Compatible vs. Remanufactured Cartridges — Is It Safe to Buy Cheaper Ink?

29 November 2021

A basic printer from a major brand will set you back around £100. Inkjet models are great for high-resolution tasks, but they require expensive cartridges. The manufacturers are famous for their reliable equipment and notorious for using the “razor and blades” approach. Should you buy third-party ink instead?

The appeal of generic products is undeniable. For example, the Canon Pixma 550xl 551 multipack (10 cartridges) for customers of Smart Ink costs only £14.99. The original 5-item pack is sold for around £76. You can save over £100 per purchase and get a product of certified quality. Here are the basics of buying cheaper ink in the UK.

Why Prices Are So Different

The “razor and blades” model is based on affordable core products and expensive consumables. A cheap inkjet printer is not a bargain, it is a trap. If you stick to the original supplies, you will quickly spend more on ink alone. According to the manufacturers, their pricing reflects intensive R&D. It is true that they spend billions of dollars on research collectively, but can this really justify expensive ink?

Apparently, basic models of equipment are sold at the break-even point or at a loss. Complementary products let manufacturers recoup their investments and make a profit. Meanwhile, independent brands do not have massive R&D expenses, as they do not produce printers.

“Compatible” vs. “Remanufactured”

These are two categories of products that let consumers spend less. Compatible cartridges are designed and produced by independent brands. They mimic the performance and configuration of OEM supplies, but specific distinctions make them perfectly legit.

Remanufactured cartridges are original supplies that have been recycled. This process involves cleaning, replacing worn elements, injecting fresh ink, and testing every product before shipping. As a result, you get an original cartridge shell filled with new ink.

How to Identify Trustworthy Shops

As the demand for cheaper ink is huge, this industry attracts dishonest companies. Subpar products may leak, damage the print heads and cause other problems. Using high-quality third-party products will not void the printer warranty. To find them, look for the following:

  • Quality certificates of compliance with standards like ISO, CE, Reach, etc.;
  • An extensive warranty on all products, both compatible and remanufactured (a two-year money-back guarantee is great);
  • The latest version of the chip on all cartridges (this guarantees instant recognition);
  • Ink level tracking in specific models (you get notified when it is time to order a replacement);
  • Free shipping and reliable packaging;
  • Sustainability (compatible products should be recyclable).

The Bottom Line

Over the past decade, the market of generic and refilled cartridges has changed a lot. Now, you can get excellent quality and save hundreds of pounds per year. Why pay more?

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