OEM ink cartridges vs. cheaper ink refills
Replacing your inkjet printer's ink cartridges can cost more than the printer
itself. Cheaper store-brand ink cartridges and do-it-yourself refill kits
can be tempting, but what are the risks? If you're shopping for printer ink,
expert testers advise you to choose carefully:
- Skip do-it-yourself ink refill
kits. They're the cheapest option, but expert testers find them too
messy. For most people, the hassle outweighs the potential savings.
- Stick with
OEM (manufacturer) cartridges for the best reliability, image quality
and longevity. If time is more important than money or you want keepsake-quality
printouts, OEM cartridges usually deliver the best, most trouble-free
results. Photos printed with some OEM inks can last 100 years or more.
- Refilled cartridges
cost less, but they're not as high-quality and consistent as OEM
inks. Store-brand cartridges are really used OEM cartridges that have been
cleaned and refilled with store-brand ink. Some brands crank out decent-looking
printouts in some tests, but they usually don't print as beautifully as
new OEM cartridges do, and they tend to fade within a few months or years.
Refilled cartridges are also more likely to malfunction or leak, because
printer cartridges aren't really designed to be reused. And if a refilled
cartridge damages your printer, none of the major printer manufacturers'
warranties will cover it. Still, if you can find a refilled store brand
that works well with your printer, it can be a good way to save on everyday
office printing and the like.
- Recycle or reuse your empty cartridges. The printer manufacturers will
accept used cartridges for recycling, but you'll have to pay postage.
Office-supply stores have good but often-changing policies. The chains
will give you a store credit or other consideration. Stores with refilling
machines will refill your empty cartridges. Some communities have regular
or periodic programs for recycling cartridges.
- Counterfeit ink cartridges are rampant. Be wary of great online deals for OEM cartridges (as in online auctions);
chances are, they're knockoffs.
- Check the expiration date on OEM cartridges. Some cartridges are programmed not to print after the expiration date.