4inkjets Review

Best Cheap Printer Ink Website

Pros:

  • 2-year return/exchange guarantee.
  • Responsive customer service, reviewers say.
  • Large selection of ink, toner, paper, and 3D-printing supplies.
  • PayPal and Amazon Pay accepted.
  • Orders accepted from U.S. and Canadian addresses.

Cons:

  • No overnight shipping; UPS 2-day is the fastest option.
  • Free shipping only for orders over $50.

Takeaway: No online printer ink vendor earns more positive reviews than 4inkjets. We found far fewer complaints about cartridges that malfunction or leak than for other retailers, although negative reviews do exist. We also found a handful of complaints about shipments that didn't show up, were incomplete, or took a long time to arrive. To their credit, customer service representatives have responded to most negative reviews we saw. Prices aren't always the cheapest, but 4inkjets is usually within a couple dollars of the lowest-priced competitor, and most consumers seem perfectly happy to pay a little more for ink they say they can rely on. Customer service is available seven days a week by phone or online chat. Note: Inkcartridges.com is owned by the same parent company, and both sites sell the same replacement ink cartridges. Prices are similar (slightly higher at Inkcartridges.com, although shipping is free), so we give the nod to 4inkjets for better customer service, based on reviews.

Where to buy

Purchase printer ink from 4inkjets

123inkjets Review

Good Cheap Printer Ink Website

Pros:

  • 2-year return/exchange policy on all products.
  • UPS overnight and 2-day shipping options available.
  • Ships to the United States and Canada.
  • PayPal and Amazon Pay accepted.
  • Very good selection of ink and toner, plus paper and 3D-printing supplies.

Cons:

  • Scattered reports of unsatisfactory customer service.
  • Prices tend to be slightly higher than competitors'.
  • $55 minimum for free shipping.

Takeaway: 123inkjetsgets generally positive reviews from consumers, but buyers are not as enthusiastic about this replacement ink vendor as they are about 4inkjets. Reviewers are more apt to complain about receiving defective cartridges, and we found more incidents of poor customer service, as well. Prices vary by printer and brand, but the fact that 123inkjets tends to be a few dollars more expensive than competitors doesn't seem to be an issue with reviewers. It also has the highest free-shipping threshold among the sites we researched. Still, most of its replacement ink cartridges get very high ratings from owners.

Where to buy

Purchase printer ink from 123inkjets

Carrot Ink Review

Good Cheap Printer Ink Website

Pros:

  • Prices tend to be lower than competitors'.
  • UPS overnight and 2-day shipping options available.
  • 1-year "no questions" warranty on all products.
  • Free return shipping.

Cons:

  • No ratings for individual ink cartridges.
  • No paper or 3-D printing supplies available.
  • $40 minimum for free shipping.
  • Ships only to U.S. addresses.

Takeaway: Like 4inkjets and 123inkjets, Carrot Ink has been around since the late 1990s, and in the past it has been a reviewer favorite. But recent online reviews of Carrot Ink are harder to find. The reviews it does get from consumers are largely positive, and prices are lower than other retailers' for the sample inks we compared. An added bonus: Carrot Ink pays for return shipping, something not all retailers do. The company offers customer support by email and by phone Monday through Friday.

Where to buy

Purchase printer ink from Carrot Ink

Buying Guide

Choosing Cheap Printer Ink

Replacing the ink in your printer is easy to do, but few things are as expensive as ink cartridges from the original equipment manufacturer, whether it be Canon, HP, Epson, or another printer brand. So-called OEM printer ink can cost $20 to $30 for a single color or black cartridge. If you print a lot of photos or own a particularly thirsty printer, you'll need to replace the ink cartridges fairly often. To save money, some consumers opt for remanufactured or compatible printer ink from an established online retailer or office supply store. Remanufactured cartridges are OEM components that have been cleaned, refilled, and tested. Compatible printer ink cartridges, on the other hand, are manufactured and marketed by third-party brands and not endorsed by the printer manufacturer. Either way, the prices are lower than OEM printer ink, but there are tradeoffs, consumers say.

Pricey vs. Cheap Printer Ink Cartridges

Prices vary by brand and printer model, but generally speaking, you'll save about 25 percent to 40 percent on cheap replacement printer ink compared with the brand-name version. You can find cheap, no-name printer ink on eBay and Amazon for just a few dollars per cartridge. But reviewers say you often get what you pay for with this cheap ink and recommend going with an established retailer instead.

Online printer ink companies have been around since the late 1990s, but some consumers still worry that using third-party replacement ink will void their printer warranty. Federal law and a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court ruling bar manufacturers from forcing consumers to use OEM ink and other components, but they can still refuse to honor a warranty if they can prove a malfunction was directly caused by a non-OEM cartridge.

Printer Ink Refills

An alternative to buying replacement printer ink is to refill empty cartridges. You can find do-it-yourself kits online, but consumers who have tried them warn that they're very messy and not worth the hassle. The better option, reviewers say, is to take cartridges to a store like Fry's or Cartridge World; Costco also offers an inkjet-refill service to its members. Refill prices vary by printer but start around $7. That's about the same price as the online retailers we looked at, or slightly more, but still cheaper than buying OEM printer ink. The drawback: You have to go to the store to refill the cartridges, although the process itself doesn't take long and can be done while you wait.

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Printer Cartridge Reviews: What We Considered

There are no serious reviews of cheap printer ink online that evaluate its quality compared with name-brand ink. Top Ten Reviews is the only reputable site that "tests" online replacement ink services, and its recommendations are based largely on price, inventory, and customer service. Consumer Reports and PC World both have excellent buyers guides but focus mostly on ways to save ink. To assess how consumers feel about replacement printer ink ordered online, we consulted reviews on sites like Reseller Ratings and Bizrate Surveys, two e-commerce marketing and analytics firms. To get a sense of product quality, we also examined customer reviews of ink for a selection of popular inkjet printers on the retailers' websites.

Quality and Compatibility

In general, most consumers seem relatively satisfied with the quality of the replacement printer ink they buy, but users make the same complaints no matter which retailer they choose. The most common gripes include colors that aren't consistent or saturated (especially yellow and magenta), inks that clog printer heads, and cartridges that either can't be read by the printer or trigger an "out of ink" warning when still full.

Site Usability

We tested the major sites by looking for remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges for three of Amazon's best-selling inkjet printers: the Canon Pixma MX922, the HP Envy 4520 All-in-One, and the Epson Expression ET-2750. Our biggest complaint is with the retailers' search functions, all of which failed to work at some point during our research. When that happened, we had to sift through entire inventories to find the ink we needed, a time-consuming process. The good news: There's no need to look up model numbers for the cartridges you need; just search for your printer to see the available ink.

Selection

Selection was not an issue in general, although a few of the sample cartridges we searched for were not sold at Staples or Office Depot. Online-only vendors offered more multipacks, which tend to be cheaper than buying cartridges individually. They also offered more high-yield or "XL" cartridges, which typically print about twice as many pages as standard cartridges and generally are a good deal for heavy-duty printing needs. For occasional print jobs, though, users are better off with standard-size cartridges, because ink can dry out if the printer isn't used regularly.

Prices and Shipping

Canon Pixma MX922 (CLI-251, PGI-250)HP Envy 4520 (HP 63XL)Epson Expression ET-2750 (T502)Standard Shipping
4inkjets$20 for 5-pack (XL)$19 for black,
$23 for tricolor
$29 for 4-pack$4.95
123inkjets$25 for 5-pack (XL)$23 for black,
$27 for tricolor
$33 for 4-pack$4.95
Carrot Ink$18 for 5-pack (XL)$20 for black,
$23 for tricolor,
$38 for both
$29 for 4-pack$3.95
Office Depot$29 for tricolor, $14.39 for pigment black; no regular black$29 for black,
$50 for both
(black XL, color standard)
N/AVaries
Staples$38.19 for 4-pack; no pigment blackN/AN/A$9.95

Prices and availability subject to change. Shipping rates apply within the contiguous United States.

Across the board, the dedicated printer-ink sites had lower prices and larger inventories. But office-supply stores have one big advantage over their online competitors: You can walk in and buy what you need without having to wait for an order to ship. That said, many remanufactured cartridges we looked at online at Staples were not available in stores, although there was the option of free shipping to a store.

Most printer ink vendors deliver within a few days and offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount, usually between $35 and $50. Although you may be tempted to overload your cart to qualify for free shipping, experts caution against stockpiling ink cartridges. Remember, they can dry out, so any extra cartridges should be stored in an airtight container and used within a few months of purchase.

Customer Support

Both online sellers like 4inkjets and bricks-and-mortar stores like Office Depot have phone, email, and online chat support for customers. Complaints about customer service are infrequent, but common issues include slow delivery, incorrect orders, failure to issue refunds, charging for return shipping, slow responses to email queries, rude customer service agents, and long waits on phone lines.

Warranty and Return Policy

All the replacement printer ink retailers we review back their products with money-back guarantees, although warranty length varies from brand to brand. The best retailers offer a one- or two-year warranty, plus a grace period of 15 to 30 days to return unopened products for a refund. However, few of them reimburse customers for the cost of return shipping unless there is a clear defect, a sore spot for some reviewers.

Additional Products We Considered

Office Depot Review

Best Local Store for Cheap Printer Ink

Pros:

  • Loyalty club members can receive rewards dollars for recycling cartridges in-store.
  • 20 percent discount for subscription delivery.
  • 24/7 customer service by phone or chat.
  • Price-match guarantee, online or in store, with Staples, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy.

Cons:

  • Smaller selection of ink and toner than online-only retailers.
  • Pricier than dedicated printer ink sites.
  • Conflicting information on delivery fees.

Takeaway: Office Depot sells store-brand ink for home delivery, free in-store pickup, or purchase at its bricks-and-mortar locations. A red banner on its website promises "FREE delivery on ALL ink and toner. No minimum purchase required." Yet we saw delivery charges of $5.95 and $9.95 for orders below the $35 site-wide threshold for free shipping, and a customer service representative couldn't explain why (she offered to place an order over the phone with free delivery). Still, Office Depot seems to have a slight advantage in terms of selection and shipping over its biggest rival, Staples, although both retailers are pricier than online sellers like Carrot Ink or 4inkjets. Unlike some printer-ink sites, Office Depot sells only remanufactured ink cartridges under its brand name, which tend to be more reliable than replacement cartridges. As with all third-party inks, we found scattered complaints about Office Depot ink cartridges that malfunctioned or leaked, but most buyers say they're satisfied with the quality.

Where to buy

Purchase printer ink from Office Depot

Staples Review

Good Local Store for Cheap Printer Ink

Pros:

  • Rewards club members earn rewards dollars for recycling empty ink cartridges.
  • Price-match guarantee includes 10 percent discount and covers major retail/online competitors in addition to Amazon (direct only).

Cons:

  • Free-shipping minimum of $50.
  • Smaller inventory and higher prices than online-only retailers.

Takeaway: Overall, Stapleshad the smallest selection and highest prices among the printer ink retailers we looked at. But its Rewards program offers a more generous discount than Office Depot (5 percent vs. 2 percent) and its price-matching policy is much more comprehensive. Staples offers customer service online and by phone, but the phone support isn't available 24 hours a day. Most buyers say they're satisfied with the quality of the brand's ink — and like Office Depot, Staples relies on remanufactured cartridges, not third-party ink — but we found scattered complaints about cartridges that malfunctioned or leaked.

Where to buy

Purchase printer ink from Staples