5 Common Ink Buying Mistakes

Avoiding Common Buying Mistakes

Making sure that you buy the right ink cartridges can make all the difference in the world. Few things are as frustrating as opening up the box, tearing into the package and finding that the cartridge you are holding looks nothing like the one in the printer. You have just thrown away the money you spent, because at this point you have gone too far to return the item to the store. Mistakes like this, and others, can be avoided if you take the time to learn a little about your printer.            

1. Ignoring the Manual

Nothing frustrates a sales clerk more than playing 20-questions with a customer that has no clue what they want. It’s not that the clerk doesn't want to help, but they just can’t without a little information from the customer. You can avoid this with one simple act: read the owner’s manual that came with your printer.

Many issues that owners have with their printers and most other electronic devices they buy, happen because they don’t take a few minutes to look at the owner’s manual. Manuals are normally packed inside the box with the printer and aren’t very complicated to read. If your printer comes with software, the manual may be included, normally in PDF format. If you don’t have a PDF reader you can get one online for free with a quick search. If all else fails, printer manufacturers will normally have downloadable PDF versions of manuals for their most popular products available online.

Consult the manual for all operation and maintenance issues including how to change the ink cartridges. The model number of the ink cartridge(s) needed for your printer will be listed in this section of the manual.

2. Not Confirming the Cartridge Number or Printer Model Before Shopping

Another way to keep the store clerk from undue stress is to bring along the cartridge number or at least model number of the printer. This can make the shopping process fast and easy. But first you need to get this information.

Let’s say for whatever reason, you just can’t locate a manual for the used printer you purchased online, and you need ink. You might get lucky and the dry cartridges are still in the machine. If that is the case just remove them and put them into a sandwich bag (just in case there’s a little residual ink leakage) and head down to the closest retailer.

If you don’t have the empty cartridges to refer to, it’s not a problem. Simply write down the brand and model of your printer and take that information along when you go shopping. If there is no name plate or sticker with the information on the front of the printer, take a look at the back. There should be brand, model and serial number information on small stickers.

Last but not least, many retail department stores and office supply stores have ink cartridge guides attached to the display racks. All you need to know is what printer you own, and you can reference it in the guide.

3. Wrong Ink for the Project

When choosing ink cartridges, it is important to choose the proper ink type for the print job. There are two broad types of ink in use. There are dye-based and pigment-based inks. Not knowing the difference between the two can be a costly mistake.

Very stable, dye-based inks turn out prints with vibrant colors. However, there are the issues of slow drying ink and blurred images. Pigment based inks have a much quicker drying time, which results in prints with clearer images. Waterproof, pigment-based inks are used for photo printing and come in individual CMYK cartridges that work together to print photographs.

4. Going Cheap: The Refill Question

Although it sounds like it should work, home cartridge refill kits rarely give the results one hopes for. It’s not that the concept is flawed. Refilled cartridges can work well when they are refilled by companies that have the proper industrial grade equipment to do the job right, but doing it at home rarely works as well.

Stay away from refill kits unless you have a printer that is so old you can’t find the appropriate cartridges anymore, but don’t overlook purchasing refurbished/factory refilled cartridges. They can be a significant cost saver. Just be prepared to try a few to find the supplier who does the best job.

5. Paying Too Much

Price is a huge defining factor when choosing which ink cartridge to buy, and paying too much is the most common mistake made, and one of the easiest mistakes not to make. The first thing shoppers get wrong is they think that they must use the ink cartridges from the printer’s manufacturer. This isn’t necessarily so, as there are several good replacement cartridges, including remanufactured ones available on the market.

Unless you’re just in the mood to get out of the house and go shopping, there is no reason to purchase ink cartridges from a retail outlet. Aside from the fact that if you do buy the wrong cartridge, you can’t return it, retail ink cartridge sellers from big box department stores to office supply warehouses have markups on their products that can really make purchasing cartridges an expensive affair.

Online though, there are a lot of wholesalers and retailers selling at wholesale prices along with lots of people selling unopened cartridges they have never used. These folks are selling these items at online classified and merchandise auction sites. Wholesales for example, can sell a Canon Black-210 cartridge for $18, whereas that same cartridge in a retail outlet can sell for up to $30. Overlooking or ignoring online sites is a perfect example of violating mistake number one.

Buy in Bulk Online

To keep from making the mistake of overpaying for ink cartridges, consider how and where you buy. One option that works well for just about anyone is to buy in bulk. Yes, there is going to be a significant payout for bulk lots of cartridges, but when you break it down, your actual savings are significant. If you use a lot of ink at home for school projects, for a home-based business, or hobbies, purchasing ink cartridges in bulk will save you serious money. Take the Canon cartridge mentioned above: the $30 retail price can be cut down to as low as $17 online, and when you buy in bulk, it can cost as little as $170 for 10 cartridges. That’s a savings over individual retail purchases of $130. These prices are only a guide and depending on the market, the printer model, new or refurbished, and where you buy, the prices and deals will vary.

Buy Remanufactured Ink Cartridges Online

While refilling your own ink cartridges can be done, as stated earlier, it rarely turns out well. But there are several companies who specialize in refilling ink and toner cartridges that can offer great deals for very good products. These cartridges can sell for as little as $30 for lots of 10 cartridges.

Buy Ink Cartridges on eBay

One of the best places to find great prices on ink cartridges is on eBay. There is not only a huge selection of new ink cartridges, but also large selections of remanufactured cartridges, and refill kits. With so many options and products available, you will be able to find the best ink cartridge products for you, and at a great price.

To find ink cartridge products on eBay, simply open the homepage and mouseover "Electronics" on the left side of the page. This will open a dropdown menu with several options; select "

If you are looking for ink cartridges, once you navigate to the "Ink Cartridges" page you will be able to narrow your search for the exact cartridge(s) you need. Filtering results will be helpful as there are several thousand options. Narrow your search by selection filters for brand (For Brother, For Canon, For Dell), quantity, condition, color, and even expiration date.


If you take a little care when getting ready to buy ink cartridges for your home or office, you can avoid making any of the five most common buying mistakes. To ensure you buy the right ink cartridge, and get a good deal, remember to consult the manual for what type of cartridge(s) you are going to need, copy that information down, and keep it with you when shopping. Choose the proper ink for the job you are doing. While it is a true saving to buy remanufactured cartridges, be sure to get them from the manufacturer if possible. If not, make sure they are refilled by a professional. You can use a refill kit yourself, but you should only do this if the cartridge you need is no longer produced. When you go to buy cartridges, make sure you don’t pay too much for them. There are several sites online that sell cartridges at wholesale prices along with classified and merchandise auction sites where shoppers can connect with sellers for really great deals.