A popular question that you see floating around a lot, surrounds the safe usage of generic ink and toner in printers. With the price of these replaceable being so incredibly high, it is no wonder people are desperate to find a better answer. Of course, name-brand companies aren’t ever going to change the way they charge. It’s just too profitable for them. This is why you might sometimes find a printer on sale for a price that seems far too good to be true for what it can do. Well, it might be if you look at what it costs to keep it printing. Sometimes the replacement cartridge(s) can be the same price or even twice the price of what you paid for that printer.
Then you have generic options that seek the attention of your wallet. You might see ads online, or listed on a product page where it says “customers commonly bought this with…”, or even TV commercials at times. There is a number of generic options to choose from for printers of all shapes and sizes. Just look here on Amazon where we have searched simply for “generic ink”. Then you hear some horror stories online or from a co-worker or friend about a bad experience someone has had using a generic solution. So, is it safe or not?
The easy answer is usually, yes, A lot of the generic options work, although not all of them. Typically, you can find a bit of both for each printer. Solutions that work great, and solutions that make things worse for you or come out looking terrible. It’s all about paying attention to the reviews of each brand most of the time.
Sometimes, you find that the price isn’t much better. This can be because the printer might require a fancy chip in the cartridge to help register to the printer that it is a name-brand cartridge or at least compatible if it is generic. Sometimes this isn’t so easy to mimic, so even generics might come at a sort of cost. However, sometimes, you might find the generic option to be a tiny fraction of the cost.
You also have multiple styles of generic alternatives.
- You have simple generic knockoffs of the name-brand cartridges at more affordable prices. These can go either way with quality, so this is why we pay attention to user reviews. If it’s 3 stars out of 5, you might want to avoid it. If it’s 4.5-5 stars with a good number of honest looking reviews, then you might have found the hero to your wallet. Not only should it work, but the print quality should be as good as the name-brand option. In some very unique cases, it might even look better.
- You also have refillable kits where you use the same cartridge all the time and simply refill it by hand every time it gets low. We typically do not advise the use of these as they can typically be messy and do more damage than good (not just to your printer, but your hands, and the surface you are refilling them on). Some consumers have a lot of success with these, but we have heard about more negative experiences than not and even experienced some ourselves.
Where to find the right one for your printer?
Finding a generic cartridge is quite easy. Let’s say you bought this Brother HL-L2320D printer from a place like your local Best Buy. It is a black and white laserjet printer (and a good one at that). These are some of the best to find generic solutions for since all you need is black toner (unlike all the individual cartridges you need for a color printer, inkjet or laserjet). To find the generic toner cartridge (the easiest method at least), just head over to Amazon and look up the printer’s product page there. A lot of the time, if you scroll down to the “Frequently bought together” section just under the main description and image, you can find a generic option listed. In this case, you can, and it is only $9.99. An awesome price considering the name-brand (Brother) cartridge runs you around $55).
If it isn’t located within the “Frequently bought together” section, then find out the model of the cartridge you are looking for that works with the printer. In the case of our example printer, it supports either TN630 or TN660 toner. Search for the one you want, on Amazon, with “generic” included in your inquiry (ie, “TN660 generic toner”). You should easily find a result.
Simply make sure the price is attractive enough for you, and that you read some of the reviews to make sure there aren’t a lot of negative complaints about anything. Like drying up faster than normal, colors/detail not as accurate, and so forth. As long as the majority of the reviews are praising it, you likely have found a solid option to try out.
You can typically get the same amount of printed pages/content from the generic options as well. I used Brother as an example only because we have a few of those models (or similar models at least) around the office here, and they work incredibly well with the generic cartridges that we use (and if all you need is black and white…once you go laserjet, you never go back).
So in the end, the answer is commonly yes for generic. However, it isn’t always the case. Some printers that require chips in their cartridges to work, don’t always allow for generic brands and will refuse to work until you put a legit cartridge in. Thankfully, this is becoming less common, but the risk is there. This can be avoided by reading the reviews. Sometimes the print quality isn’t as good, or the cartridge can leak, or commonly fails one way or another. All of these issues can be avoided by reading the reviews. If for some reason, you just can’t find a generic option that sounds dependable for your printer, you might be one of the unlucky few, and better off sticking to the name-brand option. Hopefully though, you are able to find something to make the act of printing in your home much less of an expense. It shouldn’t have to cost so much.