Remanufactured v OEM Ink Cartridges – What’s the Difference?

While the ink and toner industry isn’t the most glamorous one on earth, it can certainly be one of the more confusing. When you first enter the foray of buying ink, you’ll be beset by terms like “compatible”, “OEM”, “remanufactured”, “original” and so forth and you most likely won’t have a clue where to start.


This confusion can lead to you playing it safe – and expensively – by opting for the cartridges made by the same manufacturer as your printer. After all, what could go wrong? Well, you could be spending way too much money, that’s what could go wrong.

Canny buying saves money

Many people are discouraged from buying anything other than branded, original ink cartridges made by the same company that made their printer because they’ve heard the horror stories. Using different cartridges will break the printer and the company won’t honour the warranty or the guarantee; the cartridges will leak everywhere and ruin carpets, and so on.

This simply isn’t true, but, if you are the cautious sort, then you don’t have to stray too far away from the company path. You can buy OEM cartridges instead. If you’re worried in any way about using unbranded inks, then talk to ink cartridge specialist, for example. They’ll be able to walk you through the process of finding affordable inks for your printer without breaking it – or your bank.

What does OEM actually mean?

OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturer”; this means that the printer-maker also makes a certain number of cartridges in its own facilities, but sells them to another company for rebranding, promotion and selling. This means that the cartridges are made exactly the same way as the others, but that the company that buys them is responsible for the costs of branding, selling, storing and promoting them.

This works out well for everyone because the original company, say, Hewlett Packard, takes advantage of its economies of scale to produce large numbers of cartridges, then sells them on and no longer has to worry about the cost of branding and all the rest.

The company that buys the cartridges may not have its own facilities to make them, or can’t make them as cheaply as the bigger manufacturer, so it’s getting relatively cheap stock that is made to a high standard. All it then has to do is take over the process of selling it. The savings that are made here are passed onto the customers.

What does remanufactured mean?

Remanufactured ink cartridges are cartridges that have been made by an OEM maker, but that have been spent (used up) and sent back to another company to be refilled.

Of course the company doesn’t just fill them back up with ink; it dismantles the cartridge case and checks it for defects or excessive wear before filling it with ink. In this way, you’re getting a refurbished cartridge that is pretty much as good as a new one – only cartridges that pass the test get to be refilled.

So you see, there’s not a huge amount of difference between remanufactured and OEM cartridges – except for the price, which, when you’re looking after your budget, is an important consideration!