Where to Buy Printer Ink
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The Best Places to Buy Cheap Printer Ink Online

Where to Buy Printer Ink
KathyDewar/istockphoto

Ink on the Cheap

If you own a color inkjet printer, you know how expensive it can be to buy replacement ink cartridges from the original equipment manufacturer, whether it be Canon, HP, Epson, or another printer brand. Spending $30 or more for each so-called OEM cartridge (times however many ink reservoirs your printer has) adds up quickly. To save money, many consumers opt to buy third-party remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges, which can cost half as much as OEM versions. Remanufactured ink cartridges are recycled name-brand cartridges that have been cleaned, refilled, and tested, while compatible ink cartridges are made by third-party producers to fit popular printers. There may be tradeoffs in quality, buyers say, but the savings are worth it. The challenge is finding the cheapest printer ink online for your specific printer — prices are very competitive for the most part, making extras like free shipping or a generous return policy all the more important. We took a look at some of the leading online sellers of cheap printer ink and toner cartridges, comparing prices on supplies for seven popular Epson, Samsung, Canon, and HP printers, to find the cheapest options.


Related: Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon

Carrot Ink
Carrot Ink

Carrot Ink: Cheapest Place to Buy Printer Ink Online

Shopping score: 4.2

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  • Prices: $6.95 and up
  • Return/exchange policy: Free refund or exchange for one year, minus shipping costs.
  • Payment methods: PayPal, major credit cards, Google Pay (announced)
  • Shipping: Free domestic ground shipping for orders above $40; $3.95 otherwise. Overnight and expedited shipping available for an additional fee.

Cheapism Best Value–Best Cheap Printer Ink WebsiteTakeaway: "Cheapest" is a relative term when it comes to printer ink. Carrot Ink doesn't advertise a super-low price on its homepage the way other sites do, and we couldn't find any cartridges selling for less than $6.95. But in our comparison of seven replacement ink cartridges, Carrot Ink's prices for replacement toner cartridges as well as ink cartridges were almost always the cheapest by at least a buck or two (and by $5 in one instance). Selection was good too: Carrot Ink had ink in stock for all but one of the printers in our price survey. Up-to-date, professional, objective reviews of online printer ink retailers are nearly impossible to find, but in the past, Carrot Ink has earned good feedback from most customers. It also has one of the lowest price thresholds for free shipping among the retailers we surveyed. However, it also accepts the fewest forms of payment.


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CompAndSave.com
CompAndSave

CompAndSave: Best for Cheap Shipping

Shopping score: 4.2

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  • Prices: $2.99 and up
  • Return/exchange policy: One year, minus shipping costs. (Shipping refunded for returns within 10 days of delivery.) Non-defective returns subject to 15% restocking fee.
  • Payment methods: PayPal, major credit cards, e-check
  • Shipping: Free for domestic orders over $50 (free standard shipping over $35 for newsletter subscribers); $3.99 otherwise. Overnight, two- and three-day expedited shipping is also available. 

Takeaway: CompAndSave advertises ink cartridges as low as $2.99, but we couldn't find any of these bargain-priced products when we searched the site. What we did find was a wide range of replacement ink and toner cartridges — CompAndSave was the only retailer in our survey to have all seven items we searched for in stock — with prices that were competitively priced, if not necessarily the cheapest. The retailer is also one of the few that have accumulated a critical mass of user reviews on ResellerRatings.com, earning a score of 4.4 out of 5 from more than 23,000 consumers. Negative reviews are few and tend to concern ink cartridges that malfunctioned or weren't compatible, and late deliveries. A nice perk for regular customers: Sign up for the newsletter and you get free shipping for all orders over $35, the best deal among the sellers in this review.

4inkjets
4Inkjets

4inkjets: Best Printer Ink Return Policy

Shopping score: 3.8

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  • Prices: $3.99 and up
  • Return/exchange policy: Lifetime guarantee. Free refund/return for one year; free exchange or store credit thereafter. Customers must pay for return shipping if requesting a refund.
  • Payment methods: PayPal, major credit and debit cards, check, money order
  • Shipping: Free domestic ground shipping for orders above $50; $4.95 otherwise. Two-day shipping available for an additional fee.

Takeaway: No online printer ink vendor earns more positive reviews than 4inkjets, which earns strong user reviews at both Reseller Ratings and Bizrate Surveys. Customer service is 4inkjets' strong suit: Its lifetime guarantee is the most generous among the retailers we surveyed, and the customer service phone line is open on Saturdays; some other sellers keep only Monday-to-Friday hours. 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. 


Note: Inkcartridges.com is owned by the same parent company, and both sites sell the same replacement ink cartridges.

123inkjets
123inkjets

123inkjets: Most Payment Options

Shopping score: 3.8

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  • Prices: $3.99 and up
  • Return/exchange policy: Two-year satisfaction guarantee. Free refund or exchange the first year; free replacement or store credit thereafter. 
  • Payment methods: PayPal, Amazon Pay, major credit and debit cards, check, money order
  • Shipping: Free for domestic orders over $55; $4.95 otherwise. Two-day shipping available for an additional fee. 

Takeaway: 123inkjets gets 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 reports 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 buyers. The retailer is also the only one that accepts Amazon Pay, in addition to PayPal and traditional forms of payment, a nice plus. One drawback: 123inkjets has the highest free-shipping threshold among the sites we researched.

499Inks
499Inks

499inks: Best for International Customers

Shopping score: 3.4

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  • Prices: $3.99 and up
  • Return/exchange policy: Free refund or exchange within 30 days of delivery; free exchange or store credit for one year. Non-defective returns subject to 15% restocking fee.
  • Payment methods: PayPal, major credit and debit cards, check, money order
  • Shipping: Free domestic ground shipping for orders above $49; $4.99 otherwise. Two- and three-day shipping available for an additional fee. International orders ship for $8.99.

Takeaway: Prices are also competitive at 499inks; in our survey, costs were either equivalent to or within $1 or $2 of the cheapest price (usually Carrot Ink, sometimes CompAndSave). Inventory is also robust; just one of the seven items in our representative sample was not available. Unlike other retailers that ship only to U.S. and Canadian addresses, 499inks offers shipping overseas for a flat fee; however, its domestic shipping flat rate and threshold for free shipping are the highest among retailers we surveyed.

office equipment maintenance and service - hand replace inkjet printer cartridge
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Buying Guide


If you opt to buy printer ink online, keep in mind that the cartridges offered by the cheapest places typically are not branded ink from the company that made your printer (known in the industry as the original equipment manufacturer).

  • Remanufactured cartridges are OEM components that have been cleaned, refilled, and tested. 
  • Compatible cartridges 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% to 40% on aftermarket 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 cartridges is to refill the empty ones you already have. You can buy do-it-yourself kits online, but consumers who have tried them warn that they're very messy and not worth the hassle. A few years ago, you could just go to a store like Cartridge World, Costco, or Fry's to have your cartridges refilled, but Costco no longer offers that service, Fry's is no longer in business, and Cartridge World has shifted its focus to business customers. We recommend saving yourself the hassle and just buying replacement ink cartridges, rather than trying to refill your empties.


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, but its recommendations are based largely on price, inventory, and customer service. Consumer Reports and PC World both have excellent buying 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.


Warranties, Shipping, and Returns

All the replacement printer ink retailers that 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. Most printer ink vendors deliver within a few days and offer free ground shipping on orders over a certain amount, usually between $40 and $55. 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.


Site Usability

We tested each of the major sites by looking for remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges for seven common inkjet and laser printers: Epson 220XL, HP 564XL, Canon PGI250XL, Samsung Xpress SL-C410W, HP Envy 6055e, HP DeskJet 4155e, Canon Pixma TS6420, and the Brother HL-L2350DW. In general, all the sites looked and functioned similarly and reliably — a far cry from a few years ago, when searching for ink tended to be a tedious process. There's no need to look up model numbers for the cartridges you need; just search for by brand, printer family and model. 


Price and Selection

Selection was not an issue in general, although a few of the sample cartridges we searched for were not sold at all the retailers in our survey. Often, buyers have the option of buying multipacks, which tend to be cheaper than buying cartridges individually, as well as 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.


Customer Support

All of the retailers that we surveyed offer phone, email, and online chat support for customers, usually five or six days a week. 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.