Are Original Ink Cartridges Overpriced?

Inkjet printers are very affordable, but there is a catch — original cartridges are expensive. Thanks to the “aftermarket” and compatible products, consumers can replace them with items from independent brands. Given the price differences, one may wonder if buying OEM ink makes sense at all.

Suppose you need ink for OfficeJet Pro printers. The HP 951 ink XL combo pack (5 cartridges) from the Smart Ink store in Canada costs around $28. Meanwhile, 1 black XL cartridge from the manufacturer is sold for around $63. You can save as much as $150 every time!

Why Are Cartridges So Expensive?
Printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids on earth. According to the biggest manufacturers, their prices reflect massive R&D expenses. Brands like HP spend billions of dollars on research annually to develop state-of-the-art equipment, but does this mean we are overcharged for consumables?

The printer industry has its own conspiracy theory. Like razor manufacturers, companies offer affordable core products and expensive supplies. Basic printer models are apparently sold at their break-even point or at a loss. This way, brands can attract more customers and capitalize on ink for years. However, this logic does not work anymore, as name-brand products have strong competitors:

  1. Remanufactured (Refilled) Cartridges
    In the past, consumers would take their empty cartridges to refilling stations, where they would be brought back to life. Today, this is still feasible, but unnecessary, as refilled products are sold online under very attractive conditions:

Certified quality (ISO, CE, Reach, STMC, and other standards)
Instant recognition
2-year warranty
Free shipping
Discounts, etc.

Before refilling, OEM cartridges are thoroughly checked and revamped if necessary. They are then filled with fresh compatible ink and tested again before shipping. This option is the most sustainable, as it reduces waste and pollution. Meanwhile, customers get an original printer shell at a discount, and the print quality is usually just as good as before.

  1. Compatible Cartridges
    These cartridges are original — i.e., designed and produced by independent brands. These are smaller companies without significant research expenses. The difference in prices can reach 80% or more. Despite similar looks and performance, compatible products are not replicas of OEM cartridges, so they are perfectly legit.

What Will You Choose?
Both compatible and remanufactured products are always cheaper than OEM cartridges. In addition, printer brands cannot null your warranty if you save on supplies. The biggest advantage of original ink is that getting it is a lazy option — you can order a new cartridge without due diligence. The market for affordable ink is uneven.

Take your time to find a store worth trusting. Consider feedback on Trustpilot and other platforms. Check the quality of customer service and make sure there is a money-back guarantee covering a period of two years or more. Switching to more affordable cartridges requires some initial effort, but you will save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run.