Here’s a fact that you may not be aware of: printer manufacturing companies very often sell their printers at a loss. Why do they do this you ask? Isn’t Hewlett Packard in the business of making a profit on its products?
The answer is simple: if the manufacturer gets you to buy their printer, then you will very likely buy their refills. Moreover, ink and tone cartridges are designed to be non-interchangeable, even between printers from the same manufacturer (as of the writing of this post HP had 94 different printers on their site, 24 of which sold for less than $200).
The fact is, the profit in a replacement cartridge is ridiculously high for the printer manufacturer – thousands of percent markup in many instances (e.g. a cartridge might cost $1 to produce and sell for $25) and because you use it regularly, each new printer creates a little annuity stream.
If replacement cartridges are so profitable, why wouldn’t an enterprising company make refurbished or replacement cartridges that sold for a lot less?
Until recently, printer manufacturers would void the printer’s warranty if non-“OEM,” (non-“original equipment manufacturer”) ink was used in their printers – thus creating a monopoly between the manufacturer and anyone who owned their printer. This was until the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act was enacted. This act prohibits the practice of warranty voiding and at the same time put an end to the legal monopoly – allowing competitors to enter the market.
101MoneyTalk has done extensive research and found the top two ink and printer sites on the web (if you want a full summary of the research, see our sister site HotTenReviews Top 10 Ink and Toner Sites).
We used five criteria: price, free/discount shipping, selection, return policy and ease of navigation. In the end we came up with 123InkJets and CarrotInk as the best of the best on the web. Here is how each fared:
|Price||Lowest – up to 75% off OEM prices||Low – up to 60% off OEM prices|
|Free Shipping||Yes, on purchases over $55||Yes, on purchases over $50|
|Selection||Excellent – 100% of “target 20”||Excellent – 100% of “target 20”|
|Return Policy||365 days – 70% or higher full||365 days – no questions asked|
|Easy to Navigate .||Yes – 3 ways to find the cartridge .||Yes – 3 ways to find the cartridge .|
|Link to Website||123inkjets.com||CarrotInk.com|
It was close, but we favored 123inkjets.com, primarily because they had two very important attributes that CarrotInk did not:
1) They are Better Business Bureau Rated A+, and
2) they have an actual brick and mortar store, which means you could theoretically show up and slap down a faulty cartridge face-to-face.
With the exception of three cartridges (out of 20), the prices were virtually identical (a few pennies difference) in the “target 20” cartridges they we test priced. 123InkJets offers free shipping on purchases of $55 or higher.
Note that this store is based in California, so if you live there, choose CarrotInk to avoid the sales tax.
The selection was identical, and prices were very similar. What we liked most about CarrotInk.com was their return policy. 1-year no questions asked. Like 123InkJets they offered free shipping ($50 or higher).
Note that this store is based in Texas, so if you live there, choose 123InkJets to avoid sales tax.