Inkjet printers are more affordable than laser machines, but they have one important disadvantage — costly supplies. A full set of cartridges from the equipment manufacturer may cost nearly as much as the printer itself. Fortunately, you can spend less on ink for any popular model of office equipment.
In recent years, the industry of aftermarket and compatible cartridges has grown immensely, and price differences may be staggering. For example, the full replacement for HP 952 ink (4 cartridges) at Smart Ink costs around $63.50, while the manufacturer sells one color for around $24. By switching to alternative providers, you can save 20% or more every time.
What Is Behind the Prices?
Big brands have the same rationale for cartridge pricing — R&D. While their massive investment is indisputable, the disproportion looks hardly fair. Why should a consumer pay more for ink just because the manufacturer spends billions on research?
These companies have long been suspected of capitalizing on the old “razor and blades” logic — selling cheap equipment to profit from costly consumables. Whether this is true or not, the high demand for more affordable ink is natural.
Overview of Options
A third-party cartridge may belong to one of the two categories: compatible or remanufactured. In the first case, independent brands design and manufacture products that mimic the properties and performance of original consumables. You get a cartridge that looks and works similarly to its OEM counterpart but costs much less.
The second way to save money is to buy a recycled cartridge (aka “remanufactured”). Independent companies collect used OEM products, revamp and refill them to sell again. Savings could be just as impressive, but you will get an original shell filled with fresh compatible ink. This option is particularly attractive to eco-conscious buyers.
Choose a Store
To avoid online scams, research the reputation of your store before placing an order. Legit sites with free shipping and loyalty discounts allow you to save even more with every purchase. Make sure the website offers:
- Certified quality
- Extended warranty
- The latest version of the chip
- Testing before shipping
- Ink level tracking (for specific models)
- Sustainable policies
Is OEM Ink the Best?
Consumers who buy original ink do not need to do any research, as they know that high quality is guaranteed. Before switching to cheaper alternatives, you need to make sure the store is legit.
Secondly, original cartridges are instantly recognized. Manufacturers release firmware updates that prevent their equipment from working with third-party products. Independent brands have to update chip versions regularly to keep up. This is another aspect to remember when shopping online.
In terms of printing quality, the differences are barely distinguishable if you notice them at all. As long as you buy from reputable suppliers, you will get similar quality for less money. What’s more, providers comply with international standards like ISO, CE, and Reach.