The extent of most shoppers' cartridge knowledge is “original/genuine cartridges are expensive” and “compatible cartridges damage my printer”.
There is obviously far more to it than that, so we have put together a massive resource to give you as much or as little information as you need to see the difference.
All you need to know in 5 seconds
An original cartridge is manufactured by the same brand that made your printer. e.g. an original cartridge for an HP printer is manufactured by HP.
A third-party cartridge is a cartridge manufactured by a different company for your printer. e.g. a cartridge for an HP printer, but not made by HP.
Compatibles should be just as reliable as genuine cartridges, and as long as you shop from a reputable supplier they are the #1 way to save money on your printing, without impacting print quality or the performance of your machine.
Cartridge types and names
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
An original cartridge is a brand new cartridge manufactured by the same brand that made your printer. So an original cartridge for an HP printer is manufactured by HP.
Another name for an original OEM cartridge.
This is a brand new cartridge made by a third-party manufacturer. They have no affiliation with the original manufacturers of the printer, and the cartridges have not been used before.
These are original cartridges that have been used once, returned, cleaned, and refilled. Typically ink cartridges are refilled.
These are original cartridges that have been used once, returned, cleaned, all working parts replaced, and then refilled. These are typically toner cartridges, with the parts of toner that experience wears during the printer process being replaced.
Why is there such a big price difference?
Genuine cartridges are a manufacturer's profit. With research and development costs the manufacturers have to make their money back somehow, leading to high consumable prices once a customer has committed to a printer. Compatible products have no such overheads so can charge much lower prices when producing cartridges en mass.
Be careful though, it’s not difficult to find sub-standard compatibles at ridiculously low prices, so always make sure to only ever buy from reputable websites with returns policies and guarantees.
Will compatibles affect my printer warranty?
There are very few ways a cartridge can break a printer and ‘legitimate’ suppliers guarantee the performance of your machine for cartridge failure.
It is worth highlighting before the following stage – it is incredibly rare for a cartridge to cause an issue with a printer. You are talking about maybe 1 issue a year for a major retailer, third-party cartridges are great.
If you are really worried though here is the nitty gritty.
If your printer was purchased within 12 months…
A manufacturer is legally required to give a 1-year guarantee on electrical products. They cannot have anti-competitive terms. The supplier has to prove that the third-party cartridges caused the fault with the printer. They cannot just state “you used a compatible, we’re not helping”. Read your warranty and bring their attention to the details, likely in the form of “warranty does not apply if the damage is caused by non-original products”.
They should arrange an engineer visit to determine the fault and what caused it. If it’s the printer's fault, great, they will sort it. If it is the cartridge then your supplier guarantee will cover it.
If your printer is in an extended warranty after 12 months…
These optional warranties are provided by the manufacturer and they can set their own terms. This means that they can void your warranty for using third-party cartridges. In this case, follow these tips.
Contact your manufacturer – it may be a known printer fault (e.g. Kodak printheads cracking)
If they refuse to help, contact your supplier to explain the problem.
If there’s a chance the consumable caused it, they will arrange an independent engineer to fix the issue and find the fault (as they should guarantee their products)
If the cartridge was the cause your supplier guarantee should cover it
If the printer is at fault, you have an engineer's report to talk to the manufacturer about.
Important note: If the engineer is confident it is a printer fault you will have a much higher chance of success talking to the manufacturer if you have original cartridges in the machine when they look to resolve the issue.
We hope you have found this article helpful, and feel more confident whilst browsing. Compatibles really is worth a go, so do not let fear of the unknown keep you from significant savings.
If you are still paranoid, try a purchase of a compatible with your next original order, a risk-free test! If it does not meet expectations, you have your new original cartridge to put in and print happily away ...but if they do impress, well now, just sit back and enjoy the savings.