Original Vs Compatible Ink Cartridges: Which Ones to Choose & When

When you discovered that feature-packed Brother, Canon, Epson, or HP printer, at an unbelievably low price, you must’ve thought it to be the deal of the decade. Why wouldn’t you? Just a few years ago, the all-in-one printer that you recently purchased at $100 would’ve cost you a whopping $400.

What you almost certainly didn’t realize at the time was that the money saved on device acquisition will eventually be spent on buying accessories i.e. ink cartridges.  You may have since purchased multiple ink cartridges sold by the printer manufacturer and wondered if you should really try saving on ink costs by giving compatible ink cartridges a try.

Before we start discussing whether you should use original or compatible inks and when, let’s first understand the basics:

  • OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Inks: These are original-brand ink cartridges made by the printer manufacturing company. For instance, HP makes ink cartridges and toners to be used in HP printers.
  • Compatible Ink Cartridges: These are made and filled by a third party manufacturer. They are engineered to be compatible with different printer models.
  • Remanufactured Cartridges: These are cartridges that have been recycled, re-engineered and refilled to replace original cartridges. On some occasions, OEM cartridges are also recycled by third party companies. Damaged parts are carefully replaced and cleaned to make a new, functional cartridge.

Compatible ink cartridges can help you save a great deal on ink costs but you shouldn’t buy just about anything cheap, available on the Internet.  There are occasions when you should choose one over the other.

Original Vs Compatible Inks: When Should You Stick to Original Ink Cartridges?

If your printer is under warranty at the moment, it is advisable to stick to OEM ink cartridges. If your printer is damaged in some manner, while you were using non-OEM cartridges, authorized service centers can easily pass off the blame on compatible ink cartridges.

However, using compatible device consumables including ink cartridges won’t always void your warranty. In the United States, after a long legal battle in the 70s, the courts ruled against the manufacturers forcing consumers to only use original brand consumables in order to have their warranties maintained. It took the form of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act which went on to become a pillar of consumer protection laws in several other countries later on.

As long as you avoid bottom-end compatibles from unknown dealers, the chances of a compatible cartridge affecting device warranty are really very low.

Having said that, if you own an expensive printer, you should either stick to OEM inks till the warranty period is over or make sure that you’re buying compatibles from a reputed dealer such as InkJetsClub who:

  • Has an ISO certification
  • Offers warranties/guarantees on compatible ink cartridges sold
  • Sells cartridges under a brand name

Original Vs Compatible Inks: Should Monthly Print Volume be considered?

If you print a few hundred pages a month or more, compatible ink cartridges and toners can help you save up to 70%. For a small or medium-scale enterprise, this can add up to significant savings in a year. You can also purchase high-yield (XL/XXL) cartridges that have more ink and can last longer.

However, if you print just a few sheets each month, you may get a better deal in the form of monthly ink subscriptions from printer manufacturing companies. For instance, HP’s Instant Ink scheme enables you to print up to 50 sheets per month for as little as $3. Such ink cartridge shipping, replacement, and recycling services are applicable to select printer models only.  

Original Vs Compatible Inks: Should the Type of Printing Job be considered?

As far as text and everyday documents are concerned, the qualitative difference in prints delivered by original and compatible inks is negligible.

Compatibles offer great quality photo prints as long as you’re buying such ink cartridges and toners from a respectable seller. The quality of photo/graphic prints can be a tad more with OEM inks on original paper but the difference is nearly impossible to spot for an everyday consumer.

In case you need to print really high-resolution designs or photographs for an exhibition or corporate sales pitch, you may want to stick to the OEM cartridges. Original ink and toner cartridges with specific photo paper will always give you the best results in this case. After all, they’ve been designed to work together. This holds true especially when you own a printer having six separate inks.

Final Words

For a majority of practical purposes, compatible ink cartridges and toners are a superior choice over their original-brand counterparts. Printer manufacturers will always warn you against using third-party inks in their product pages and manuals but the truth is that they’re merely trying to protect their profit margins. Except on specific occasions outlined above, you can always save on ink costs by choosing compatibles over OEMs. Just make sure to source compatible ink cartridges and toners from the right seller. 

Author Bio

My name is George Mendelson. I am the PR Media Manager at InkjetsClub.com, a nationwide leading ink and toner retailer. One of my passions is educating and helping people through all the issues related to Printers, Ink Cartridges and Toners.

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