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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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'Usually' not 'Always'

No-one stated that new printers 'always' come with starter cartridges, but they definitely sometimes (and in my experience, usually) do.

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Generic Toner and Ink Cartridges

I have resisted buying generic Ink for my HP printer - and the HP ink is very expensive - even at Costco a 3 pk of 2 color and 1 black is listed at $98 !!! Outrageous! I have not bought Generic because of the problems mentioned. I have a Brother Fax and Staples Office Supplies sells their store brands at about 2/3 what Brother charges and they work fine - but it's carbon paper on 2 rollers. So I am following this thread carefully as I would like to know why the Ink is so expensive and why can't generic ink work properly? Someone must be having good results or No One would be selling them. I think the printer business must be a little like the cell phone stuff where the phone is free or almost then they make profit on the monthly charges.
If the generic Ink would work IMO the brand name ink prices would drop to compete.

SO my question is "Why are Generic Ink cart. so hard to get to work right?

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Good Question.

We can produce generic prescriptions we blindly swallow each day but generic ink refills do not work properly?

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I suspect...

that the trick is in the programming and design of the printer hardware and the ink chemistry combination. Since factors such as this can introduce a chaotic situation with the quality, it gives the OEM a leg up on preventing successful copycat inks. Many print heads use pretty sophisticated combinations of driver pump timing, orifice size, heat, and flow design to make the counterfeit mission impossible.

Just like food companies that only need to keep the formula secret, because cooking is basically chemistry, and taste is everything.

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Funny you mention prescriptions

I have had generic prescriptions NOT work. So, I wonder about ink quality.

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The Whole business model

Printer companies know that buying printers is a hard way to make money. Most people buy a printer once every 2 years or longer. So they make their money on the items they have to buy frequently to keep the cash following. That is the Ink for these printers. They will dump the printers cheaply, then you have to buy their ink, which is very high priced and you have no choice. Look for ink cartridge sales to get deals, but don't stock-up too much because if the printer dies your stuck with a lot of expensive useless ink unless you get the same brand/model again, which may not be available anymore.

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Quite true

Gillette started this in the 1950s. They recognized they were actually making more off their blades than their razors. So, they began giving their razors away free. There was no change in their razor sales, but the blade sales went way up - resulting in more profit.

Much later, printer companies picked up on the same model: sell the printer cheap and make the money on replacement ink cartridges. That has been very successful for about 20 years.

Companies that sell refilled cartridges (there are two that I frequently use) are much cheaper than OEM cartridges. Some printer manufacturers began installing special circuits to their printers and cartridges so only OEM ones would work. Then they brought patent suits against the refill companies. That didn't go well with those printer manufacturers. They still have the extra circuits, but refill companies can still sell replacement cartridges - generally refurbished OEMs. (Refurbishing OEM cartridges is how they beat the patent infringement suits). The best the printer manufacturers can do is claim refilled cartridges will ruin their printers. Don't fall for that line.

Two companies that come highly recommended are: and There are others, but I haven't used or seen any ratings for them. For the savings, it would be worth trying a refilled cartridge.
However, I would not recommend using a refill kit - too messy and the ink isn't that good.

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Your two after market ink companies

I have used these two companies mention and had to throw out a 3 month old Epson printer after two of the color megenta, yellow jets became clogged . They could not be cleaned or unclogged and just kept wasting ink trying to clean.

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Switched from Epson to HP inkjet printers

I also had to throw away my Epson inkjet printer for the same problem of not being able to clean the clogged jet orifices. In the case of HP printers (at least those that I have been using) the jets are on the cartridge unit. For this reason, I switched my loyalty from Epson to HP inkjet printers. I refill the HP cartridges a couple of times before buying new cartridge set. Nevertheless, fact is the quality of printing with refilled cartridges cannot match the OEM which I use for quality projects. Let me also add that so far as the dot-matrix printers are concerned, I still have a 25 year old Epson LX800, which is still working fine.

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Why is OEM better?

So the question is, why is OEM so much better and why can't the Generic Companies match them? Maybe that's why OEM is so much more expensive - they are so much better than printers are not thrown away because of bad ink jet cartr. ? I use HP almost 100% and so far have only used OEM Inks but the prices have gotten so high I am considering trying them - although I'm not so sure after reading some horror stories.

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This is a repeat of my prior post...

I suspect that the trick is in the programming and design of the printer hardware and the ink chemistry combination. Since factors such as this can introduce a chaotic situation with the quality, it gives the OEM a leg up on preventing successful copycat inks. Many print heads use pretty sophisticated combinations of driver pump timing, orifice size, heat, and flow design to make the counterfeit mission impossible.

Just like food companies that only need to keep the formula secret, because cooking is basically chemistry, and taste is everything.

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Good Point

I agree that it probably depends on the type of inkjet printer.

I had a Cannon with a separate print head. After a few years of using refills, one of the jets (yellow) became clogged. I used several techniques offered by the company, but was no able to get that jet to print. Testing showed ink was getting through the print head, but not while printing. So, I was not able to verify whether the jet was clogged or if the print head had other problems.

That printer was replaced with a Lexmark with the print heads in the cartridge. I've worn out that printer and replaced it with another Lexmark. So far I haven't had a clogging problem.

If your printer used cartridges with built-in print heads, give the refurbished cartridges or refill kits a try.
If I had a printer with its own print head, I would still go with the refurbished cartridges. If I did use a refill kit (high potential of ink mess), it would only be about three times before replacing the cartridges.

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Same Epson problem - and picky HP printer

I had exactly the same problem with my Epson printer. No amount of "cleaning" the print heads worked and I eventually took the printer to the tip. I now have a HP Photosmart 5510, but this one gets upset if I don't use genuine HP cartridges and, apparently randomly, refuses to accept them. I wonder if I am unlucky or whether this behaviour is by design...

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Problem could be out of date cartridges

See my post above for the reason some "new" HP cartridges won't work right out of the box. Some HP cartridges have a date embedded in their chips, and the printer polls the computer for the correct date. If the cartridge has been sitting in a warehouse or store shelf too long, this date may have already passed, and if so, the printer won't use that cartridge.

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Cleaning and ink waste

The technology employed by Epson and HP in their inkjet printers is very different and because of this the cleaning necessary is also different. While HP printing heads are contained within the cartridge, Epson cartridges are only reservoirs of ink and the printing heads are within the Printer itself. So when you replace a cartridge in the HP you have also replaced the Printing heads.

Epson require flushing the heads with large amounts of fresh ink to clean the heads and as the printer ages even this can result in limited improvements. This however may not be the end of life for these printers although clearly that is what Epson intended.

The fact is that cleaning cartridges may return these printers much closer to a like new state. These are cartridges that instead of containing ink contain cleaning solvents (usually alcohol based) that are capable of a much more thorough cleaning job. If you can't find a set for your model you may be able to create them by opening spent ink cartridges cleaning and filling them with rubbing alcohol. (YMMV) Insert and run 6 or more cleaning cycles before inserting a new set of ink cartridges and a final clean and test cycle to prime the printer.

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I've tried that too...

with my Canon with no luck. Apparently the model of Canon had ink that was impervious to alcohol and water also. It could be the company that made the cleaning cartridges was a ripoff, but who would know? Fortunately I had a spare print head bale, and simply switched the print bale out to fix the problem. I've learned my lesson several times over about 3rd party inks. I wished we had a refurbish store in our area, I think that is the true answer.

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Third party cartridges can be VERY expensive too!

They won't damage your printer, of course, but these days printers and manufacturer's cartridges have chips. If the chip in the cartridge doesn't give the code the printer's manufacturer likes, the printer blocks and you may have to throw away a new 10 or 15€ cartridge. Shocked
Since you tried to install it, the package is open, the security tag missing, you won't get a refund. 10 or 15 € lost and I still had to buy a new manufacturer's cartridge, at the price /ml of French perfume.<div>
My 12yr old HP 620c would accept any brand or no-brand cartridges, until it passed away from old age. Same for the HP 500 I had before (then 15 yr old, i think)
My 3 yr old Lexmark only accepts Lexmark.<div>Even just taking a cartridge out of it and putting it back will trigger some kind of alarm.

I'm thinking about a new 70€ Brother laser printer but I see the 1500 p toner cartridges cost nearly as much as a new printer. (of course, a starter cartridge will only print 200 or so pages and you also have to replace the drum every 2 year or so, I read.)

I remember refilling an office copy machine from a plastic bottle of toner: no cartridges at all, just a tank that held the toner. I wish I could find a small laser printer like that.


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Turn to Ebay

I almost always get my cartridges from Ebay. I have a favorite seller who is great. Check out their feedback carefully.

Check the feedback on the seller. Also, read the listing very carefully. If it uses a chip, make sure it comes with a chip (most do). You merely have to disregard the warning that it is not a factory chip that your printer will give you. BUT remember that you will probably void your manufacturer's warranty. *Not a big deal if you picked up a printer for sixty bucks or so.

I have been using refilled cartridges for years without problems. I have only had one bad cartridge. Typically, I can get a full set of cartridges for ten bucks,+/-(with free shipping).. And the outfit I buy from usually ships the next day and I have my cartridges within a couple of days

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What is the name on E-Bay that you use. $10 for a set of inks is great.
Thanks,Bob O'Brien

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after using online companies...

I use or I buy cartridges for my Canon printer online. I run the cartridges until they run dry (the printer won't print) and take the empties to Staples to get store credits for them (used to be $1.00 per cartridge; now I think it is $.50). I have tried refilling the black cartridges, but I usually make a mess doing it. The refills work ok for about 2 times per cartridge.

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after using online companies...

A few years back I tried using Carrot Ink for 2 identical Epson printers. It worked fine at first for the first one, so I started using them for the second one as well. Within about 2 months the first one stopped working, and about a month later -- just about the interval between using the inks on the 1st & 2nd printer -- the second one stopped working too. So I wound up throwing away 2 otherwise perfectly good printers and swore off aftermarket cartridges for good. Never again, folks, never again!

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Go With Refills at a fraction of the cost

7 years of success with ink4less.. I do major photo printing with Epson, and Canon. General printing with HP Never a cartridge malfunction in well over 100 cartridges.

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Since I really only print in Black and White, can I use/replace just the black cartridge?
I have a Canon MX300. Nice little printer, scanner fax but same story with the expensive inks drying out from little usage. I wouldn't mind replacing only the black if it would work.
Thanks, Bob O'Brien

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Since I really only print in Black and White

"Since I really only print in Black and White, can I use/replace just the black cartridge?"

No. Black isn't really black. Technically they aren't inks but an organic dye, but that doesn't market well. To get black you need some of all three primary colors plus some black to darken the combination.

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I don't know why you are getting down votes...

because that is true. It is even in the news about that reality. Gone are the days, when you could let your old HP DeskJet run dry on the colors and print black and white until you could get to the store. So many of the new printers will shut down and force you to buy color cartridges, whether you need them or not, even when the black tank is full. I suspect it is just because of the programming and driver on some of them. But I've seen on some brands, the black just doesn't look black if too many of the colored cartridges are plugged up.

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Shouldn't be a problem

Usually once the colour runs out they automatically revert to black ink, although sometimes it comes out grey instead. Just carry on and see what happens it can't do any harm.

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Laser is the way to go.

If you only print black and white - why not get a laser printer? 2000 plus sheets out of a toner cartridge, much easier to refill including changing the chip if need be, and the toner does not dry out (I have run 3 years on a toner cartridge no problem. Before buying the printer - check on e-bay to find out what the refill kits and chips will cost. Toner and chip for my Konica Minolta costs $16 (shipping included ) good for 2000 sheets.

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Depends on the company

Both the commercially refilled ink cartridges and the ink in refill kits varies in quality depending on who manufactured the ink. Check out various brands, try them out yourself or ask friends/relatives what their experiences have been.

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Replacement ink

I use the cartridge, very cheap and no problems so far.

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I have been using generic ink cartridges for a few years with 2 different printers and have had good results. I really, really wish we could do something about the outlandish prices that these companies are charging for there brand names.

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