ran the gamut of color printers and found it was just cheaper to go to Walgreens. The only problem with that is some of the big brand stores could care less if the printer system breaks down. so good luck finding one with a working print shop.

I don't doubt it actually comes to being cheaper doing it that way, especially if you only rarely need quality paper photos. Plus he could ship the job through a web-page, and then show up to pick up the prints! Kind of like the old Kodak days, but much better. Kodak should have though of that eons ago - maybe they'd still be in business.

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Too Long
by AneSW / October 14, 2013 12:18 AM PDT

Keep the comments shorter. Although valuable in answer it is just too long to read. Get to the point.

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Solution for Too Long
by jackbutler5555 / December 15, 2013 8:14 PM PST
In reply to: Too Long
Happy Scroll bar.
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Price around
by Rokk70 / October 15, 2013 8:43 AM PDT

I have had my HP-2600n colour laser printer for more than 10 years. I paid $300 for it and it came with full toner cartridges. I have printed thousands of pages of full-colour pictures as well as text, and just last week finally replaced the toner cartridges with compatible ones. The whole set cost me just $136, and they work great. Print quality is still excellent, and I use just ordinary paper for printing photos etc. By the time I use up this set of cartridges, it will be time for a new printer.

Printing cost is less than a cent per page, and the quality is superb. I have gotten excellent value from my HP, and while it would not have been worth it to buy replacement HP toner, the compatible is quite reasonable and works well.

It always pays to shop around for both printers (I got mine at futureshop) and toner (replacement toner from eBay). I have no regrets.

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by MisterRealtor / October 14, 2013 4:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Go laser

I have two lasers and love them both. Due to the higher up front cost, most people will not move away from their inkjets. Additionally I have a dedicated photo printer for my 4X6 photos and then there is always Sam's for everything else.

For lower operating costs, I feel a laser just can't be beat............

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Alternate Ink
by fhorton50 / October 11, 2013 10:45 PM PDT

I have use alternate ink for since 1996 with GREAT success. First don't buy the pre-filled cartridges on ebay our office supply . I have used only two sources and have had NO problems. I buy buy ink and the empty refill cartridges and save about 75%. I have also used continuous feed systems and they are great also if your usage is high enough. I not only use the refills at home i have converted my office (three printers) with great success. The key is where you get your ink.

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by HDreier1 / October 11, 2013 11:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Alternate Ink

fhorton - your message would have been helpful if you had mentioned WHO you purchase your ink from.

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by Nikilet / October 12, 2013 2:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Alternate Ink

How about sharing where you buy this alternative ink that works?

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Ink Source
by fhorton50 / October 12, 2013 7:50 AM PDT
In reply to: WHERE?

I currently use ink from i have a Epson WF7520 and i have had no problems with this ink (I use the Pigmented version -- closest to OEM) and have gone thru at least two or three refils. I cannot tell any difference whatsoever

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100 year?
by SINBAD / November 22, 2013 2:16 PM PST
In reply to: Ink Source

Is their ink 100 year archival? Most times when I try to buy alternate cartridges and ask them this question they cannot give me an answer.
Being a photographer my pictures must be printed with 100 year archival ink. Since I have not been able to get this question answered from any cartridge company I send my images to a reputable lab for printing. Don't want a client coming back to me saying the ink smeared or the color ran or faded.

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No 100 year
by avtronic / November 25, 2013 8:11 PM PST
In reply to: 100 year?

I have printed out many pictures on many types of printers (some i own and just used owned by others). I am always curious if they are archival printouts but none pass the water test. I'm sure there are plenty of small time photo companies that rely on consumer printers but that is just not professional. I doubt if any of these inks, even OEMs can hold up to the 100 year archival standard. Consumer printing with OEM or refills discussed here are options only for personal use with realistic expectations (or business application with short term use in mind).

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Alternative ink is useless.
by artsr3 / October 11, 2013 11:36 PM PDT

I have been using after market refills for Epson and Brother printers. Some refillers do a terrible job and you can get unsatisfying results. I have found LG Products get as good or better than OEM and contain more ink.

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Laurie - See my comments on my Epson WF-3520
by dennphill / October 12, 2013 12:59 AM PDT

I have been really satisfied with 3rd party remanufactured ink cartidges. Great price - never 'rejected' by the printer - had them in my ink cartidge box for 6 or mor months and never had any 'dried-out' issues. I've been happy with Swift Ink (and also abcink in the past). I should say I don't use this for a primary picture printer, only occasional color copies or docuemnts. For photo printing, i have a Selphy dedicated 4x8 printer and I haven't figured out an alternative to the packaged photo paper and dye-sublimation cartridge packaged by Canon. It does good snapshot photos, and they only way to get cheaper is through Amazon (as opposed to Canon). No 3rd party options here.

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