inkjetHere’s the one thing that we hate about ink-jet printers:  cartridges.   The printers are amazing — they are inexpensive, generally reliable notwithstanding lots of movable parts,  they are smart and produce some surprisingly good graphics.    The one thing that ruins my printer experience is cartridges.   They are horribly and blatantly overpriced and yet we are fearful of using cheaper non-OEM cartridges (not produced by the manufacturer) because we are told that they are inferior and may ruin the printer — or worse, void the warranty of the cartridges.    They are the equivalent of the anchovies that some restaurants toss on top of their caesar salads…..eccch!   Hairy, strong tasting fish are not an embellishment of anything.

One printer manufacturer shares our resentment of print cartridges and created better ink cartridges that can last up to two years before having to be replaced. Epson’s EcoTank printers use containers on the side to hold large amounts of ink—instead of typical cartridges that hold small amounts inside. The printers cost much more than similar ones using small cartridges—$360 to $500 for a consumer model, compared with $100 or less for traditional cartridge-using printers. However, Epson’s EcoTank inks cost $52 for a full set and lasts so much longer than traditional cartridges that the higher upfront price is offset by savings…..especially if you print a lot of documents.  Epson estimates that $50 of cartridge ink could last as long as two years.  (According to the company, four ink bottles are sufficient to print 4,000 black pages and 6,500 color pages on the new consumer-oriented models. Printing the same number of pages using one of Epson’s standard inkjet printers would require 20 sets of cartridges. At $40 each, the total price for cartridges would be $800—about $750 more than what you’re expected to spend on ink for an EcoTank ET-4550 model.)  Consumer Reports’ preliminary findings are promising, but their final testing results have not yet been published.

We’ve used ink-jet (and laser) printers for more years than we like to admit.   During that run, we’ve mostly been using non-OEM cartridges for most of those years and have had very few problems.  If you don’t have the gumption to buy the Epson Eco-Tank, your next best bet is to use non-OEM cartridges. It is sort of  like ordering caesar salad without the anchovies.   Using a non-OEM cartridge won’t void any warranties.   Federal law   (Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act)  expressly prohibits conditioning of a warranty upon the purchase of any product or service.  So your printer’s warranty cannot be voided just because you used a non-OEM ink cartridge.

As to the alternative providers of cartridges, they are plentiful and often quite good.  We’ve used a bevy of cartridge replacement companies on Amazon.com and they’ve generally worked well.   We frequently purchase a 10-pack of replacement cartridges for my Canon Pixma MX882 (including shipping) for $9.62.    They worked fine.   And Amazon stands behind the products sold on its site, so when we’ve had problems with printer cartridges, they are very accommodating in accepting returns and giving refunds.

We’ve also used 123inkjets.com and they have very good prices for high quality cartridges.   We have purchased bulk sets of Canon MX882 cartridges for about $70 from this provider and they last me the better part of a year — which is about 1/3 the price that Canon would charge for the same number of cartridges.   Inkjet Willy is another website worth using to compare prices on printer ink and toner.

Bob Rankin recommends LD Products, which he says has has been around for over a dozen years, and offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products.   He reports that  HP OfficeJet Pro uses the HP 88XL cartridge, which retails for $49.99. LD sells a remanufactured replacement cartridge for $8 that works beautifully. Print quality are page yield are the same as the OEM cartridge, and I save $42 on each one! For years, we bought the expensive HP-labelled cartridges from an office supply store, under the false assumption that generic or remanufactured cartridges might not work in my printer. Of course LD also offers replacement ink cartridges for Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, Lexmark and other popular brands.  Rankin is a very reliable source of information and we recommend that any savvy tech consumer subscribe to his blog.

Other ways of reducing your ink cartridge costs include changing your font. (Century Gothic uses 30% less ink than Arial, for example) And don’t be too quick to change your ink cartridge when the computer says you’re running low. When a printer alerts you that the ink cartridges are low, usually, they’ve found that there’s usually 30%-40% of ink left in that cartridge. So ignore it, hit whatever buttons you have to push to keep printing, and make sure that you use every last drip of that printer ink.  You can maintain your love affair with ink-jet printers if you shell out some additional bucks to buy the Epson EcoTank or use non-OEM cartridges to avoid the cartridge scam……..and anchovies.