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Cheapism: Best websites for inexpensive printer ink 

Nov. 27, 2013 at 12:51 PM ET

4inkjets is one of several online sellers of printer ink cartridges that reviewers say offer competitive prices.
4inkjets
4inkjets is one of several online sellers of printer ink cartridges that reviewers say offer competitive prices.

Given the price of printer ink, it would be more economical to use cartridges filled with Dom Perignon. A bottle of the current vintage sells for $160, or $6.31 per ounce, while printer ink starts at more than twice as much — $13 to $75 per ounce, according to Consumer Reports. Online sellers offer discounts, but consumers can’t always be sure about the quality of the offerings, which often include aftermarket and off-brand cartridges.

Here are three recommended sites from Cheapism.com with prices starting at $6 per cartridge.

4inkjets seems resistant, though not entirely immune, to the complaints that plague many printer ink websites. Reviewers appreciate the competitive prices and generally say the ink cartridges work as advertised. Any that don’t can be returned for up to a year for a credit or refund. Orders under $50 ship for a flat rate of $4.95 and larger purchases qualify for free delivery. Think twice about stocking up to save on shipping, though. Printer ink can dry out if it sits unused for too long and some cartridges have expiration dates. (Where to buy

123inkjets has won repeat customers with problem-free service, superior customer support and low prices. Like 4inkjets, this site charges $4.95 for shipping, but the threshold for free shipping is a slightly higher $55. A similar one-year guarantee promises a refund or replacement for any defective cartridge. (Where to buy)

Carrot Ink enjoys high ratings for customer satisfaction, and many reviews praise the quality of the ink. The customer service team keeps shorter hours than the other two sites and offers support five days a week instead of seven, but Carrot Ink posts an attractive no-questions-asked return policy for one year. As usual, customers must pay $4.95 for shipping unless the order exceeds $50. (Where to buy)

These sites sell three different kinds of ink cartridges. OEM cartridges are so called because they carry the brand name of the original equipment manufacturer — i.e., the maker of your printer, such as Canon or HP. They take the cake for quality and reliability but also cost the most. Cheaper compatible cartridges are manufactured by third parties, so they may not interact flawlessly with the printer. Many reviewers point to remanufactured cartridges as a more reliable choice and the best combination of quality and price. These are recycled OEM cartridges that have been cleaned out, filled with fresh ink, tested and repackaged for sale at lower prices.

While you may wind up with the occasional dud, customers of the three sites listed above seem to consider the risk worth it given the low prices and return policies (although the customer generally remains on the hook for shipping). U.S. law also prohibits manufacturers from voiding a printer’s warranty if the user installs anything other than OEM cartridges.

More from Cheapism:

Full report on cheap printer ink websites 

Best laptops under $500 

Cheap printer recommendations 

Choosing a cheap office chair 

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