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


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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Interesting! I've been looking at those for some time, but never made the leap!

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I agree

Yeah that's what I do. You can go for retailer or something.

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Try Inkcredibal UK they work well no smudging all the colours are first class

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Bad luck, perhaps?

I've done ink refills and re-manufactured cartridges for years with no real problems, so I'm kind of wondering if laurieprior has just had really bad luck. I will admit, though... ink re-fills can be messy!

I've tried a few different Canadian companies- I started out with Atlantic, then tried and then moved a little closer with (or located in High River, Alberta, and haven't had any problems with them.

With one of my Epson printers- can't recall which model, I even ordered a chip re-setter and ordered cartridges that you had to reset the chip on, so the printer would recognize it. All my printers have had pretty much industrial use until they're dead, so I've been through a few.

I now have a Canon Pro 9000 Mark II, and a Canon iP4500 (which I have just about worn out- the part I need is more than the printer is worth), a Canon ip2700 which was only $20 to purchase on sale, and the ink was about 60+ to replace. That one was a rip-off, but only because I couldn't get re-manufactured carts for it. I also have a Canon laser printer, which I haven't yet purchased toner for... but when I do, it will be the re-manufactured version!

So, there are alternatives to buying OEM, but you'd need to find someone who uses them regularly, and go with recommendations. For professional photography, it might be worth it to have photos printed through a photo lab, or make sure your printer and your monitor are calibrated. That can be a big source of colour discrepancy, from what I understand. Sometimes we blame ink, when it's something else.

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No Loss of Ink

another way to re-filling yourself, is to use a bought kit or ink bottles that are sold by the pint at re-filling shops and screw very small self tapping countersunk slotted screws as bungs. a tiny hole is drilled and with a syringe from the chemist, a cartridge is easily topped up a number of times and not so messy to dispense with.

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Vicious Cycle - Profitable for Ink Companies only!

I was so tired of continually purchasing expensive inkjet printer catridges that I started purchasing new printers instead, however, after stockpiling a small fleet of inkjet printers did I realize how stupid this was and finally decided, enough!

I purchased an expensive Brothers Laser printer and have been printing with the same cartridges (except the black) for over a year. To replace them will only cost me about $129 and will last me way longer than any inkjet catridges ever would. Best decision ever!

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What about Costco?

While getting some photos printed at Costco I noticed another customer was getting ink refills. He told me he was very enthusiastic and he evidently was a repeat user. I use color almost exclusively for good photos of my artwork. What I didn't know then to ask him is: Is this ink as high a standard as the original ink? However, maybe if he's not depending on high quality for his usage he wouldn't know. Is there anyone listening who does know about the quality and dependability of Costco replacement ink?

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Agree with Alternative ink useless

I have had three awful experiences with alternative ink. Getting my money back was a small percentage of wasted time and the hassle of cleaning my printers and redoing the work that was spoiled (including IRS forms).

I own various HP inkjet and laser printers and shop around for the best prices and deals. All my printers are set to "draft" print as the default for saving ink and for copies I need to file or will probably discard at a later date. When I am printing photos to keep or share and business letters it easy enough to switch to "better" or "best" which uses more ink.

It does seem like a ripoff by all printer manufacturers and someone will somehow come up with a better solution. But for now I use genuine refill cartridges and am doing more saving to the cloud as I work toward the paperless office envisioned by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave (circa 1984).

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Printer Ink

Laruie, I have to disagree with you on this. I have used refill carts, refilled my own, and, with the exception of the HP printers, I have had acceptable results. The worst for refilling is/was the HP printers followed by Epson. I would rather have an epson printer but as long as they insist, and take measures to ensure you can't refill the cart, I'll stick to those I can. I do get new cartridges periodically though.

You may be trying to overfill those carts and that being the cause for you failure.

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Alternative ink

Sorry I disagree too.
I'm using two Canon Printers, and am annoyed as everyone by the cost of the ink cartridges.
I then bought the alternative ink cartridges from a supplier here in France. They recycle the genuine cartridges and refill them with inks that work exactly as the manufacturer's even for high quality photo printing.
Then they manage their business as everyone else do, fixing prices attractive enought but maximizing the profits. Prices charged are about 30% less.
At the end I do the refill myself, And am totally satisfied with the results.
I purchase the inks from a supplier in Australia (they ship everywhere in the world) or another from France with the same quality results.
As for the printers to recognize the cartridges there are two solutions : either to buy a set of self resettable cartridges (it looks to me that they come from the same supplyer as the printer manufacturers') or to buy a cartridge electronic resetter for around 30$.
I do not like paying too much for ink but I do not blame people who mind their business and do the profit.
It's the offer and demand game.

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alternatrive ink cartridges

Don't know where you are getting your alternative ink cartridges. My experience has been good... I've never had a problem with them in my Canon all-in-one printer and the color quality has been as good as the original manufacturer's cartridge. Some of the more reputable alternative ink suppliers offer a guaranty/warranty if you are not satisfied, so that might be a good thing to look for when deciding who to purchase from since they supply a product they are willing to stand behind. Also, Costco refills original manufacturer's ink cartridges at a reasonable price (they don't refill alternative cartridges) and I have had no problems at all with the resulting performance after their refill -- as a bonus, you can get your refilled cartridge from Costco in as little as one hour after placing your order.

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Strongly disagree!!!

Strongly disagree , I've been using them for years and mine works fine as long as you find the right manufacturing and do your research where to buy them , I saved as much as $53 .

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Soooooo TRUE, Walter

The ONLY reason for printermakers to sell inkcartridges at such high prices is to sell the printers at mini prices to start getting money out of the sale of cartridges later on. Once you bought the printer you need more cartridges later.

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Its a printer NIGHTMARE out there girl!

I'll try not to be wordy or long winded here, and usually I say that just before I start a long spell and blab off at the mouth for paragraph after paragraph of non-stop ideas and thoughts on the subject, but most of today's printers are designed NOT to give you long life as they (Manufacturers) are certainly not interested at the price you are buying a printer, in making one that will last much more longer than its warranty. In doing this they have run really bad batches of printers in past years, most you will find at wal mart's for $40 including all full sized medium yield ink cartridges.

Wal Mart's buys up such "bad runs" as these at far lower prices than even they are use to getting overseas and in China, so they buy them on the run and present them as "sales fantastic specials", then warranty some products only 90 days and others though for a year as most printers are. But as in my case with the Epson 110 series I had it ended up working through all the way to their 215 before I was done and, I actually had to have it replaced thrice within the first year. This was in the last four years of printers I have gone through. I told you this to build up later to an actual answer to saving yourself money and only spending $30-$40 on all you ink.

now we can get into printer ink...

Sometimes you can save good money by buying refilled reactivated ink cartridges, but most of the time you will find yourself in a mess sooner or later, and some refilled cartridges will trip the chip in the printer and for some sly unknown reason the printer will quit working, even with deciding to go ahead and using the proprietary ink cartridge (manufacturer's brands). Its a friggin' NIGHTMARE out there in the real world of printers sometimes folks!!!

Printer companies will give you all sorts of excuses for why the printer ink needs to be set at a certain cost price, but what it all boils down to is that those ink cartridges are "proprietary"! They only fit certain printers, only the manufacturers models and in that even only a few certain models, as the type of cartridge switches as they redesign models for newer printers next year that will use totally different printer cartridges. Its all a big racket to make a bundle on cartridges at your expense.

They are in the business to make money folks, face it.They designed the printer with a chip that can detect if it is actually THEIR proprietary printer cartridge and hide that behind their excuse that it is that way to be able to better regulate the ink and thus end up save YOU money, oh yeah.. What they don't tell you is that the encoding on the cartridge chips and printer chips tells it to kill the cartridge and read it as empty when there is still 10%-15% ink left in the cartridge and this they say is to prevent people who don't possess a working knowledge or common sense of printers, from burning up printer heads by continuing to print when the cartridge has run dry.

Its all a scheme designed to make the most from their product, to trap you into using their ink and force you to buy more, and more, and more, and.......much like the drug traffic in the projects of big cities, supply and demand.

Forcing the user to need more,

give them less

but make them think they are getting a good deal. HEY!

I just described every single politician of our era!

To beat that, they have designed their ink cartridge chips to be encoded for specified printers, so that when you try to buy off brand econo series refilled cartridges, the chip in the printer will find them 9 out of ten times and you will have error problems or sometimes even a failed printer in trying to figure out if its a used cartridge or an off brand and a fake specified ink cartridge replacement.

Because their greed has gotten so very bad, I have started buying the poor mans versions of embattling the tyrants by using their own greed against them. Now if you look, Wal Marts has printers on sale all the time for $30-$40 and they include fully filled medium use cartridges (not the heavy use cartridges we sometimes buy for better economy).

So you are better off, if you use your printer at home for regular usage, to buy these cheap printers, hang on to your usb printer cable and when the ink runs out, just toss the printer in the trash or sell it to some unlikely soul or unknowing buyer on eBay for a good discounted price and just tell them in the ad that it merely needs ink (which will cost more than a new printer with ink costs.), and just buy a new one for yourself from Walmart. Black ink is cheap so I always look to see what levels the colored inks are, and if they're okay, I will buy an black ink cartridge if the black runs out. and continue to use it till the more expensive colored one runs out, and then get rid of it, and just buy a new $40 one on sale at Wally World. Mind you to look for a printer that includes the ink also, and sometimes the sales even include a new printer cable but not often.

Another trick to save money on ink is to be sure and shop around and make SURE you find one that uses individual ink cartridges instead of the familiar TriColor packages . In those bundled packaged deals, you'll find one of their biggest traps, the TriColor cartridge. When the blue or yellow or red runs out by itself and you may have a third or a half of one or two of the other colors still good, the whole cartridge is trash. When you make sure and buy a printer with "individual" cartridges (sometimes up to 6 cartridges since some come with two shades of blue, two of yellow and two of magenta (red) you can replace the single cartridges of whatever color goes dry and not have to throw a bundle away in order to replace one color being out. . You can go to any store you wish to, Best Buy, Staples or whoever, but just check their best sale on econo printers and go for broke as long as your demands for printer use are light home use and not business heavy burdened work issues.

Now some printer saving tips.....

Remember that, depending on where you live in your residential community, and where the transformers that sit atop the telephone poles are placed, you can be in a high kill zone when surges and lightning strikes hit. A power surge can be caused and classified in two different ways, an actual lightning strike traveling down the lines to your home and a power surge actually created by the power company when lightning strikes near one of the plants or facilities that you see sometimes with all the big coils and towers and cables all sitting behind the high tall warning sign fence out all alone in the outskirts of town somewhere.

When a strike hits, those facilities will resist, switch and send that surge out in different directions to dissipate its force, there is sometimes 100,000 to 1,000,000 volts in one of those lightning bolts. Rather than let it dissipate into the ground which would allow the charge to bum rush the facility on its way into ground, and damage the equipment and thus need it replace repeatedly. Instead it actually sends spikes downline in smaller amounts to eat up the charge. When those facilities send that power downline, it is handled by those transformers atop the pole to dissipate it further. Those heavy transformers are nothing but a huge bucket that weighs in at around 500 to 600 lbs sometimes and are filled with regular old mineral oil. Why! you ask? Its because mineral oil is non conductive and in that mineral oil they place sheet after sheet wound around and around of thin sheets of cooper plate lined with a reductive paper to keep each wind of paper between the sheets preventing them from touching, and what that does is reduce or transform the high voltage current from the lines to usable voltages we can apply to home utilities. SO you can get hit by constant surges even if lightening is a mile or two away.

So double up on your surge protectors. Spend a reasonable sum on your protector. Buy at least a 4600 joules protector and if your want to go 6000+ joules for a good one and can afford it, act like a groundhog and "gopher" it! I even piggyback mine, one surge protector plugged into another twin model surge protector, that one plugged into the wall...doubling up. I then of course plug my most precious equipment into the long surge protector, the one furthest from the power source and most dependable to resist the surge. SO my computers go into that one, and anything left will allow protection for my printers, and for some insane reason, the way that printers are built with such cheaper chips than even your computer, they can't take a surge as well as your power supply/computer/motherboard/video card can.

For business usage I found Brothers series to be a great reliable and heavy functioning printer. With that sort of high demand high yield, you would want to buy bulk cartridges anyways, and save money by buying in wholesale lots.

I hope all that jawing helps, and I certainly don't mean to sound like a know-it-all, for I am not. This all is just from my own experience working with computer related sciences since starting back in 1997.

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djdrew. Hypocrite

Much of your post condemns manufacturers for being greedy and sly, which they are, but you go on to offer,

"...just toss the printer in the trash or sell it to some unlikely soul or unknowing buyer on eBay for a good discounted price and just tell them in the ad that it merely needs ink (which will cost more than a new printer with ink costs.)"

Nice one.

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I changed media completely..

I too was spending a lot of money for what I was getting in the inkjet world. Refilling cost was not the solution. No matter how I cut it, it was not cheap.

Our non profit organization decided to consider our long term need for reproduction mailers, brochures, instructions, etc. If we did it in B/W it was going to be expensive (any type of inkjet), color was out of the question.

Looking at all of the lower end (under $1000) Lasers it was still expensive per page considering the number of pages per toner cartridge.

We found that Xerox had produced a new type of 'ink'. Solid 'ink' for the Phaser series. We bought a new Xerox Phaser 8860 for $900 on Ebay, two years ago. We've put about 175,000 copies through it at an average cost per B/W of around $.08 per page. Color is around $.15-.17 per page. We ended up producing revenue by doing printing for other NPO's in the immediate area. It has paid for itself in about 2 years. The ink comes in packages of 6 'bricks' (about the size of charcoal briquettes). YCM are each about $50-60, for 14,000 pages (@20% coverage). Black is more than double at $128-140, but still 14,000 pages. We buy ONLY genuine xerox ink. The others do not work well. We pay the yearly $220 maintenance (needed for sanity) and have pretty much replaced every major part in the machine. There is a routine maintenance kit that costs around $70 (ebay) and needed about every 50,000 pages.

It was the solution for us.

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Solid ink is OK but...

We used the Phaser printers at work before Xerox bought them out. Great color and coverage, but the problem was the pages would stick together if they got hot, and would get stuck if you tried to copy them using a document feeder on a photocopier.

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Solid ink is ok but...

They must have changed the formulation since then. The only significant problems we have are:
- if a color image falls on a fold line the 'ink' gets disturbed;
- left in the sun, the images bleach out over time.

We had maintenance and production issues using 3rd party ink. We can find Xerox ink at prices sometimes lower than 3rd party on eBay. Using the genuine ink by Xerox, those problems have gone away. At least the new print head ($$$) was fully covered under the warranty.

Adding ink takes seconds, and with no mess. A completely filled 8860 runs continuously for 4-8 hours in highest resolution mode (picture) with out adding additional 'sticks'.

I've had a stack of two side printed documents in a hot car with out a problem. I can understand it might be, considering the ink is laid on the surface rather than soaked into the paper fibers. But then again this allows us to use lighter weight paper (20 pound instead of 2Cool without 'bleed through' from the other side. That helps pay its way too.

Even though the images are impressive, for museum quality prints I'd still go with a multi-head expensive Epson. This printer produces the kinds of prints that are 'throwaway': advertisements, information on near term events, etc. However we have copies that look brand new 3 years later.

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not too wordy?

I would hate to see what you would have written had you NOT been brief as you were?!!

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Give 'em the razor; sell 'em the blades

While a new printer looks cheap it usually comes with "starter" cartridges.

So my take is the printer ink is at or near the right price the printer is sold at a loss because they'll make it up later on the ink but if there was a huge pile of money to be made you would see generic ink in every store with the store brand on that package.

-> So this is well discussed (Give'em the razor) what I want folk to consider is when the printer dies, it's almost always cheaper to get a new printer. Service counters run about 100 bucks so you might wonder if that's a bad deal too?

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The constant changing of printer designs by customers tempted by this, makes it even harder for the print cartridge aftermarket to keep up. Singer used to throw away sowing machines to get a similar effect.

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"starter" cartridges

Not true. We weighed the cartridges that came with the printer and new cartridges on a lab scale (accurate to micrograms) and they were identical.

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It is and it isn't (true)

Some printers come with the same cartridges that are recommended as the replacement, but some do come with "starter" cartridges that have a quarter or less than the replacements. Some actually have a different cartridge name (model?) to differentiate from the regular replacements, but some have the same markings yet are only partially filled. Depends on the manufacturer, and even then with the printer model.

Many cartridges have sponges inside to hold the ink. If you open the cartridge once it is empty, (with some cartridges it is simply a matter of running an exacto knife under the top which is often just glued on in which case they pop off easily enough, though sometimes they are welded and have to be cut all the way around), you will see how much of the sponge is still white compared to the part which actually had ink and you will see how full the cartridge actually was. I have seen cartridges that were filled to only a quarter of their capacity.

Cheaper to underfill than to build a smaller cartridge, but also the larger cartridge is assumed to be full, so the customer feels he is getting his money's worth, when a smaller cartridge would ring alarm bells as to value for the price.

Even the full replacement cartridges will often hold more ink than the manufacturer puts in.

Getting cartridges refilled can definitely save money, but some refill companies only put in what the original manufacturer did, and some fill to capacity. Very worth while to find out which refill station does which.

Generic new cartridges usually only fill to the same level as the original manufacturer but cost somewhere between the brand name product and refills.

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In some brands it is obvious..

because the tanks are translucent, and you can see they have less ink straight out of the box.

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My Experience Disagrees

Sorry Steve but I have found the starter ink cartridges to be of lesser volume. This relates to an HP Pro 8500 and a Canon Pixma iX6520.

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To weigh or not to weigh replacement cartridges

4 years ago I bought a "business class" refurbished HP inkjet printer that had the label saying "cheaper than a laser printer". OK so every time I buy cartridges for it I know absolutely, I can print 20 times more pages (yes, 20 times more) than the Brother printer/fax/scanner combination printer I have at another office.

I paid the princely sum of $45 plus $20 freight for the HP. I gets used daily and has for 4 years. Some days it will print 3 or 4 letters, others it will print a few hundred price lists. In the four years that this has been the only printer in our company secretaries office, it has consumed 5 black cartridges, 3 sets of colour and one print head.

Compared to the A4 Xerox laser printer I paid $905 for, it really is cheaper than a laser to run. HP no longer make this model officejet printer and the new model has smaller tanks but I know from experience that HP "Business class" dye ink printers have cheaper running costs than other brands. the wide format HP I bought (130 designjet) always amazed me how many 24" wide photos I could print before needing to replace the tanks.

None of this applies to the cheap and nasty $160 HP scanner/printer I bought on the offer of a free hard drive (I never got) when registering the product. This was absolute junk. The inks ran all over the page and the function to print CDs was a laughing matter.

I currently own several HP Designjet printers (Dyer and pigment ink) and these out-last Canon wide format (Of which I have one of) printers and the HP ink cost is half that of Canon's ink lasting twice as long per tank. That means by changing from big Canon's to big HPs, I've reduced the ink cost by more than 25%. The print heads on a big Canon cost serious money but the HP system lets you replace 2 colour print heads at a time for a mere pittance of what Canons costs.

I can honestly say, provided you pick your model, HP printers are the most economical to run and have me asking "Why bother" when it comes to using after market ink. I've seriously thought of writing an article about the costs of ink Vs Laser in a busy office but because I'm still an active business operator, I can't see any value in doing that. I'll keep it for retirement.

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You've got to be kidding.

Uh? I would think the purchase of a laser printer for $900 to be a bit foolish. I've run many types of lasers and beaucoup other types in the past 36 years I've been in and around the business and 'so far' the most economically all around has been a $130+/- Samsung ML series. It can do full duplex and up to 1200 dpi with a cost per page of around 2 cents! That's 8000 pages from a rebuilt or generic cartridge cost that runs $30 to $40. This particular printer is used 7 days a week and has printed over 45,000 pages. It would be a miracle to get even close to that cost per page with any HP printer... ever

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Re-Filling InkJets Cartridges

I don't visit the site very often, but when I saw the topic I thought I'd put my 2 cents in.
I have an EPSON CX4800 printer and have had it for about 7 years or so. It works quite
well after all this time. The question of course is the cartridges, For a set of new cartridges
the cost is about $65 + tax. I started using a Re-Fill outlet and they charged me about $10
a cartridge. Here is the problem though, I had to find a new place as the one I used to go
to closed down. When I did find another refill location (same company) the person waived
me back and said "We can't fill these cartridges, because they are more then 50% filled already"
He showed me the weight of the cartridges and told me what the number are when Empty & Full.
I told him the reason I wanted them filled was because my computer which monitors the cartridges
said they were empty and it wouldn't let me print. With the cartridge chips reset the printer is working
quite nicely and the print quality is very good.
I asked them about newer printers as with the new ones you can't refill the cartridges, they are
a one time use only so you are forced to buy new ones. He did give me a couple of suggestions
on models that have cartridges that can be refilled but as time goes on, those may be extinct
as well.

I'm just wondering what happens to all the used cartridges, are they recycled? Are they trashed?
By the way, he told me to purchased new cartridges as these have been refilled about 8 to 10 times
and they are starting to show their I can't complain, got plenty of mileage out of them.

Well, that's my 2 bits.


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yes and no

It depends on the brand usually there is fine print on the box saying if they are starter cartridges

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It depends on the manufacturer and model

Many come with 'starter' inks, some come with standard inks, but hi capacity inks are available (my current HP D5460). I've been in the repair side of printers for 22 years. In that time, I've seen very few non-oem inks that perform well. And as some have found out, an ink refill that works in one make/model, rarely works in another. Laser printing is the way to go, if you print any volume at all, especially in an office. Just in black only printing, ink jet typically cost 10X per page that of a laser printer. At home, I have an HP monochrome laser, cartridge typically last me over 6K prints (more than a full box of paper), for about $100. And good quality non-oem toners are available, wouldn't know them from oem. Colour inkjet only get used for colour prints, mostly 4x6 photos and print direct on CD/DVD. And I buy only the hi capacity oem inks for it.

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