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Why is ink so expensive?

Why is ink so expensive?

Branded ink is expensive because original equipment printer manufacturers (OEMs) claim that the technology to make ink is expensive; so much is spent on R&D, and it costs a ton of money to ensure topnotch ink quality and reliability.

A “theory” most consumers believe in, however, is that OEM (original equipment manufacturer) companies charge you a horrendous amount for ink to recoup the costs of developing printers which they sell for super cheap a la “razor-blade” business model.

Unfortunately, there’s probably some truth in both of these theories. Original brand ink is expensive, that is that. But as consumers, is there a solution? A more affordable option? Absolutely.

Solutions to Expensive Ink

1. Non-OEM Ink

Printer technology is constantly evolving. Just like OEM companies are advancing in their ink tech, so are aftermarket ink manufacturers. And in the same way that some OEM brands deliver better products than others, there are aftermarket brands that deliver better generic cartridges than others.

Fortunately, customer reviews are everywhere. Check out what other consumers are saying to get a good sense of which aftermarket brand is the most reliable and has been around the longest. More established brands have garnered more of a stable reputation and more experience in the industry. You can also expect better quality products from established non-OEM brands than those only a few years old.

2. Printer Research

One other way to make sure you don’t spend a fortune on ink cartridges is by knowing:

  1. if you have the best printer type for your needs; and
  2. how much it really costs to run your printer.

Finding a printer that uses affordable printer cartridges can take a bit of research.  Printer manufacturers release new printer models every few months, and most all of them are capable of printing out quality text or photos.

So why are some printer cartridges more expensive than others?

In this guide, we’ll explain why certain types of ink and toner can be pricey and show you some great ways you can save on printing costs.

Reason 1: Your printer uses inefficient cartridges

Printers can vary wildly in price, but first-time shoppers looking for a home printer tend to easily fall for the cheapest printer.  Some can be as cheap as $30 and a printer with an inexpensive price tag can be very enticing to the uninformed consumer.  The printer industry has thrived off selling cheap printers with expensive ink for years, better known as the “razor and blade” business model.

The razor and blade model is the idea of selling an item at a low price that attracts the customer to buy, but charging a high price for consumables the item is dependent upon in order to function.  For example, a hand-held razor costs little in comparison to the high-priced blade packs you need to purchase and repurchase to actually use the product.

Similarly, after a year of using your budget-priced printer, you’ve probably already spent more money on ink cartridges than you did on the printer. In fact, this is the reason why many printers are priced to break even or sell at a slight loss. Why? Because they can charge a higher amount for the cartridges since you need them in order to use the product, and once you are depleted of ink or toner, you’ll have no choice but to buy again.

We recommend taking that latest printer sale with a large grain of salt.  There could be a great printer in the bunch, but you’ll want to do your research first and look for a printer that meets your needs and offers a respectable print value.  More on that below!

Reason 2:  Your printer does not match your printing needs

Printer cartridges and their respective page yield can be quite different from printer to printer.  Whether you own an all-in-one inkjet or a color laser printer, what you print and what type of cartridge you are printing with determines how quickly you go through your ink.

Inkjet printers use ink cartridges, which for the most part, are best for occasional home printing and photos.  Due to their smaller size and limited capacity, they can require frequent replacement if you print often, quickly inflating your printing budget.

Laser printers use toner cartridges and are preferred by home offices and businesses with heavy-duty printing needs. If you print regularly, you are better off investing in a laser printer.  It might cost a bit more upfront but you will get a better overall print value throughout the life of the printer.  Most toner cartridges can print for thousands of pages before they need to be replaced and, unlike an ink cartridge, toner cartridges won’t dry out if they go unused for an extended period of time.

If you print a lot of documents and don’t need high resolution color images, you’ll probably save a ton money in the long-run by switching to a laser printer.

To help you decide what works for your needs, check out our in-depth article breaking down the differences between inkjet and laser printers.

Reason 3:  You are buying cartridges with an inefficient page yield

Cartridge page yield is the approximate number of pages you can print with one cartridge.  Yield is based on 5% page coverage, or prints in which 5% of the page is covered with ink.  Each cartridge has a unique yield, and some are far more cost effective than others.  Most cartridges are sold in both a standard yield and high yield, or XL size.  A number of  printers work with extra high yield cartridges too.  The higher yield cartridges are filled with more ink, and if you print a lot, they are often the best option.

Keep in mind, cartridge cost can be very different depending on what printer you own.  You can buy two cartridges with comparable page yields at completely different price points, which is why page yield should always be considered when shopping for a new printer.

Let’s look at the Epson 312XL black ink cartridge and Epson 202XL black ink cartridge as an example.  The Epson® 312XL high yield black cartridge prints 500 pages and sells for $18.99* and the 202XL prints 550 pages, and sells for $34.99.  If you bought the printer that uses the 202XL series, you are paying sixteen more dollars for just 50 additional pages.  To get the most value, don’t just compare printer prices when you are shopping for a printer, compare the cartridge page yields across printer models too!

Reason 4: You are paying too much for printer cartridges

Many name brand printer cartridges can be expensive.  Luckily, they aren’t your only printing option!  Compatible cartridges from a reputable third-party manufacturer like LD Products can cut your cartridge costs down dramatically, offering comparable print results for a much lower price.  Since the resources needed to create a compatible alternative cost very little, the savings can be passed along directly to the customer, without sacrificing print quality.  For example, an original Canon PGI-280XXL extra high yield black ink cartridge sells for $27.99.  You can purchase an LD brand compatible version of that same cartridge for just $9.99, giving you the same number of high quality prints at a 68% savings.  LD Products offers thousands of compatible cartridges at competitive prices, providing an affordable alternative for most every printer model.  Ink tank printers like the Epson Ecotank or Canon Megatank are another low cost printing alternative, but machines range anywhere between $200-$400 and only make sense if you print constantly.  No matter what option you go with, keep an eye on your long term cartridge expenses.  With most printers lasting anywhere between 2-5 years, cartridge costs can add up quickly after just a few replacements.

Now that you know why printer cartridges can be expensive, you can take the proper steps to seek out a printer and cartridges that work for your budget.  Don’t be swayed by the first printer you see on sale, and make sure the cartridges that go with your prospective printer offer a generous page yield at a good value.  If you have any questions or are looking for a printer suggestion, we have some great ink efficient options here, or if you are looking for something more specific, drop us a line in the comments.  Good luck!

*Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices on and OEM cartridge and printer prices from the listed retailers: Amazon and Staples. All prices effective as of April 26, 2023.  OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.

Cartridge Series
Thank you for reading this post! This article is written by a team of ink experts at LD Products - a Long Beach, California-based company that specializes in compatible ink and toner.  With over 20 years of printing expertise, we’re committed to helping you save money on printer ink without sacrificing quality.  If you found this content helpful, we’d be grateful if you supported us by visiting for all of your ink and toner needs.  We appreciate your support!


  • Sometime when I print I notice the bottom of the page says page and I didn’t type that

    • Hi Irene,

      It sounds like you might have inserted page numbers into the document. IF you are using Microsoft Word, go to the “Insert” tab and look for the “Page Number” drop down. You can remove the page numbers from the document there. Hope this helps!

  • Just inquiring if your ink for Canon Pixma Pro 9000 printer are available in Canada. If so, please let know where I could purchase the ink. Thank you and best regards.

  • I was fed up with pricey cartridges so decided to try the Eco tank printer. Yes it is more expensive to purchase but the ink supply is supposed to last longer. I had a problem with streaky printouts .after cleaning the jets with no improvement I replaced. Have not received the new one yet. Hoping it was just a fluke with the device I received. Wondering if that is a known problem with the tank style printers. Can you shed some light

  • Is it possible to buy ink from you for my HP Printer? OFFICEJET 6962

  • I only print black and have never replaced the three color cartridges on my HP6525 but have replaced the black cartridge often. Do the newer HP Inkjets allow this. I have heard HP requires ALL cartridges must have usable ink or the printer won’t work. Is this correct?

  • I fed up for buying my HP DeskJet 2632 ink ,I bought 2 times black and colour ink, the cost was £48.But my printer price was only £30.

  • Are there ink cartridges available for HP Envy 5530 in an aftermarket price

  • Are the Brother LC75 cartridges refillable?
    Do you have products for refilling cartridges available?

  • I have a Epson XP 446 and have found that I am constantly running out of ink. In the past I’ve purchased Comparable ink cartridges but once installed my epson printer recognizes that the cartridge is not EPSON brand and refuses to print. I end up shelling out more money to purchase EPSON brand cartridges. My question for you is: if I purchase Your ink cartridge (LD brand) will I experience the same issue?

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