Generic and Remanufactured Cartridges
You probably know that when you buy a generic or remanufactured cartridge, you can save an enormous amount of money off of the original manufacturer's prices. Indeed, most manufacturers enjoy upwards to a 40% markup on their ink cartridges: they make far more from the sale of toner and ink than they do from their printers. But what exactly are "generic" or "remanufactured" cartridges, and are there any negatives that might partially off-set the tremendous price savings?
A generic cartridge is much like any "generic" product—it works pretty much the same, but it doesn't offer you the time-tested confidence of a name brand. A generic cartridge is manufactured by a company other than the maker of the printer in which you will be using the cartridge. These generic cartridges can be made for up to 80% less than the originals, which are referred to as OEM or "genuine ink." OEM cartridges are supplied by the original manufacturer of your printer, fax machine, or copier, whether that be Apple, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Xerox, or some other popular maker.
If you have an HP printer, for instance, instead of buying your cartridge from HP, you might buy it from a different, less expensive manufacturer. You will need to select a cartridge that the retailer says is compatible with your particular printer and model, and you will have to rely on your confidence in that retailer.
While a generic cartridge will save you money on the front end, keep in mind that most refillers won't refill generic cartridges—they'll only refill those from the original manufacturer. So while you'll save money upfront, you probably won't be able to save money by refilling your cartridge with ink instead of purchasing an all new generic cartridge.
There is occasionally a decrease in printing quality from generic cartridges when compared to genuine ink cartridges. Generics used to have much lower print quality, but in recent years, they have improved dramatically, and now it is often impossible to tell the difference. Today, many retailers claim their generic products print just as well if not better than original cartridges, and, if you disagree, they'll refund your money.
The advantage of remanufactured cartridges is that you are saving money over buying an all new original ink cartridge while also helping the environment by not simply disposing of a generic cartridge that cannot be refilled. Millions of pounds of ink cartridges are simply tossed away each year, contributing to both pollution and overflowing landfills.
Some stores, such as Walgreen's, are now even installing cartridge refilling machines in their photo departments. You can have your own OEM cartridge refilled, or you can buy a discounted, remanufactured cartridge and rest assured that you are using recycled parts that have not merely been discarded.
While remanufactured cartridges are much cheaper than OEM cartridges, keep in mind that the output might not be the same. What you really need to consider is the cost per page printed. The disadvantage of refilled cartridges is that they are not always as efficient, and you may end up able to print fewer total pages than with an all new cartridge. Tests have shown that remanufactured cartridges have a much higher failure rate (i.e. are much less likely to last as long as promised) than OEM cartridges. This is why it is best to purchase your remanufactured cartridges from a reliable vendor with a satisfaction guarantee.