The market today is replete with ink cartridge options. Many people fall prey to the story that their printer will only work with OEM cartridges. (OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer.” If Canon made your printer, then the ink cartridges that Canon makes to work in that printer would be OEM cartridges.) As you can probably guess, OEM ink cartridges are far more expensive. An alternative option is to find cartridges made by a third party that are compatible with your printer. These compatible cartridges will be much cheaper. So it pays to do your homework before you buy your printer. Buying a machine that is compatible with a wide range of cartridges will save you money in the long run.

Traditionally OEM companies have tried to find ways to prohibit third party companies from manufacturing replacement ink cartridges. However, customer pressure has forced many OEM companies to curtail these measures. If one company allows its printers to work with third-party cartridges, the other companies have to follow suit in order to compete for a place in the market. A quick Google search will reveal whether or not there are compatible cartridges on the market for the printer you are contemplating.

When purchasing a printer, you will want to consider whether or not its cartridges can be refilled rather than replaced. If the cartridges can be refilled, you now have the option of shopping for not only cheaper compatible cartridges, but also cheaper compatible ink. Refilling ink cartridges can be a little tricky, but once you have the process down, it can be huge savings for your company. Purchasing ink in bulk (in pints, quarts, or even gallons) further cuts printing costs. One pint of ink can fill 15-17 large-capacity cartridges.

Many ink cartridges today contain a chip that keeps track of the amount of ink dispensed from the cartridge and when the cartridge needs to be replaced. Believe it or not, this little chip can be the biggest inhibitor to a printer’s compatibility with replacement ink. If the chip cannot be reset, the printer will reject the newly-filled cartridge. It pays to make sure that the counter chips in your printer’s cartridges can be reset. Typically Canon, Dell, HP, and Lexmark can be easily refilled. However, some of Lexmark’s cartridges do have a counter chip that cannot be reset. Although Epson cartridges do have a counter chip built in, chip-resetters are available on the market. Many third-party cartridge manufacturers are now building in chips that automatically reset at the time of refill.

Many people worry whether or not compatible cartridges can cause damage to their printer. The fact is that the same things that can go wrong with a third-party cartridge can also go wrong with a name-brand cartridge. Many of the compatible cartridges on the market today are made in accordance with the OEM specifications. And so compatible cartridges made by a third-party can be used exactly the same as the original OEM product.

At the same time, however, many suppliers of compatible ink products are competing for today’s market, and not all are of equal quality. Before you purchase a compatible product, be sure to double check that it is manufactured to ISO-9001 standards. This is an internationally acclaimed organization that controls quality for both third-party and OEM cartridge manufacturers. Checking the retailer’s online comments/feedback section will also help you to avoid poorly-made products.