Ink cartridges are generally pretty expensive. They usually cost a substantial proportion of the actual printer’s original cost. So many consumers buy compatible ink cartridges from vendors other than the original printer manufacturer [OEM's]. There is also a pirate market that supplies cartridges with counterfeit original manufacturing branding. Another alternative is modifying the original cartridge to allow use of continuous ink systems with external ink tanks. Some buy third-party ink in bulk and refill their ink cartridges.
Consumers are usually surprised when they go and purchase their first replacement ink cartridge. This is a real eye-opener when they look at the price of purchasing a brand-new printer versus replacing the cartridge. It is sometimes cheaper to buy a brand new machine every time you run out of ink! The major printer manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lexmark, Canon, Brother, and Epson use a business model similar to Gillette. Therefore, it is also known as a “razor and blades” business model. The companies often lose money or break-even on the price of the printer. They expect to make their profit selling plenty of replacement ink over the life of the printer. So, considering their “bread and butter” comes from ink sales some of these companies take aggressive action against aftermarket ink cartridge suppliers.
Some manufacturers produce cartridges with the print head installed. The parts used to create these cartridges are more precise. Therefore, the cartridges are more expensive. However, the printers themselves are much less expensive.
Cartridges that don’t include print heads cost less but the printers are more expensive. One company with this business model is Epson.
With high printer cartridge price points comes a demand for less expensive third-party options. These third-party options include selling ink in bulk, refill kits, stores that refill cartridges, remanufactured cartridges, and cartridges built from scratch by companies other than the OEM.
Consumers can refill cartridges with ink themselves if they use a kit. They can also take the ink cartridge to a re-filling shop or remanufacturer. These companies pump ink back into the cartridge. However, according to the magazine PC World, refilled cartridges tend to have higher failure rates, streak, curl, color-bleed, and print less pages than new cartridges.
Consumers can also purchase ink in pints, quarts, or even gallons. They use this bulk ink purchase to refill the cartridge themselves. This is a cost-effective solution. 1 US pint fills about 15-17 large capacity cartridges.
For the most part, Dell, HP, Canon and Lexmark cartridges aren’t tough to refill. However, some Lexmark cartridges use built-in counter chips that can’t be reset. Epson cartridges also have this special chip but it is possible to buy a chip re-setter. One of the easiest cartridges to refill are Brother products. They usually don’t have a chip and usually just contain a sack of ink.
In general, refilling requires handling ink. This is a messy process for folks with no experience.
Some aftermarket manufacturers now offer refillable cartridges with auto reset chips. This simplifies the refill process. Plus, these refillable cartridges are typically less harmful to the environment.
Laser or inkjet cartridges sold as remanufactured are typically just re-filled cartridges. Inkjet cartridges sold as “compatible” are usually newly manufactured cartridges. Cartridges sold as “remanufactured” are cartridges used at least once by consumers then refilled by another party.
If you own a printer, you’ll eventually need to buy a replacement printer cartridge. You should buy it from a reputable online merchant who sells refillable cartridges or generic cartridges which are fully compatible with the manufacturers’ own brand replacements. LaptopsForLess.com has a huge selection of replacement cartridges in stock, at very reasonable prices [often a fraction of the cost of manufacturers’ own brand replacements]. We’ll even recycle your old printer cartridges for you!