Your Guide to Buying Generic Ink Cartridges

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Your Guide to Buying Generic Ink Cartridges

An inkjet cartridge, also simply known as an ink cartridge, is one of the replaceable components on an inkjet printer. The ink is deposited onto a piece of paper during printing. One or more ink reservoirs, generally partitioned, are a part of every ink cartridge. Communication with the printer is carried out through a chip and electronic contacts. It is a feature of several models and is added by most of the manufacturers. Generic ink cartridges, also known as compatible cartridges or alternative brand cartridges, are a less expensive type of inkjet cartridge. They have their pros and cons, and a buyer should, therefore, be careful when purchasing generic ink cartridges.

Introductory-level knowledge of ink cartridges, their associated variations, and their availability are all essential for making the right purchase. Keeping in mind some buying considerations and useful tips helps buyers walk away with the cartridges they need at the best prices. Ink cartridges, generic or otherwise, are available at computer stores as well as online. eBay offers a large collection of generic ink cartridges for a large number of printers.

Components of Ink Cartridges

The printhead is a critical part of an inkjet printer. Its primary function is to get an appropriate amount of ink onto a piece of paper. It can either be integrated into the printer itself, or it may be a part of the ink cartridge. In the latter case, if the printhead fails to perform, it can easily be replaced. In the former case, you would have to call a technician or replace the printer. The printhead is a delicate and extremely precise component. It can deliver a calculated amount of ink onto the paper. To give you an idea of the complexity of the printhead, the precision is measured in picolitres, which is one-trillionth of a litre. Using black and a set of three colours, 26 billion colours can be produced. For high-quality prints, seven or eight cartridges may be used in some high-end machines.

Variations of Ink Cartridges

Generally, at least two separate cartridges are used in a printer, one with the black ink and the other with the three primary colours. In some cases, each colour may have a dedicated, separate cartridge. For printing photographs, some cartridges contain ink specifically designed for this purpose. Moreover, different printer manufacturers and suppliers produce their own cartridges that are typically incompatible with other printers. The printhead is also incorporated into various cartridges. Ink cartridges are generally expensive because of the precision parts, especially if they contain the printhead. Cartridges that do not contain the printhead may be much more affordable.

Types of Ink Cartridges

Cartridges are broadly categorised into three different types: brand, compatible, and remanufactured. Some printer models only offer the brand types, while others offer all three.

Genuine OEM Cartridges

Genuine ink cartridges are the ones manufactured by printer manufacturers. HP printers have HP ink cartridges, for example. They are also known as original equipment manufacturer or OEM. OEM cartridges are generally the most expensive option of the three, but they come with a lot of guarantees from the manufacturers and are typically the most dependable type of cartridge. A set of OEM cartridges can sometimes cost more than the printer itself.

Generic Compatible Cartridges

Generic ink cartridges are also known as compatible cartridges or alternative brand cartridges. More often than not, these are cheaper than OEM cartridges. They are manufactured by third-party companies to the same specifications and sold under different brand names. Although these are not 'name brand' cartridges, they do perform very well, for the most part, which is why they are immensely popular with the masses. Due to certain patent restrictions, generic ink cartridges may vary in design, look, and efficiency from OEM cartridges.

Unlike the refilled types, these cartridges are manufactured new and cannot be classified as used cartridges. Critics might argue that they are less reliable than genuine cartridges, but they have matched or exceeded the quality of OEM cartridges in some cases. Before purchasing a printer, it is an important buying consideration to find out if the desired model has any compatible cartridges available or not. This can save a buyer a lot of money, both in the short and long term.

Remanufactured or Refurbished Cartridges

Also known as refurbished, recycled, or refilled cartridges, remanufactured cartridges are an eco-friendly type of cartridge. They are essentially recycled cartridges that have been refilled with ink. They are tested, dismantled, and cleaned before being refilled and tested again. These previously used cartridges often work just as well as the other two types of inkjet cartridges.

The following table briefly summarises the three types and provides an overview of the three in  comparison to one another. A buyer should consider all the options before coming to a decision.

Type of Ink Cartridge



Name brand cartridges

Specifically made for a printer by the printer manufacturer

More expensive than generic and remanufactured cartridges


Made by third-party manufacturers

Sometimes made to be compatible with more than one model

Not available for all printers

Less expensive than OEM cartridges, but more expensive than remanufactured cartridges


Recycled and refilled cartridges

Quality varies by manufacturer

Less expensive than OEM and generic cartridges

The table is based on the general information that is available regarding the various types and should be used as a starting point for research. Product-specific research should preferably be carried out before deciding on a particular cartridge.

CMYK Cartridges

Colour printers use the three primary colours (red, blue, and yellow) in conjunction with black. These four colours can be used to form billions of colours. Colour printers usually note that they use CMYK colour cartridges, where C stands for cyan (blue), M for magenta (red), Y for yellow, and K for black.

An important consideration when purchasing generic ink cartridges is the frequency of consumption of a particular colour. In some cases, for example, a printer runs out of one or two of the three colours while the others are still partially full. Most printers, therefore, utilise separate cartridges for each of the colours. All-in-one colour cartridges have to be replaced completely as soon as one of the three colours is empty. When one of the CMY colours runs out, the pages start showing an odd tint due to the missing colour.

Black ink printers are very affordable as compared to colour printers, and a single black cartridge is sufficient for all the printing jobs. Black inkjet cartridges, however, typically have to be replaced most often because of the larger workload.

Important Considerations for Generic Ink Cartridges

Important buying considerations for generic ink cartridges include compatibility, relative cost, and reputation. You should never run a printer with an empty cartridge as it can damage the printer. In order to reduce the risk of damaging the printhead, always try to replace the cartridge before the ink is completely finished. Inkjet cartridges, when bought in bulk to save money, should preferably be stored in their sealed packets, out of direct sunlight, and in steady temperatures. Most generic ink cartridges perform well even after two or three years of storage.

Impact on the Environment and Recycling Practices

OEM and generic ink cartridges have certain impacts on the environment. More than 350 million cartridges are thrown away each year and end up in landfills. Considering this alarming figure, several laws have been legislated across the globe. In order to encourage the use of recycled ink cartridges, many programmes are in place in the United States and Europe. Similarly, in the UK, generic cartridge manufacturers have implemented many recycling programmes to receive empty cartridges for refilling.

How to Buy Generic Ink Cartridges on eBay

Generic ink cartridges can easily be hunted down in no time by entering some specific queries into the search bar on the eBay home page. This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to find the desired product in a hurry. For some entries, eBay also suggests related searches that facilitate the buyer in the purchasing process by offering more choices. You can always filter out the unwanted results by selecting various options on the results page. Some search queries for this item could be generic ink cartridges, ink cartridges, inkjet printer, compatible cartridges, printhead, genuine ink cartridges, or OEM cartridges.

Always start the hunt by looking for a product in your vicinity. This can be done by simply entering your postcode as a filter. The purpose is to find the desired cartridge locally in your area so you can avoid the delivery charges. In such a scenario, you can manually pick up your order from the seller at a time of your convenience as soon as the transaction is successfully processed. Do not forget to go through the feedback and buyer reviews. They are a great tool and provide better insight into the seller.


An ink cartridge or inkjet cartridge is a replaceable component on an inkjet printer. Each ink cartridge normally contains one or more ink reservoirs, and a chip and electronic contacts are used for communication with the printer in most models. The function of the printhead, a critical chip in inkjet printers, is to place an appropriate amount of ink onto the paper. Printheads are either integrated into the printers or are a part of the ink cartridges.

The three types of inkjet cartridges include OEM, generic, and remanufactured cartridges. All three have their pros and cons, but generic ink cartridges are considered by many to be the most cost-effective option for the level of quality. It is important for buyers to understand the various types of inkjet cartridges and their components before deciding on a purchase. Both eBay and local computer stores offer a large collection of generic ink cartridges for various printers.

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