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Cheaper Ink For Your Inkjet?

This weekend brought us some good news about one of the computer industry's more annoying aspects--the extortionate price of replacement printer ink. A Kentucky jury ruled Friday that Lexmark "unreasonably restrained competition" with a program that pushed customers to recycle used printer cartridges only through Lexmark.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal's report:

At issue is Lexmark's "Prebate" or "Return" program, in which corporate customers received large discounts on their ink cartridges in exchange for a pledge to return the empties to Lexmark. A higher-priced cartridge that can be freely recycled is also available.

The prebate cartridges included a chip that disabled the printer if a non-Lexmark recycled cartridge was inserted. But Static [a competing cartridge manufacturer] constructed a similar chip that allowed the recycling industry to continue refilling cartridges.

The jury's decision isn't a real verdict; a judge has to make that call, though the Courier-Journal piece suggests the final ruling will be no different. If so, this could make it much harder for printer manufacturers to elbow competitors out of the market--which, in turn, might make ink just a little less expensive for everybody. Perhaps it may even come down to below the price of human blood at some point.

How much money do you find you spend on printer "consumables"? How have you tried to bring down that cost?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 25, 2007; 11:01 AM ET
Categories:  Pleasant surprises  
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I do very little printing (maybe once every few weeks), but when I do, I frequently find that the Canon ink jet printer's color cartridge has dried up or is otherwise not cooperating. In the past, I've tried one of those 'drill a hole and pour ink in' kits, but toward the end each treatment seemed to last only a few days. I finally hunted down a generic replacement cartridge at Staples to save maybe half the cost of the name brand.

If I could locate a driver, I'm about ready to resurrect my old C. Itoh 1550 dot-matrix parallel port printer and hang it on my Linux box, to make it accessible via CUPS to our Macs...

Posted by: Charles | June 25, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the outcome of this case. While the court found that Static Control can make and sell such chips, it also found that the remanufacturers that might actually use them would be infringing Lexmark's patents if they actually did so. No real victory for aftermarket companies or the consumer.

Posted by: Tom Ashley | June 25, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

My solution (for a while, at least) wasn't to buy new ink, but to hunt on Craigslist for people selling their freebie inkjets, usually around $20 or $30 and with unused ink cartridges. Cheaper than new ink, although you eventually end up with a couple of extra printers.

Posted by: 23112 | June 25, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

For some time now I have been using an online supplier for my replacement ink cartridges. "Carrot Ink" offers high quality, fully compatable ink cartridge replacements at truly huge discounts.
Example: One three color cartridge pack for the Epson C86 at Office Depot--$29.95. Carrot Ink's price--$13.00 plus $4 for shipping. Or you can get what's called a "Carrot Bunch" which consists of two black cartridges and three color cartriges for $45 plus $4.50 shipping, which works out to $10 per cartridge, including shipping! And they work just fine!

Posted by: James R Heckel | June 25, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm sick and tired of buying expensive gas. I'm even more distraught over buying ink for my printer!

I just found a web site called Inkjets Forever. They market a membership program that after you join, you never have to buy ink for your printer ever again.

The best deal in the world.

Posted by: Jane Jacobs | June 25, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Frys sells refurbished Epson printers that are cheaper than replacing the cartridges with the Epson brand.

I have tossed about 5 printers so far.

Posted by: Luke | June 25, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I've had good luck with Canon inkjets that have separate tanks for each color and buying knockoff cartridges from a company call LD Products. I'm sure there are others just as good but with two young boys at home I really like their discounted multi-packs with 3-5 full sets. With my printer set to "draft" and buying cheap knockoff cartridges in bulk I spend about $25 per year on ink. Most important thing to do is consider the cost of ink in your printer purchase - chances are a $50 printer with only two cartridges will cost you twice that much in a year. Stick with separate ink tanks for each color, check online to see if the printer's ink cartridges are available from knockoff vendors, and leave the photo printing to online stores and services.

Posted by: annanemas | June 25, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Printer ink and toner cartridges are outrageously expensive, and I don't know why! I tried the "drill and fill" stuff - it didn't work. BUT, I have found that the places that actually remanufacture the cartridges, and really clean them first, give you great quality at a huge savings.

I like Cartridge Depot best - the quality is always great and the cost savings for even a small company really adds up. I bet government could save a whole lot more if they used recycled cartridges.

With all of the concerns about recycling, I can't believe there's even a question about using recycled cartridges, let alone about the printer manufacturers "allowing" it! It would be like the car manufacturers owning all of the gas stations - wonder how fuel efficeint the cars would be then, or how much gas would cost?

Posted by: bizgal | June 26, 2007 12:27 AM | Report abuse

For lengthy research papers or if you are a writer with many pages to print in black and white there are affordable lasers on the market these days. For other who prefer and don't mind paying for ink jets,there are a lot of ways to extend the life of your cartridge starting with a simple cartridge shaking when that first reminder comes up that you are running low on ink. Another method of extending the life of your cartridge and prevent the ink in the cartridge from drying out is to manually turn off your printer so the head sets in a shut down position.

Posted by: FCapobianco | June 26, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"I have tossed about 5 printers so far."

Wow. Does that bother anybody else? The manufacturers have created a system where it's "easier" to consider the printer to be a disposable commodity. That's an awful lot of plastic and other electronic detritus hitting the landfills.

I wonder if I can still get a ribbon for my Epson RX-80?

Posted by: Green Ink | June 26, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

If you mostly print black and white, Laser printers are the way to go. Lots more pages per cartridge. Plus, you can get those cartridges in refilled recycled brands ("Cartridge Depot" stores - some in Maryland and I think they do online - do a good job and the other chains probably have them too) which saves a lot of money. And laser prints are just crisper and easier to read.

Posted by: scouserguy | June 26, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I use for extremely low prices on generic cartridges that work just as well as the name brands. Very fast shipping at very low cost as well. The customer service is outstanding.

Posted by: Randy | June 26, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I've tried to stay with Canon printers with the 4 seperate color cartridges, & I purchase them from Max Patch Ink. Their prices are great & the service & delivery are fantastic. They even sell a Jet Pak, that allows you to send back your original oEM cartridge. They will clean, test & fill it to capacity & offer a 9 month warranty.

Posted by: Joseph | June 26, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

HP, with their printer heads built into the cartridges, have really made a fortune selling their cartridges.

However, there are (at least here in Germany) places where you can get money for your old cartridges when buying replacements which have used them.

The prices usually are about 1/3rd those of HP. The quality isn't the same ... but except for photos, whose colors aren't as good (but acceptable), you can't tell the difference. (Okay, if you have a magnifier, you might notice something!)

Posted by: Norman Goldberg | June 27, 2007 5:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm on my 4th or 5th Epson inkjet printer. Early models worked fine with 3rd-party cartridges but last year Epson lost a class-action case for setting their cartridges to shut off, signifying empty, when they were still half full. I have used 3rd-party cartridges successfully perhaps 3 times now with my Epson 88+ inkjet, each time getting a message saying, "This is not a genuine Epson cartridge, do you wish to proceed?" This last time, I clicked, Yes, and proceeded to print. But now my foto prints are blotchy with no resolution. I wonder if Epson is jerking us around again - ?

Posted by: Bruce | June 27, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

As long as we are throwing out names of ink providers you might try Have had very good luck at a great price from them for several years now. Only problem I have found is they do not sell refills for my old Canon BJC210 but for the HP's and Epson I have had no problems and these are not refill but are third-party new units at less than half price of new. For the old Canon I find to be an excellent company.

Posted by: Andy | June 27, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

As long as we are throwing out names of ink providers you might try Have had very good luck at a great price from them for several years now. Only problem I have found is they do not sell refills for my old Canon BJC210 but for the HP's and Epson I have had no problems and these are not refill but are third-party new units at less than half price of new. For the old Canon I find to be an excellent company.

Posted by: Andy | June 27, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I don't need to print color for any reason. If I need to have prints of photos made, I upload the digital images to a service and they send the prints to me. Therefore, since I only print documents, I use a Brother Laser printer. The cost per page is way down, the quality is great.

Posted by: Ron D | June 28, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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