But are they actually any good? Do they produce the same level of quality as cartridges built by the original manufacturer?
Before we begin, it’s useful to define some of the terminology that’ll be used in this post:
- Original/Original Manufacturers’ Product/OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)– this is a cartridge that is produced by the same manufacturer as your printer. So if your printer is a HP machine, this cartridge will be made by HP.
- Remanufactured/Own Brand/Compatible– these are remanufactured from previously used original ink and toner cartridges. The empty cartridges are sent back to a remanufacturing plant, where the cartridge housing is refurbished. Most of the internal components are replaced and the cartridge is refilled with new ink toner. They’re often sold under the retailers own brand label. They may also be referred to as compatible i.e. they’re compatible with your HP/Brother/Canon etc. printer.
Some retailers may be so giddy about trying to promote their own brand cartridges to you that they make bold claims that are just completely unfounded!
Be on the look out for statements like this: “Our remanufactured toner cartridges exceed the OEM product.” Frankly, this is rubbish!
How can a remanufactured product exceed the quality of an original equivalent? Whilst most of the components are replaced during the recycling process, it’s still a recycled product and common sense says it can’t be better than the OEM!
Some models of remanufactured cartridges may hold more toner than the OEM and therefore print more pages, but this shouldn’t be a reason in itself to claim that it “exceeds the original”. In every other aspect of quality and performance, you cannot claim that the remanufactured item is better than the original.
So does this mean that remanufactured cartridges are not a viable alternative to the original product? Not at all!
Let’s look at your printing requirements…
Below you’ll find some examples of printer usage. Have a look and see which one applies to you the most and whether a remanufactured/compatible cartridge will be up to the job:
Do you print in mono (black only)?
If you only print in mono, own brand ink and toner is very much a match for the original. Mono printing is less demanding, especially if you are only printing text on the page.
Is your printer only used for internal communications?
If this is the case, then you’ll still need a good result and own brand ink and toner will be fit for purpose.
Do you print letters or documents for external communication purposes?
If you do, and these have blocks of colour such as a letterhead, or they contain some colour images, using a good quality own brand cartridge will give you good results.
What if you print full colour documents, including flyers or brochures?
This is trickier. I certainly know of customers that print high quality documents using a remanufactured cartridge but I’d always recommend that you run a small trial before producing thousands of pages of output.
When it comes to the highest quality printing or where you are printing for commercial purposes, it’s a real challenge to match the consistency of colour output which you get from the original manufacturers’ product.
Is the own brand product as reliable as the original manufacturer’s product?
The short answer is no. But it would be wrong not to qualify with some tangibles.
In my experience, the failure rate of original ink and toner cartridges is less than 0.5% (one cartridge in 200). The failure rate for a high quality remanufactured cartridge is likely to be 1% on black cartridges and 3% on colour cartridges (two cartridges in 200 and six cartridges in 200 respectively).
If you took the harsh view, you can see that the failure rate of a remanufactured colour cartridge is six times worse than the original. However, I’d suggest fairer analysis is that for every 200 colour cartridges you buy, you will get five more product failures when you choose remanufactured. Based on the average person’s’ usage, this is likely to be one failed cartridge every five years or so. When put this way, it doesn’t seem too high, does it?
(Note: The failure rate of our own brand compatible cartridges here at TonerGiant is currently just 0.5%).
Will using remanufactured or compatible cartridges void my printer warranty?
This is definitely one of the biggest questions about compatible/remanufactured cartridges.
NO, they won’t invalidate your printer warranty! In fact, it is against the law for any manufacturer to claim this. As we covered in our post that discussed some of the myths surrounding compatible cartridges, The Competition Act of 1998 outlines clear guidelines around the monopoly of consumer goods. Laws are passed to protect you, the consumer, and to give you free choice. If printer manufacturers were allowed to make this claim, it would mean that free choice would be taken away.
To ensure that you’re purchasing a cartridge that won’t cause damage to your printer, buy them from a reputable supplier that sells them with guarantees and warranties. Some may go even further to give you peace of mind and offer to cover all the repair or replacement costs of your printer on the rare occasion something might go wrong!
One thing for sure is that a remanufactured, own brand cartridge will be significantly cheaper than its original counterpart. How much you save really depends on the printer that you are buying cartridges for, but it’s not unreasonable to expect to save 30% or more.
A word of warning!
Whilst there are many companies that offer high grade remanufactured cartridges, there will be a few that sell inferior products. The best thing you can do is to check the quality of the warranty offered for the own brand cartridges before you buy.
Compatible/remanufactured/own brand ink and toner cartridges aren’t ‘better than’ their OEM counterparts. However, they do offer a high quality, cost effective alternative and, in most print applications, will do a great job for you.
The ever improving production techniques and better quality control at the leading remanufacturing plants is resulting in higher quality cartridges. And when they come with guarantees and warranties from reputable suppliers, you really have nothing to worry about!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2011 and was updated in July 2014 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.