Ink cartridges FAQs
What are replacement ink cartridges?
Replacement ink cartridges are ink cartridges supplied by a manufacturer that isn’t the same as your printer.
They may also be referred to as third-party ink cartridges, generic ink cartridges or non-OEM cartridges – OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.
There are two main types of third-party cartridges:
- Compatible cartridges – compatible ink cartridges are new cartridges.
- Refilled cartridges – these are original printer manufacturer cartridges that have been refilled with ink by the third-party manufacturer. They may also be called remanufactured cartridges.
These non-OEM ink cartridges are often considerably cheaper to buy than the printer manufacturers’ own OEM cartridges, but they don't always provide the same print quality as branded ones.
In our tests we also found that one set of generic cartridges produced far less prints than the OEM ink – per printed page it proved more expensive.
What is a continuous ink system?
Continuous ink systems are made up of several bottles of ink, one for each colour cartridge, that sit outside the printer. Ink is fed into each cartridge continuously via a small tube.
We haven’t tested any in our test lab, but they're almost certainly cheaper than original ink cartridges. However, like refilling at home, setting up can be a bit messy.
Do replacement ink cartridges damage printers?
In our survey of people who'd used generic, cheap cartridges in their inkjet printer, 63% of respondents had not experienced any problems.
The most common issue for those who did experience problems was that the generic cartridge just wouldn't print.
|What, if any, problems have you had when using compatible ink cartridges?|
|Type of problem||Score|
|Would not print||15%|
|Streaks and random dotting on prints||11%|
|Ink spillage in printer||3%|
Our research - We surveyed 3,696 Which? panel members in July 2007: 1,492 members provided details about their experiences with generic ink cartridges.
The compatible ink cartridge I bought won't print at all. What are my rights?
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 a retailer must sell ink cartridges that are of a satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
If the retailer or packaging says that the cartridge should be compatible with your model of printer and it fails to work or is faulty, you shouldn’t be left out of pocket.
You should return to the shop – or contact the online retailer if you purchased the cartridge online – and ask them to supply another cartridge that does work, or provide a refund.
For more information about your rights see our online shopping problems advice guide.
My old ink cartridge was refilled in store and now the prints are streaky. What should I do?
As the retailer has supplied you with a service, the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 applies. You could return the cartridge to the store or retailer and ask for a replacement cartridge or refund.
Before you rush back to the shops, you could try running a print head clean – your printer’s instruction manual will tell you how to do this.
Will using a generic ink cartridge invalidate my printer’s warranty?
Damage caused by fitting a cartridge could invalidate your printer warranty.
Read the terms of your warranty carefully to see whether it expressly says failure to use proper manufacturer’s parts will invalidate the warranty.
We contacted the major printer manufacturers and they said that simply using a generic cartridge will not invalidate the warranty. However, any damage caused to your printer by a generic cartridge is unlikely to be covered.
If you're worried about this, avoid using generic cartridges until your printer’s warranty has expired – most printers have a one-year warranty, but some models offer up to five-year warranties if you register your product with them online.
Which replacement cartridges has Which? tested?
Which? has tested a selection of OEM, refilled and compatible cartridges on specific Epson, Canon, Lexmark and HP printers to compare the cost of the ink that hits the page and the quality of the prints.
Due to the large numbers of printers, cartridge ranges and third-party cartridges available, we can't test every brand of cartridge on every printer.
However, we have selected the most popular third-party brands to test, based on feedback from Which? members about the cartridges they’ve had good experiences using.
We’ve not tested any home ink refill kits – some people told us that they like to use these, but that refilling at home can be a messy process.
Put off of trying non-OEM ink by concerns it won't work? Read more about third party ink in our advice page Do cheap ink cartridges work?.