Why is Printer Ink so Expensive?
June 27, 2012

A recent NPR story compared the costs of printer ink found that “printer ink is more expensive per unit than some pricy vintage champagnes.” Anyone who has walked out of an office supply store with a $35 cartridge of ink will agree.

But why is that?

The business model of the printer and ink cartridge industry is one with low initial costs but high maintenance costs. A quick search for printers show prices can range from $10 to over $500, with most consumers buying less expensive ones. The only way to sustain this buying model is for companies to charge high prices for the consumables – mainly ink cartridges, toner cartridges, printer paper, photo paper, etc.

And consumers are definitely feeling it. A 2009 Ipsos survey found that 69 percent of respondents said “cheaper ink tops their home-printer wish list.”

HP’s argument: quality for price

HP marketing manager Thom Brown attributed the high price of printer ink to expensive technology. Consumers are basically paying for reliability and image quality, he said in a 2007 computerworld article.

Brown goes on to discuss competition in the ink market, citing an HP-sponsored Qualitylogic study where HP cartridges lasted longer than refilled ink cartridges. However, there was no study on the cost per page, so it is not the most meaningful measure of value.

Too lucrative to change?

Andy Lippman, a Lyra Research senior analyst, proposed that suppliers could cut prices in half and still take in a nice profit on a $30 ink cartridge that costs just three bucks to make. So why don’t they? Consumers are already unhappy with current prices – wouldn’t these companies make more by lowering prices?

The answer may be that HP's Imaging and Printing segment is its most profitable division, earning $29 billion which is three times more than what the company makes on personal computers, reported the same article. Whether that is directly from printer ink cartridges or from something else is unclear.

But let’s pose a hypothetical: An HP Photosmart 7510 e-All-in-One Printer costs $149.99 on their website. Assuming you need to replace all the ink cartridges at least once a year, you’ll have paid the full amount of the printer in ink cartridges in only three years (HP 564XL Combo-pack (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow Ink) for $26.99 and a HP 564XL Black Ink Cartridge for $22.99 = $49.98 per year). And that doesn’t include the price of the HP Photo Ink Cartridge you would want for higher quality photos.

The business model of “give away the razors and sell the blades” has been working well this far, especially with several large brands monopolizing the market - we all definitely know Canon, Dell, HP and Brother. However, things may be changing as consumers have expanded buying power.

Consumers have the power

Ultimately, despite the prices the industry sets, consumers don’t have to buy directly from them. There are many options to be found, such as buying remanufactured and 3rd party cartridges or refill kits for those do-it-yourself types.

Don’t let big companies bully you into buying all their OEM products – the quality of remanufactured and 3rd party cartridges have risen significantly in the past decade, and it is now easier than ever to search for them. Read our article on the differences between the types of cartridges here.

Not only are there more affordable, outside ink cartridges available, Kodak shook up the printer industry several years ago by introducing a line of relatively good, cheap printers and low-cost ink cartridges. Could this be a sign of change or an outlier? Let's hope it's change.


Gene-O    7.02.12

I bought your ink about a month ago and it works great.. Every thing is just as you promised at 1/3 the price from my computer company..You now have a new customer...........Gene ...

courtney    7.02.12

I too am a new customer, and very well pleased,just keep up the good work

Marty Rene    8.10.12

I will tell my homeschooling friends all about you this year. Thanks for given me, your consumer a way to save money! God bless and take care!

jackrorabbit     5.16.13

This is likely a fake message, since any home schooling parent would know the difference between given and giving(the latter being the proper word to use). If it is an actual home schooling parent, then look into a private school, PLEASE

bobv    8.29.12

Ok, what about the quality of the INK. Is your ink just a good as the OEM's ink. Oh, Kodak is no longer a company. Try addressing my ink quality issue please.

Inkfarm Sabina     9.05.12

Hi bobv,

Overall, the quality of remanufactured and 3rd party ink cartridges is on par with OEMs. I have personally used such cartridges and have no problem with them. From what I hear from our customer service reps, the majority of our customers have been satisfied with the product. Of course, there will always be outliers and special cases, but we address any issues brought to our attention. Replacement cartridges for faulty ones generally fix the problem.

I hope this helps assuage any concerns you may have! If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to email me at sabina.c@inkfarm.com and I will do my best to help.


Yacine     5.11.14

Oct. 22, 2012WHAT: Chicken for Children fundraiser for the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children fneutriag Nelson’s barbecued chicken dinnerWHEN: 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Oct. 31WHERE: Free delivery in Fort Wayne or pick up at Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 W.Berry St.TO ORDER: Call (260)750-8032 or email Rebecca Nix at . Orders will be taken until 500 dinners are sold. Dinners sell out fast so ORDER NOW!COST: $9/meal includes: bd Nelson’s chicken & Pit-Tatoes,™ green beans, bread/butter and a treat. **Great time-saver for Halloween night or enjoy for lunch at your place of work or home! All proceeds benefit the Dr. Bill Lewis Center for Children which provides forensic interviews of child victims of alleged sexual abuse.

Mortimer Levy    2.22.13

JUST RECEIVED 1ST ORDER. GREAT SERVICE. You took my Canadian CC and shipped to my U.S. address, all in 45 seconds. Epson gave me a hard time so I switched. I'll tell me friends about you.
Keep it up. M.L.

Paul D    3.13.13

Thanks for your very prompt sevice. I have 17 used cartriges for an Epson rx500.do you purchase these fot remanufactur?

Larry    2.13.14

I have a bit of heartburn with your cartridges for the Epson XP410 "Small in one" machine. The original Epson printers printed perfectly. Your Inkfarm cartridges print either very light, or not at all- and there's no adjustment to make it print darker on the machine. Also, Epson must be on to you because it pitched a fit with your products. I think your software needs to be tweeked before you can say its equal to OEM. I probably won't be purchasing your product again.

Terri-USA    5.16.16

If HP is really concerned about the quality and reliability then they would not manufacture their inks in third world countries, like communist China. If they are going utilize slave labour they pay pennies for and turn around and charge exorbitant process to the consumer for a couple dollars of ink. Yes $2 worth of ink for $35, it makes you wonder when the article says HP has an earning profit of $29 billion.
The ink should be Made in U.S.A. where quality is can be trusted, yet HP would not have $29 Billion of your money then, because they have to pay a living wage and not a slave wage like in China.

Kelle    3.05.19

I've had great success with using inkfarm for my Canon MG6300 printer. Customer service is fabulous, too.


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