4inkjets Review

From $6 Best

4inkjets' printer cartridges dispense high-quality ink, and we found far fewer customer complaints about this company -- regarding both products and service -- than any other we researched.

4inkjets earns more kudos in reviews than just about any other printer ink company. One site that only reviews printer ink asserts that 4inkjets uses the highest quality ink the experts have tested, and the ink seems nearly identical to that sold by original cartridge manufacturers. Consumers who posted 4inkjets reviews at Pricegrabber generally give the company a thumbs-up, saying that placing orders is a snap and the products arrive quickly. Users also appreciate 4inkjets' competitive prices and product quality, which they contend beats out the third-party competition. The good news notwithstanding, 4inkjets also garners a number of negative reviews, although proportionally fewer than other replacement cartridge vendors. Some older posts at Epinions complain about leaky cartridges, ink that deteriorates over time, and slow deliveries; a handful of newer reviews found at Reseller Ratings echo these comments, one even reporting that the ink colors were screwed up, with the red cartridge filled with green ink and a yellow cartridge that printed gray. Still, 4inkjets finds its groove at this site with hundreds of five-star reviews.

4inkjets offers remanufactured, compatible, and OEM ink cartridges. Shipping for all orders under $50 includes a flat $4.95 fee, but orders exceeding $50 ship free in the contiguous U.S. The company offers a one-year guarantee on cartridges, and unopened merchandise can be returned for a full refund or credit. Customers also have one year to return a defective cartridge to qualify for a refund or credit. 4inkjets' customer service hours are Monday through Friday, 5am to 7pm PST, and Saturday and Sunday from 7am to 4pm PST. Live chat is also available.

In a business where quality products and good customer service often seem scarce, 4inkjets rises above the rest. Printer cartridges aren't always perfect and orders sometimes go missing, but prices are competitive and 4inkjets' return policy and track record for satisfying customers looks smoother than others.

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123inkjets Review

From $6 Best

Most users give a nod of approval to 123inkjets for its good products, responsive customer service, and fast shipping. The quality of the non-OEM ink is very close to that of OEM cartridges.

123inkjets proves to be one of the better print cartridge retailers, according to reviews. An expert from a site devoted to assessing printer ink says ink from this company's cartridges is second only to 4inkjets and then goes on to commend its customer service. Slightly older 123inkjets reviews posted at Tech Support Alert agree, and assert that the return policy is "excellent" and the low shipping fees are much appreciated. At Viewpoints one user who claims to be a long-term customer reports never encountering a problem with 123inkjet cartridges, an assessment dittoed by scores of users at other user-based product review sites. Not surprisingly for this industry, we read a few reviews griping about one thing or another -- cartridges that quit after minimal use, print heads that need frequent cleaning, lack of compatibility, etc.

Consumers can order remanufactured, compatible, or OEM cartridges from 123inkjets. The company's customer service hours are Monday through Friday, 5am to 7pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 7am to 4pm -- all Pacific Time. Purchasers qualify for free shipping on orders greater than $55 and pay a flat rate of $4.95 for smaller orders. 123inkjets offers a one-year guarantee for remanufactured and compatible cartridges, which qualifies buyers for a full refund or replacement cartridge.

123inkjets scores higher with consumers than most printer cartridge companies. But, as with all the printer ink vendors we researched, 100 percent of customers are not 100 percent satisfied. On balance, customer service is superior to that of the competition and the vast majority of users find that 123inkjets ships quickly and delivers products that work well.

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Carrot Ink Review

From $6 Good

Carrot Ink's strength is its no-fuss return policy, which might provide some reassurance to users who are leery of buying off-brand printer cartridges. That's useful, because we came across some users who aren't terribly impressed with the quality of cartridges from this company.

Expert Carrot Ink reviews consider the quality from this third-party producer to be quite good, according to reports found at consumer products review sites. Users seem to agree. In Carrot Ink reviews posted at Bizrate, where the company and the product earn an overall 9.1 satisfaction rating, purchasers say the company's compatible and recycled cartridges meet expectations. One user happily notes that photos turn out fine and cost pennies to print, another claims that the ink looks like name-brand ink at prices that can't be beat, and a third reports that cartridges always arrive full (unlike other unnamed suppliers). We did read some griping about the company's website, which a bevy of irritated customers consider cumbersome. On the other hand, Carrot Ink reviews claim that customer service is friendly and helpful and orders arrive promptly.

Carrot Ink sells printer cartridges produced by original equipment manufacturers as well as remanufactured and compatible ink cartridges. Free shipping is offered on all orders exceeding $50, otherwise a flat shipping fee of $4.95 is imposed. Carrot Ink maintains a toll-free number that's answered Monday through Friday during the 8am to 6pm CDT time slot. There's a full one-year money-back guarantee with no questions asked. This third-party vendor earns an A- rating from the Better Business Bureau for efforts to resolve customer complaints.

Although a handful of users grouse about the website and voice skepticism about how long the cartridges last, user enthusiasm for Carrot Ink quality combined with its simple return policy make this company's printer cartridges worth a look.

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Inkgrabber Review

From $6 Think Twice

Inkgrabber's low prices are compelling, but we read a lot of customer complaints about this online retailer for issues like leaking cartridges and erroneous orders.

Inkgrabber is a bit of a crapshoot, according to reviews. On the one hand, experts at review sites dedicated to printer ink praise the low prices and the good quality. On the other hand, we found a variety of user complaints embedded in Inkgrabber reviews. Consumers who posted at Epinions, for example, assert that the cartridges don't work with their printers and that the wrong cartridges arrived at their doorstep. Inkgrabber reviews at Reseller Ratings are more discouraging; they report mishaps such as ink leaking inside the printer during installation, jammed gears, and muddled color printout. Many Inkgrabber reviews also grieve about poor customer service, claiming company representatives are rude, refunds hard to collect, orders hard to cancel, and the like. And yet, some users report positive experiences with the company and the products.

Inkgrabber sells remanufactured, compatible, and OEM ink cartridges. The company offers a one-year warranty on, and will replace, products that arrive damaged, leaking, or defective; however, customers have only a 90-day window for refunds. Inkgrabber foregoes shipping charges for orders greater than $75, which is a bit higher than most other printer cartridge vendors; orders less than $75 are shipped for a flat $4.95 fee. Inkgrabber maintains customer service hours Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm PST; consumers can call toll free or initiate an online chat.

Based on the reviews we found, Inkgrabber offers OK ink at competitive prices. But the number of user complaints is a concern, and the return policy stricter than that followed by other printer cartridge retailers. Customer service hours also are more restrictive.

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Clickinks Review

From $6 Think Twice

Clickinks offers free shipping on orders greater than $30, but reviews that grouse about customer service and product quality suggest you may be better off shopping elsewhere.

Based on the reviews we read, Clickinks impresses only some purchasers. Several users gripe at Reseller Ratings about a range of problems, from poor products (e.g., cartridges leak, don't fit, or clog the printer, and some arrive half full) to poor customer service (e.g., shipments don't show up, representatives don't respond). Others report the opposite, citing positive experiences with both the product and customer service. Reviews skew negative at Site Jabber, as well; one customer says he was told to reconfigure the printer after calling the company because none of the six cartridges he ordered were recognized by the printer and other Clickinks reviews advise consumers to generally steer clear. Cheap prices are certainly an attraction, but not sufficient to overcome the spate of disappointing comments.

Clickinks sells remanufactured and compatible cartridges in addition to OEM products. Its free shipping pledge on orders greater than $30 is more liberal than that of its competitors; smaller orders are charged the industry standard of $4.95. The company will issue refunds within 180 days provided that the cartridge has not been opened; open packages must be returned within 90 days and at least 70 percent full.

Despite the generous shipping terms and some users' assertions of product reliability, the product and service problems reported by many others suggest a wiser course would be to search elsewhere for replacement ink cartridges.

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Buying Guide

While affordable inkjet and multifunction printers abound, "cheap printer ink cartridges" may seem like an oxymoron. Prices for replacement cartridges vary by brand and model, but you can easily spend $30 or more on OEM ink cartridges. (OEM refers to the original equipment manufacturer, or the brand behind your printer, like HP or Canon.) If you print a lot of photos or color documents, you'll need replacement cartridges fairly often -- and the cost mounts quickly. Fortunately there are alternatives to OEM cartridges.

Best Budget Printer Ink Cartridges

Ink refill kits save lots of money, but the refilling process can be quite messy. (Costco provides the service in-store for members at a starting price of $7.49.) Cheap off-brand, non-OEM ink cartridges are probably the best option. These cartridges are either remanufactured (recycled cartridges that have been cleaned, refilled, and tested) or compatible (made by third-party producers to fit popular printer brands and models). Big-box and office-supply chains stock a very limited selection of off-brand printer ink -- Office Depot sells an in-house brand, for example, and Walmart carries For Dummies -- but most stick to cartridges produced by printer manufacturers.

That said, plenty of online retailers sell no-name ink cartridges for all the major printer brands at significant savings. Based on our research, the top two online retailers of cheap printer ink are 4inkjets and 123inkjets. Both offer a large catalog of high-quality replacement ink cartridges at prices as low as $6 and deliver responsive customer service. Carrot Ink, our second-tier pick, also posts starting prices of $6 and likewise offers a wide array of cheap ink cartridges; online reviews, however, indicate that product performance and customer support lag behind the category leaders. Then there's Inkgrabber, a budget printer ink retailer you may want to scroll past given the comparative barrage of complaints about problem-plagued cartridges and poor customer service. Users' assessment of Clickinks is split -- some vouch for its products and level of service while others roundly protest, enough to torpedo its placement on our list. InkSmile and 123 Refills are two more sources of cheap ink cartridges; the former attracting positive attention for free shipping and the latter for easy returns and wide product assortment.

Most online printer ink vendors trade in cheap remanufactured and compatible cartridges as well as OEM cartridges tagged at slightly reduced prices. User feedback reveals that cheap remanufactured cartridges tend to work better than cheap compatible inkjet cartridges. For one, they invariably fit (after all, they've been used successfully before). Also, the "smart chip" embedded in the cartridge that signals it is meant for that model and relays information about ink levels is less likely to balk. The smart chips in compatible cartridges don't always interact well with inkjet printers, which can result in an "out of ink" warning even though the cartridge is full. (In most cases you can still print by bypassing the alert.)

Users rarely comment on the quality of ink in replacement cartridges, which suggests most are satisfied. Some review sites say ink quality in budget replacement cartridges is very good across the board. One site exclusively devoted to reviews of printer ink gives 4inkjets the highest rating among the third-party brands it has researched, asserting the ink is nearly as good as OEM cartridge ink. 123inkjets is a close second on this list of nine off-brand cartridge vendor/producers, while Carrot Ink settles into fourth place. Users' assessments (posted online) generally confirm this appraisal.

Still, buying cheap printer cartridges is a bit of a gamble, it seems. We found many printer ink reviews lauding the performance of low-cost cartridges and their money-saving virtues but also an alarming number of complaints, even for the top picks, about problems with the cartridges (e.g., leaks, incompatible fit, printer head jams) and the companies that sell them (e.g., lost and mistake-riddled orders, return and refund hassles, rude service). Still, the cartridges are cheap enough to chance it so long as you buy from a reputable online dealer and understand that on occasion you may wind up with a dud.

As savvy online shoppers surely know by now, it's important to understand the company's return policy whenever placing an online order. This is especially true with cheap printer ink because problems are not uncommon. Also take the time to check shipping fees for returns and for the initial order. Some vendors offer free shipping with large orders, but the threshold varies from retailer to retailer. Small businesses and heavy-duty users may benefit from this arrangement. But cartridges dry out over time, and bulk ordering to save on shipping may not prove to be such a good deal for anyone who prints only sporadically.

One important note: You will not void the printer warranty by using a remanufactured or new compatible ink cartridge produced by a third-party. U.S. law, specifically Section 102 (c) of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, takes care of that. The warranty won't be honored, however, in the event that the printer manufacturer can prove a malfunction was directly caused by the non-OEM cartridge.

And finally, if you're looking for a place to dump a spent cartridge, head over to Cartridge World. This brick-and-mortar chain runs an active recycling program and specializes in refilling and remanufacturing (and selling in-store and online) many types of ink cartridges.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

Printer Cartridge Reviews

Printer Cartridge Quality and Compatibility.

We found complaints in printer ink reviews about the quality of all third-party cartridge producers/vendors we researched. These online retailers sell three types of replacement cartridges: brand-name (and pricey) OEM cartridges, remanufactured cartridges (recycled OEM cartridges that are cleaned and filled with fresh ink), and compatible cartridges (new units engineered to work with specific printers). Remanufactured cartridges seem to be the best deal overall.

Users rarely indicate whether their review comments refer to remanufactured or compatible cartridges, but they do suggest that problems with printer fit dog compatible cartridges more so than recycled versions. The reason is obvious: Third-party producers don't have access to original blueprints and processes, so sometimes something in the housing or componentry is slightly off.

Taking the category as a whole, some off-brands outpoll others in users' estimation. Purchasers generally like the cartridges from 4inkjets, with printer ink reviews posted at Bizrate saying they're easy to install and fit just right; some, however, report defects such as streaky printout or a printer that doesn't recognize the cartridge. 123inkjets cartridges seem relatively problem-free, according to the vast majority of reviewers, although an older post asserts that an HP printer stopped recognizing the replacement color cartridge after five print jobs and a few grouse about problems with fit. Carrot Ink wins plaudits for low cost and printout that's supposedly on par with OEM cartridges even as some reviews grumble about leaks and unspecified disappointments.

Printer ink reviews of cartridges from InkSmile and 123 Refills at several sites mostly commend the products. A smattering of grievances, however, cover defects such as a printer that stopped working shortly after cartridge installation, cartridges that arrived at the destination less than full, and blotchy printout.

Printer cartridges from Inkgrabber leave many users cold. We came across complaints about leaking, poor printout, functional failures, and faulty sizing. Similar experiences with Clickinks are reported in printer ink reviews, although a good number also testify to satisfaction with these budget cartridges.

Note that most of the printer cartridge providers we researched offer a one-year guarantee, with the exception of Clickinks and 123 Refills, which close their return windows after 180 days. (Tip: Read the fine print carefully; rules often differ for opened and unopened packages, exchanges and refunds.)

Customer Support.

Considering the complaints users lodge against third-party printer cartridges, it pays to know what level of customer service to expect. All the retailers we researched maintain customer support operations and a return/refund policy. Here Carrot Ink stands out with a posted no-questions-asked policy on returns, which doesn't garner much specific mention in printer ink reviews at Bizrate although the returns process earns a rating of more than 9 out of 10 from dozens of reviewers.

As you might expect, users report a variety of experiences with these companies. Negative comments show up in reviews of all the ink cartridge providers for issues such as slow delivery, incorrect orders, failure to issue refunds, charging for return shipping, slow response to email queries, rude customer service agents, and long waits on phone lines. But some printer ink companies take more heat in reviews than others. 123inkjets finds favor with a reviewer at Gizmo's Freeware who notes that prices are a little higher than the competition but the return policy and customer service deserve a thumbs-up. Inkgrabber and Clickinks, meanwhile, garner relatively more censure than the others for a range of service irritants.

High-Yield vs. Standard Printer Cartridges.

High-yield cartridges typically print about twice as many pages as standard cartridges and are only slightly more expensive, making them a good deal for heavy-duty printing needs. For occasional print jobs users are better off with standard-size cartridges (remember, ink can dry out if the printer isn't used regularly). We read quite a few printer cartridge reviews bemoaning the unusable state of cartridges that had been sitting in the box for months before being called into service. (Tip: Don't over-order even if the price is right.)

Printer Cartridge Shipping Rates.

Most printer ink vendors offer free shipping on orders greater than a certain amount, usually between $50 and $75, although Clickinks sets the floor at $30. InkSmile is the only company on our list that offers free shipping on all orders while the others charge a flat $4.95 for all orders less than their free-shipping threshold. Most companies deliver within a few days and charge for returns unless there is a clear defect. (Again, read the fine print.)

Additional Products We Considered

InkSmile Review

InkSmile puts a smile on some customer's faces, according to user reviews, but leaves a frown on others. The handful of InkSmile reviews at Reseller Ratings say nice things about customer service and product quality, and elsewhere a purchaser gloats about finding a cartridge for an ancient printer. But other InkSmile reviews complain about snafus such as cartridges that aren't recognized by the printer or fail to print certain colors, and express frustration with customer service over issues like returns and discount codes. Review sites devoted to printer ink commentary are more enthusiastic about this off-brand, asserting that the InkSmile site is easy to navigate and lauding the free shipping on all orders. We determined that InkSmile's website seems rudimentary compared with the sites of the category leaders.

Indeed, the biggest point in InkSmile's favor is free shipping regardless of the bottom-line total. This is a really good deal for users who only need to order a couple of discount cartridges. Inksmile sells remanufactured, compatible, and OEM ink cartridges, the first two products backed by its one-year guarantee. Damaged or defective cartridges that are returned must have at least 70 percent of the ink remaining to qualify for a refund, credit, or exchange. Customer service hours are limited to Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm PST.

It's hard to ignore the company's free shipping policy, which turns out to be a big money saver for users placing small orders. But the combination of mixed appraisals and few recent reviews suggest InkSmile may be more of a gamble than many users would be willing to make.

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123 Refills Review

Most users have positive things to say in reviews about ink cartridges from 123 Refills. More than 300 users posted 123 Refills reviews at Bizrate, where the company earns an overall satisfaction score of 8.6 (out of 10). They generally praise the quality of the cartridges and speedy delivery along with the budget prices. A handful quibble about the website, saying it can seem overwhelming given the huge inventory and the field for coupon codes hard to find, and a few report cartridges were defective or leaked. A reviewer at one of the review sites that only discusses printer ink also comments on the wide selection of replacement cartridges and asserts that the 123 Refills website is easy to use.

123 Refills carries remanufactured, compatible, and name-brand printer ink cartridges as well as ink refill kits. Shipping is free on orders greater than $60, otherwise a flat rate of $4.95 applies. The company's customer service hours are Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm PST. Full refunds are available within 30 days on unopened or defective merchandise and exchanges can be requested within six months; any cartridge that is returned must be at least three-quarters full. 123 Refills also accepts empty cartridges.

More customers than not seem pleased with the products and service of 123 Refills, but the company's refund and return policy seem pretty restrictive.

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