OEM vs Remanufactured vs Compatible cartridges

When the time comes to order replacement cartridges for your print device, the numerous options can be a little overwhelming. There are name brand printer cartridges and a slew of remanufactured and compatible cartridges to choose from. What’s the difference between each of them? And why are the price differences so drastic between them? Below we will break down the differences of all three cartridge types to assist you with your next shopping experience.

What are OEM printer cartridges?

OEM cartridges are name brand cartridges. OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. These cartridges are made by the manufacturer of the brand of your print device. For example, an HP printer cartridge made by Hewlett Packard or a Brother cartridge made by Brother.

Manufacturers spend a lot on research and development to make the best possible cartridge for each specific device. For this reason, OEM cartridges are more expensive than the aftermarket alternatives. While these cartridges can be $20-$100 more expensive than third party cartridges, they are very dependable and produce excellent quality and high yield. Depending on your device, OEM toner may be the only available option, particularly if the device is new.

Example of an OEM HP printer cartridge made for use in an HP desktop laserjet printer.

What are Remanufactured printer cartridges?

A remanufactured cartridge is a recycled, name brand cartridge that has been refilled by a remanufacturing facility. These cartridges look nearly identical to OEM cartridges because they use the same shell.

During the remanufacturing process, a used, name brand cartridge is disassembled, cleaned, tested, and any worn parts are repaired. Then, the cartridge is reassembled, refilled, and tested for reuse. Because the majority of the parts of a remanufactured cartridge are already made, the manufacturing costs are low. In return, customers see a cost savings. Purchasing remanufactured cartridges helps prevent cartridges from ending up in a landfill.

Remanufactured cartridges are made using recycled OEM cartridges. Therefore, these cartridges cannot be created for a device until there are enough recycled OEM cartridges to use for the remanufacturing process. For this reason, remanufactured cartridges are not available for use with newly released devices.

Example of a remanufactured cartridge for the same HP desktop laser printer as the OEM toner above. The OEM cartridge body from above is refilled for use as a remanufactured cartridge.

What are Compatible printer cartridges?

Compatible cartridges are completely new cartridges made by a third-party manufacturer. These cartridges have a different design and make-up than the OEM cartridges, this is due to the patents original manufacturers have on their product. While the structure may look different, the cartridge will fit in your machine correctly and produce the same yield as an OEM cartridge. Compatible cartridges are a less expensive alternative to the name brand product because the manufacturers don’t have to spend nearly as much on marketing and research and development. Purchasing a compatible printer cartridge would be similar to buying the generic version of a name brand, for example, Walmart’s “Great Value” brand.

Example of a compatible cartridge for the same HP desktop laserjet printer as the OEM and remanufactured cartridges above. As you can see, the toner body is different, however, there are very few differences in design.

Are Remanufactured and Compatible cartridges less reliable than OEM?

The majority of aftermarket cartridges are just as reliable as the name brand. However, there are varying degrees of quality across the many aftermarket manufacturers. Price and quality often align, if a price seems too good to be true the product likely isn’t great quality. Well established aftermarket suppliers tend to use higher quality parts and produce more consistent results, than their competitors. When shopping for print cartridges we recommend looking at reviews and steering clear of very inexpensive options.

Will the print quality be worse with remanufactured and compatible cartridges?

The print quality will be very similar for each type of cartridge. Reputable suppliers put their cartridges through quality and reliability testing to ensure their product is comparable to the name brand product. However, all cartridges are not perfect. From time to time, a cartridge will malfunction, even name brand cartridges. For this reason, it is important to know whether a cartridge comes with a guarantee.

Please note, the patents on name brand products require remanufactured and compatible ink and toner cartridges to have a different make-up. This will result in a slight difference in color; however, the difference is often unnoticeable when comparing prints.

Which type of cartridge is right for your business?

Unfortunately, the answer is… it depends. When purchasing print cartridges, it’s critical to research your options online to ensure you find a reliable, high-quality product at a great price. This process can be very time consuming and if you aren’t careful, you may end up ordering the wrong product. Be smart with your shopping!

What to look for when researching the best product for you:

  • Does this product have a guarantee?
  • Are returns acceptable?
  • Is this supplier reputable in the industry?
  • What is the turnaround time for shipping?
  • Is there a large price difference between products?

Be cautious about false advertising. Make sure you are not tricked into paying the price of an OEM cartridge for what is actually an off-brand cartridge. For example, an OEM HP cartridge will have an HP logo on it. If the cartridge says, “can be used in an HP”, it is not an OEM toner.

Advanced Imaging Solutions offers a hassle-free solution to ordering print supplies. Our supply specialist will take the task off your hands and do the work for you. We work with multiple reliable suppliers of each type of print cartridge. This enables our supply specialist to find the best product for you at the best price.

If your team is having to juggle their time to order supplies and schedule repairs for multiple printers, there may be a better solution. Consider a managed print services (MPS) provider to handle the management of your print fleet for you.