How to Buy Compatible Ink Cartridges for Your Printer

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How to Buy Compatible Ink Cartridges for Your Printer

Inkjet printers are known for producing high quality coloured prints. They are a favourite among homeowners who like to have physical copies of their digital photos, as well as printing shops that depend upon inkjet printers for their livelihood. While an inkjet printer excels at printing pages of exceptional colour, these machines are not without their drawbacks. Chief among them is the necessity of constantly replacing the ink cartridges inside the printer.

The good news is that consumers can get these replacement cartridges easily from an office supply store, electronics shop, or online website like eBay. The bad news is that depending on the manufacturer, these little replacement cartridges can become quite expensive, especially if the printer is used often. Therefore, when it comes to buying ink cartridges, customers need to get the best product for their money. Consumers should assess ink cartridges by the quality of the ink, the cost, and the longevity of the cartridge itself.

Evaluating Cartridges

Inkjet printers and cartridges are linked together by necessity. One cannot work without the other. Yet no two printer models use the same amount of ink, and annual costs of maintaining the printer vary depending on usage.

Example Brand

Printer Cost (USD)

Ink Cost(USD) on 3-year average

Canon MP470



Kodak ESP-5



Lexmark X5470



According to this chart, it is clear to see why a consumer needs to evaluate the cost of ink cartridges in relation to the printer. For example, the Lexmark printer has a low initial cost, but high replacement charges for the cartridges outweigh any benefit in the original purchase price. It costs more to operate this printer than other models.

Cartridge Basics

An ink cartridge is designed to release ink onto a page when called upon to do so. How exactly the cartridges release ink, and the quality of the ink that they use varies between brands. For example, HP claims to offer superior ink cartridges because the company uses a design that incorporates over 40 different microscopic nozzles capable of releasing billions of tiny ink dots onto the page.

Black Ink

Black ink is the most common colour used. It works as a typeface for documents and as a shading colour on photographs. Black ink cartridges are sold alone. Once the ink runs out, the cartridge must then be replaced.

Coloured Ink

Coloured ink cartridges are sold in three versions: magenta (red), yellow, and cyan (blue). These three primary colours are capable of mixing together to create any shade under the rainbow. Some printers have four cartridges, one for black and one each for the three colours. Others combine all three colours into a single cartridge.

Tri-Coloured Cartridges

Tri-coloured cartridges are found on smaller printers that do not have room for four separate cartridges. Many inkjet printers designed for home use fall into this range. While tri-coloured cartridges are convenient because the owner only has to buy one of them, the savings are somewhat deceptive. These cartridges tend to be slightly more expensive than single colour cartridges. Furthermore, once one colour runs out, the buyer has to purchase an entirely new cartridge. For example, if the printer is running through a set of flyers that primarily uses magenta and runs out of this ink, a new cartridge must be bought even though the cyan and yellow levels are still half-full. Not only is this a wasteful practise when it comes to conserving ink, it also ends up wasting the consumer money.

The Great Cartridge Debate

Cartridges perform a relatively simple job by supplying ink to a printer. Every company claims that their cartridges are superior to the competition, but in the world of inkjet printers, the playing field is not even. While companies may claim that their cartridges are the best, many of the top-selling printing companies do not allow consumers to try and see this firsthand. In fact, most printer companies go out of their way to discourage customers from buying printing cartridges from anyone except for the original manufacturer.

There are several reasons for this. Printing companies claim that their printers are designed to work only with certain cartridges, and this is partially true. An ink cartridge that works for one printer does not work for another one, even if it is made by the same company but uses a different serial number and brand. However, many third party manufacturers make compatible ink cartridges designed for specific printers that do work.

3rd Party Ink Cartridges

Printing companies have responded to encroaching third party ink cartridges by claiming that while these models do in fact work well, they do not offer the same high quality prints as an original ink cartridge. Companies like HP, for example, consider any customer who uses a third-party ink cartridge to be in violation of the company's warranty policy. Other companies such as Lexmark have taken this a step further. Many types of Lexmark ink cartridges are sold with tiny microchips that the printer must read before it can work properly. If the printer does not find the microchip, it does not print, therefore erasing all third-party competition.

The real truth behind the debate about whether original or third-party ink cartridges are better seems to hinge on a company's profits. Printing companies do not make all of their profit by selling printers alone, and in fact many companies sell printers for almost little to no profit in order to reap the benefits by forcing customers to pay for company ink cartridges.

Consumer Concerns

Buying third-party cartridges can save a consumer money, but he or she needs to evaluate the product first. As mentioned above, using a non-original cartridge can void the warranty on a printer. Most buyers should use original cartridges while the printer is under warranty and then switch over to an after-market cartridge once the warranty expires.

Durability is another concern. Sometimes, the claims of original cartridges being better are true. Many consumers reports that their after-market cartridges do not last as long as original cartridges and also tend to break down.

Finding the Correct Cartridge

Whether the cartridge is original or third-party, it does need to use the right design to be able to fit with the printer. Cartridges come in different sizes and shapes, and one that is the wrong size cannot work in different printers, even if the printers are made by the same company. Therefore, consumers need to know the number of their ink cartridge, or at the very least the series and model number of their printer.

Getting the number off of the ink cartridge is easy if the consumer has an older one available. When the cartridge runs out of ink, merely look for another compatible cartridge that uses the same number. Buyers must also be careful to get the right colour ink. Most manufacturers handle this problem by giving black ink a different number than coloured inks.

If the old cartridge has gone missing, then the consumer needs to shop by series and model number. This is also useful for searching for third-party cartridges. This information should appear either on the side, or underneath the printer. Only buy cartridges that are compatible with both the series and the model number since even different printers in the same series may use different ink cartridges.

How to Buy Ink Cartridges on eBay

eBay is a lifesaver for busy companies and homeowners when it comes to replacing ink cartridges. With a few clicks of the button, a consumer can have their ink cartridge mailed directly to their home or business. There are also plenty of third-party cartridges found on eBay for even deeper savings. Just remember to be careful that the third-party cartridge is the right match for the printer.

You can do a basic search by typing 'ink cartridges' into the search engine, which pulls up a broad list of results. Once this is finished, you must narrow down the results in order to get the correct cartridge for your printer. If you know your cartridge number, then type it directly into the search engine. If you are looking for third-party cartridges, then you need to search by model and series number. Type 'ink cartridges for HP printers', for example, to pull up all possible results. Then, type 'compatible cartridges' to narrow the list down to those cartridges that were not made by the original manufacturer.


Ink cartridges are a necessary purchase for an inkjet printer, no matter how much consumers may not want to keep buying them. Without these cartridges, the printer does not work as well. Therefore, prior to purchasing a printer, consumers must consider how much the replacement cartridges are going to cost, as well as how often they are going to have to buy one. Homeowners who rarely use their printer can often get by on a single cartridge a year, but businesses may need dozens.

Another consideration is choosing between an original and an after-market cartridge, both of which are sold on eBay. Original cartridges are typically more expensive, but seem to last longer than less expensive compatible cartridge options. No matter which type is selected, the buyer must carefully find the right model by either matching up the numbers or the series and model number. By considering all aspects of ink cartridges, buyers can quickly make the right choice every time for their printer.

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