Why is printer ink so damn expensive? HELP.

I don’t print much from my computer at home, so I have an inexpensive printer. I do most of my printing at work on a color laser printer that’s worth about a Gazillion dollars.

But at home I have a Lexmark that I paid $69.00 for. Last week I had to buy new ink cartridges: $43.00 for color, $29.00 for black and white, total= $72.00 :eek:


$72.00 to re-ink a $69.00 printer? This is robbery.
Why is this? It’s 2 ounces of ink and a computer chip. Probably 39 cents worth of material.

And, most importantly, why are there no generic alternatives? There is only 1 specific cartridge that will fit this printer. (at least that I know of). Can anyone tell me why this crap is so expensive, and what, if anything I can do about it. I’ve noticed that most printer inks are over priced, regardless of make/model.

Let the choir say ‘Amen’!!!

I dont know how many times we’ve gone without using our printer because the damn ink is so expensive. I’ve considered those refil kits with the hypodermic syringe, but I was afraid of ruining my printer.

If anybody has the skinny on this, I would love to know too.

I think the reason you can buy printers so cheap, like yours for $69.00, is that the printer companies know you’ll need to buy more expensive ink. That and paper.

I’ve considered it too, but sucking up ink with a hypodermic syringe sounds like it could turn into a hideous mess. Have you ever gotten a blob of ink on anything? It’s ruined. The stuff will stain your hands for a week too.
The whole thing sounds like a huge pain in the ass. If you inject too much into the cartridge you’ll get ink all over the place. UGH!

Why doesn’t some company just make after market alternatives to printer ink cartridges? Every other product in the world has a cheaper, generic alternative.

First off, you’re buying your ink carts at the wrong place. One word: eBay

I tried to insert a link to an eBay search for Lexmark cartridges, but this @$#%& vBcode won’t accept long urls. Just insert lexmark ink -printer in this search page

eBay Item Search

This is just the Lexmark compatible carts, but I have purchased Canon compatible carts as well, for about 1/4 the price of the same generics found in computer or discount stores.

I have also used refill kits will no problems; however, you have to refill immedaitely, or the cart will dry out and won’t work properly. You can refill a cart about three times before it’s done for good. I haven’t experienced any damage to my cheapo Canon BJC-2010 printer, though others may have more technical info on this.

I’m not familiar with Lexmark printers, but on my old HP printer, the ink cartridge was integrated with the print head. The print head is half the compexity of the whole printer, so it’s not unreasonable that it costs as much as the rest of the printer. Though it is a bit unreasonable that they force you to buy a new head every time you run out of ink.

Epson printers don’t have this feature, but their heads are fixed to the printer so you can’t replace it even when you want to - e.g. when you don’t use it for half a year and the head gets clogged. You have to throw out the whole printer. Canon is the most reasonable - you can replace just the ink cartridge or just the head.

It’s not the ink that’s expensive, it’s the printhead. Since inkjet printers rely on very fine jets of liquid ink and that ink is expected to dry quickly, the printhead has a tendency to get clogged up. To get around this, the printer is designed with a disposable printhead. There are a few inkjet printers that use ink tanks instead of cartridges and these tanks are quite cheap (~$7, IIRC). The downside is that with about every 2-3 tanks of ink, you need a $40 printhead cartridge.

For this reason, I have eschewed refill kits and recommend against their use. If cost per printed page is an issue, a laser printer is a much better solution in the long run. Toner doesn’t dry out, lasts much longer (more pages) and you can use the cheap copier paper and still get better results than inkjets get with expensive paper.

The reason printers are getting so cheap (besides mass production/marketing) is that electronically they are getting simpler. Most sub-$100 models require a Windows PC. This is because the driver is actually a print renderer that actually tells the printer how to print each letter. To keep costs down, they only develop software for Windows. The more expensive printers have at least a few built-in fonts and emulation modes, requiring some RAM and a processor, raising costs.

this happened to my dad when he went to buy new ink cartridges, so he just bought a new printer instead. he is threatening to buy another new printer when this one runs dry instead of buying ink cartridges.

the epson rep seemed uncomfortable with the whole process- at first he was cheery and said “you might as well buy a new printer!” and when dad said “yes, that’s what i’ll do every time from now on” the sales rep got a weird look on his face. but he had to have gotten this reaction before my dad. maybe his conscience is bothering him? nah… he’s in sales.


You can get generic cartridges for most printers. They cost about half to three quarters the price of the genuine ones. That’s why lots of newer printers have chips on the cartridges, to make it harder for people to refill cartridges or manufacture generic ones. Most printer maufacturers sell their printers cheaply because that is what people look for when they are buying one. Then they make a lot of money on the ink. For some reason, most consumers don’t look into the cost of running the printer before they decide to buy it.

If you want a generic cartridge, look carefully at all the boxes. I usually notice the packaging with the genuine brands - red is Canon, small blue is Epson, blue and a trapezium shape (from the bottom) is HP. Generic brands have completely different packaging and don’t have the brand of printer emblazoned on them. So they can be hard to notice.

I’ve got the same Lexmark printer that PK does, or one awfully similar, and I’ve never seen generic cartridges for them, either. (I got mine for $69 but it came with a $40 rebate, so it’s a $29 printer. The Better Half was flabbergasted and says that I’m in charge of all Computer Purchasing from now on. Hah.)

And I think the system sucks, too, but whatcha gonna do?

I have been able to save money by setting the Black Cartridge Default setting to Rough Draft (or whatever it is), by putting the Black cartridge on permanent duty (Bonzo doesn’t really NEED to print out his Pokemon Hints web pages in color), and by putting a label on the color cartridge saying, “ONLY MOMMY CAN CHANGE THIS”, so if La Principessa wants to make a Create-A-Card project for somebody, it had better be for somebody important.


Fear -

I just tried what you suggested and my eyes nearly fell out of my head!

I found color ink cartridges for my crappy little printer (Epson Stylus 640) for about an seventh of what I’d pay normally! We usually fork over about 35 bucks for a color ink cart., I found them for 5 bucks plus another 4 bucks shipping!

Y’all have really got to try this.
Thanks for the link!!

We discussed inkjets a lot here & I always look at the price of ink before buying a printer.

For $20.00 you can refil those things 15 times yourself. Ink isn’t expensive.

One thing to watch out for if you are going to buy printer cartridges on eBay is the expiration date. I once bought a black cartridge and it was close to, within a month, of the expiration date on the back of the package. I ended up not using all the ink in that cartridge because it was not printing out well (lots of lines & clumps, even after runnning the clean cycles). Although I didn’t buy that particular cartridge off eBay, it is something you should ask the seller about before you bid.

Refill kits are the balls! I have one and am still using it and I am on my 2nd printer! Color and black and white, all came in the kit. And if you follow the directions (yup, it comes with them and I actually read them) you should not have any problems with spilling ink. I would highly recommend a refil kit, mine was $10 at Sams club. At some point though, it says you should change the cartridge.

**** Correction ****

I am an idiot. The cartridge I found for $5 was black ink, not color. BUT - the same place had the color ones for 7.95, still a heck of a lot cheaper. And they offered free shipping on their site, where in their ad on eBay they wanted $4 shipping.

I’m sorry. I must not have had enough diet coke yet.

I’d be careful here. I own an Epson 660, a model similar to yours. I used some cheap Chinese-made cartridges in mine and plugged the nozzles. And, as others have pointed out, if your nozzles become plugged on an Epson, you’re screwed. Epson gave me a new printer since it was under warranty, but I wouldn’t press my luck, since they explicitly state that using aftermarket cartridges will void the warranty. Obviously, I didn’t tell them and I covered my tracks well.

Nope - it’s just good marketing. Seriously - the marketing phrase is “give away the razor, make your money selling the blades”.

(Take a look at the price on a Gilette Mach 3 razor. Then take a look at the price on a pack of Mach 3 razor blades.)

Here is that place I was going to try but I don’t need to yet:


Like 20 black refills for $20, Clr, each of them 15 times, $20.00 US

Let me also point out that in addition to the print head, the ink isn’t the same stuff you find in ballpoint pens. Adjusting the chemical composition of inks for inkjet printers so that they are absorbed quickly into any type of paper, don’t rub off and don’t fade over time or in sunlight or when you spill water on them, don’t dry up in the cartridge, and so the different colors don’t react with each other, is some pretty complicated chemistry. Take a look at US Patent No. 6,100,315 if you want to get an idea of what’s involved. Even if all the component chemicals are cheap (which they usually aren’t), there are still a lot of research costs to recoup.

Oh, yeah, I feel so sorry for them, they gotta recoup their research costs, those poor starving but hardworking printer designers, toiling away in their little workshops, and the Canon baby needs new shoes, and the oldest Lexmark kid needs his teeth straightened…