The HP Ink Challenge: Are Ink Refills Worth It?

I am a total ink geek.  So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to bring 102 participants into my world of Inkology for six weeks of experiments, learning and discussion about the exciting world of, well, ink!


hp_samplecolor.jpgThough the HP Ink Challenge has concluded since our last update, my head still reels from the tremendous feedback and content we collected from our active group of challengers.  With each new challenge, participants were able to explore some of the pre-existing biases they may have had about remanufactured and refilled inks while learning more about the quality and value of Original HP inks. We found a group of people where almost half (47%) bought refill ink cartridges. And they quickly began to realize that it’s more than just saving a couple bucks per ink cartridge that matters. We managed to get the participants thinking (and talking!) about other important considerations in determining value such as ink reliability, ink quality, cartridge yield and the difference in the retail experiences of purchasing Original HP versus refill inks.  


Our participants learned firsthand that while refilled ink cartridges might be a bit cheaper up front, they can carry a number of hidden costs that can add up in the form of expensive leaks, multiple reprints and wasted time.  Is that kind of risk worth saving a few bucks?  Let’s see what our challengers had to say about that …


Participant Pam Thompson, saw the light pretty quickly: “I see that I have been WASTING money with refill inks. The yield is lower (by quite a bit so far) and the quality is inferior. … the refills were only $5 less. In my mind, that $5 is just not worth it.”


Check out Pam’s prints below (Original HP ink on left, refill ink right):



Jim Mindy concurs. With refills, saving money up front can in fact cost more in the long run: “I have not bought refills in the past, but have bought off brands of ink to put in my HP printers to save a few bucks.  Now that I have done this challenge, I see that the savings is not worth it.


Jim’s prints below (Original HP ink left, refill ink right):



A recurring theme over the course of the Challenge was the refill experience itself.  Over half of our participants had to visit two or more retailers before successfully getting their cartridges refilled.  One out of 4 surveyed participants experienced a Dead On Arrival failure with their refill cartridges and did not make it through the first print assignment! 


Sure, there is always the possibility that you may have an OK experience with refills – but the odds are stacked against you.  From the Challenge, I observed that very few participants were satisfied with refills … and even when they were, they still had to contend with banding and other color issues.


Sarah Wood tweeted: “think the refillers cracked my cartridge because wham suddenly ink is EVERYWHERE....after the second usage.”


Kory Prince expressed his dissatisfaction with his experience saying: “Not only did [the refillers] underestimate their ability and time to refill, but they forced me to make two trips. I live 20 minutes from OfficeMax so if you factor in gas, I spent another 5 to 7 dollars on gas. It was fairly frustrating.”


Something else that our participants experienced during the Ink Challenge was that the best print experience was obtained when they used their HP printers, paper and cartridges as one system.  Participant Teresa Wendt commented: “I never would have believed that using all one brand would make such a difference had I not seen it with my own eyes.  Sure Brand X printer and Brand Y paper might give acceptable results but what a difference using the whole HP system!”


Why the big difference?

It’s because HP has developed its ink manufacturing processes over decades of significant R&D investments.  It takes three to four years just to develop one new ink formula that ensures that all the elements—the ink cartridge, the printer and paper—work optimally together to deliver consistent and superior print quality. 


(The HP ink formula alone is capable of generating up to 72.9 million colors with prints that can last over 60 years!)


Oh, and remember those 47% of people we surveyed who bought refill ink in the year prior to the Ink Challenge? After our little experiment, only 12% are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to buy refills. 34% would NEVER buy refills again….and 96% are likely to stick with Original HP Ink in the future



Still thinking about buying refills? 


I hope you’ve found the findings from the Ink Challenge as meaningful as I have.  Feel free to leave a comment, or follow me on Twitter: @ThomatHP.


(And you are still welcome to try our tests on your own right here.)



Till next time – happy printing!




Thom Brown is HP's resident "Inkologist". Get to know Thom a little more by following him on Twitter (@ThomatHP, #inkology) or watching him on YouTube (


by reehasmith
on ‎12-02-2011 11:01 PM

I agree with you that by using refill Ink we can save money for a short period of time however we spend much more when our printer will goes down and not works. so its better to use Original ink instead of going for low quality ink and save money. there are many dealers however Ink toners are the best if searching online. 

by haihand
on ‎02-10-2012 07:18 PM

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by rebeccathomaz
on ‎05-21-2012 12:34 AM

When shopping for ink, the first challenge most consumers face is finding the right cartridge at the right price.

by brucesckwack
on ‎05-22-2012 03:45 AM

ink cartridges cheap london


Still, despite the challenge in finding recyclers in your area that are willing to pay for old ink cartridges, it's worth the effort.

by wedge1620
on ‎04-25-2013 06:18 AM

First off, I AM an ink refiller so my comments may be seen as bias but I work with this stuff everyday.


Second, WOW, what an indepth study (Sarcasm).  What cartridges were used?  What printer was used?  How many prints did an OEM cartridge get versus a refill?  And on and on and on...


If you are going to publish something as a "Study"  make it more than a commercial for your inks....

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