How to Buy Compatible Ink Cartridges for Your HP Printer

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How to Buy Compatible Ink Cartridges for Your HP Printer

Printers are less expensive than they once were, due in large part to evolving technology that has subsequently lowered the production costs. However, while the cost of printers has diminished, the cost of the ink cartridges to refill them has remained steady. Hewlett- Packard, better known as HP, has been a leader in the printer and ink cartridge field since the early days of computers. Their products are found everywhere from busy office centres, to secluded home offices and cluttered apartments.

Professional printing companies often use HP ink, but so too do families who enjoy printing out digital pictures. HP ink cartridges, along with cheaper competitive models, are sold at department stores, printing stores, and websites like eBay. When buying an HP cartridge, a customer needs to decide what type is needed and if it is the worth the extra cost. Competitors offer ink cartridges that work in HP printers at a fraction of the cost, but this is not always the best option.

Understanding Ink Cartridges

An inkjet printer relies on ink cartridges to be able to print images and documents. A black and white printer, or one that is set to print a document, uses black ink. Coloured printers use a primary mixture of red, yellow, and blue ink. On HP ink cartridges, these colours are called magenta (red), yellow, and cyan (blue). When they mix together they can create many different shades of colours.

Tri-Coloured Cartridges

Large, professional printers require four cartridges: black, magenta, yellow, and cyan. Photo printers sometimes also use a fifth cartridge of photo ink that helps give the prints an extra colour boost. Small home printers, however, typically use a tri-coloured cartridge. This is a single cartridge that contains magenta, yellow, and cyan ink in one bundle. It is ideal for small printers because it allows owners to save money by only having to purchase one cartridge instead of three. The downside is that whenever one level of ink gets too low, the entire cartridge must be replaced even if the other ink levels are more than halfway full.

Also, tri-coloured cartridges are not compatible with all printers. As mentioned above, large printers usually require either four or five separate cartridges. A tri-coloured cartridge does not work in them. Buyers should keep this in mind when looking at different printers.

Finding the Right HP Ink Cartridge

Each ink cartridge is designed to work with a series and model number of a particular printer. Some printers share ink cartridges, while other models are the only ones who use that particular version. The easiest way to tell what type of ink cartridge replacement is needed is to examine the old cartridge. It should state the colour, such as black, magenta, or tri-coloured, as well as the identification number. Buyers simply need to match up this identification number with their new ink cartridge.

In some cases when the old ink cartridge cannot be found, the customer needs to know their printer's series and model number. This information is included directly on the printer. Buyers need to write it down and take this information with them to the store, or keep it handy while shopping online. Ink cartridges list which models they are compatible with, either on the back of the box, or on their item listing. Match the model number with the one listed on the ink cartridge.

Original vs. Aftermarket

When it comes to buying ink cartridges for an HP printer, the consumer is faced with two choices. One is to go right to the source and buy the cartridges from HP. The other is to buy these items from an aftermarket, or secondary seller.

HP Cartridges

HP cartridges are designed to work with an HP printer, but more than that, they are meant to be superior to all other brands. This is certainly reflected in the company's pricing policy, which might be three times as high as an aftermarket brand. HP claims that its ink cartridges work best because each one uses 40 microscopic nozzles that can project billions of tiny ink dots onto a single page. This sophisticated technology is lacking in aftermarket cartridges. For this very reason, most professional printers, and photocopy retailers, only use HP cartridges for their printers.

Saving Money

There are ways to save when buying HP cartridges. For example, HP's XL line squeezes extra ink into a single cartridge. Therefore, a customer gets more ink at the same price, allowing the cartridge to last longer before it must eventually be replaced.

Ink Type

Average Pages

HP950 Black


HP950XL Black


HP951 Cyan


HP951XL Cyan


The downside to the XL line is that not all printers work with them, and even at this discounted price they are still more expensive than aftermarket cartridges.

Aftermarket Cartridges

Consumers who are tired of paying premium prices for ink cartridges often turn to aftermarket, or secondary sellers. These vendors make cartridges designed for HP printers, but they typically lack the high price tag of the original models. In an incredibly competitive market, secondary sellers are gaining a foothold with their lower price points.


Printer companies depended on the profit from their printer cartridges to keep their business running smoothly. As more consumers turned to aftermarket cartridges, companies began taking extra steps to ensure that consumers only purchased their models. For example, Lexmark includes a microchip with some of its ink cartridges. The printer does not work unless it reads this microchip, which means that third-party cartridges are not compatible with Lexmark printers.

HP has not taken the extreme steps of Lexmark, but they do guard against consumers purchasing third-party cartridges. The owner's manual states that the printer is only designed to work with original HP cartridges, and repeats this statement again in the fine print of the warranty page. This means that if a consumer purchases a third party cartridge and their printer breaks down, they have voided their warranty.

If a consumer's printer is still under warranty, then it is best to only purchase ink cartridges designed to work with the appropriate model. The good news for those who are eager to save money on ink is that printer warranties do not last very long. It is increasingly rare to find a model that comes with a one-year warranty outside of the professional realm. Most homeowners can expect to see their printer come with a three or six month warranty. Once the warranty has expired, the owner is free to choose whatever printer cartridge he or she prefers to use.


HP claims that their ink cartridges are better than the competition. This may be true since many retailers who only use HP cartridges report that these models perform better, and last longer than other aftermarket brands. However, the average consumer who does not print out sheets of coloured prints daily may not need all the high powered quality of an HP cartridge. Homeowners who only occasionally use their printer for black and white documents can easily get away with using a third-party cartridge, and not notice any difference in the process.

Buying HP Ink Cartridges on eBay

One way you can save some money on printer costs is to purchase ink cartridges from eBay. Sellers from all around the world offer either original, or third-party cartridges compatible with HP printers. You can also purchase large orders of ink cartridges at wholesale prices in order to save more money on each individual item.

The best place to start is by typing in 'HP ink cartridges' into the search engine. Once the results pop up, you can browse through the listings, but chances are the page is incredibly long. If you want cartridges made by HP, then search for 'original HP ink cartridges'. If you want less expensive cartridges made by a third-party manufacturer, then search for 'compatible HP ink cartridges' to only display those results. You can also narrow down the results by the colour of the ink.

To get the specific set of cartridges that are right for your printer, you need to include the number. For example, a search for 'HP 501 ink cartridges', only returns those cartridges with this number. Likewise, you can also search by the model number of the printer to get the correct cartridge as well.


Printers need ink cartridges, and purchasing a printer means a commitment to buying replacement cartridges for years to come. HP makes a high quality line of printers and cartridges, and this is reflected in the company's overall pricing policy. HP ink cartridges are typically more expensive than those offered by the competition, but for many buyers they wouldn't dream of purchasing anything else.

For those who do want to save money on printing costs, buying third-party cartridges through eBay is a good option. When it comes to buying ink, consumers need to purchase the right colour and size cartridge for their printer. The easiest way to do this is to write down the information on the old cartridge, and use it when shopping for a new one. If this is impossible, then shop for the cartridge by the series and model number of the printer in order to get the right product and provide vital colour to every printed page.

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