Who is rich enough to buy genuine HP toner cartridges?

I returned to stay at my grad student apartment in Cambridge, Maskachusetts (pre-2020 it was popular on AirBnB, but despite a 25 percent rate cut (via Bidenflation) it sits vacant much of the time these days) while teaching at MIT. I found that the HP 400 MFP M475dw printer cartridges had been depleted by the AirBnB guests. I went onto Amazon and found a genuine HP replacement set at a shocking $484:

The printer itself, including four cartridges, cost $750 in 2012 (equivalent to 1,000 of today’s mini-dollars).

I elected to buy refilled cartridges for $70:

Who is actually rich enough to pay for the genuine HP-brand cartridges? HP claims that the yield will be roughly 2,000 pages so the HP cartridges will cost 24 cents per page. The ghetto-brand folks say that their cartridges will yield more than 4,000 pages, about 2 cents per page(!).

I would love to know who says “I don’t mind paying $484 rather than $70”!

Another question is why the refillers don’t want customers to send back the spent HP cartridges. The box says “made in China”, but they need to get their old cartridges from somewhere, right?

18 thoughts on “Who is rich enough to buy genuine HP toner cartridges?

  1. The remanufactured cartridges are a crap shoot. They seldom work as well as the originals, nor last as long without issues. Some don’t work at all. Hopefully they don’t damage the printer (i.e. leaking all over the place). Maybe buy a more modern printer that deals with the refill issue better? Epson finally made their own, after having to endure 3rd party mod kits on older printers: https://www.amazon.com/Epson-EcoTank-Wireless-Supertank-Document/dp/B08R5GXCB1

  2. Had a few grad school classmates who owned rental properties. Being able to buy a rental property by grad school age nowadays sounds extraordinary. Income was a lot closer to asset prices 30 years ago.

  3. I have ultra old duplex b&w HP, native high-yield cartridge is 3c per page after latest “no inflation” price increases. Used to be around 2c originally. May be your model is for “home use”, aka “go broke on supplies?”

    I also have refillable Epson for occasional color printing and printing from iDevices. It’s great, but nozzles dry up periodically due to being rarely used. It takes multiple cleaning runs to clean them.

  4. Heh. When I lived in Baltimore a long, long time ago, for about a year I ran a pretty good side-hustle business recharging HP toner cartridges for old LaserJets. Those cartridges were comparatively easy to disassemble, clean, and recharge with a new main “pull” seal and new toner. I used to wear an N95 mask and did the “blow out” and cleaning outside!

    We still do some of our B&W printing with old HP 8100Ns. They are absolutely bulletproof rugged machines, and they handle 11×17 paper (even most card and cover stock) and will duplex. They have less memory and processing power than a modern pocket calculator though, so complex pages slow the printer down considerably. In any case, we still use them for simple jobs and buy refurbished cartridges from a supplier we’ve known for decades. Supercheap.


    Bulletproof! They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Lol.

    The main things that can go wrong with reman. cartridges are the seals and the photosensitive drum. I doubt they were changed in all four cartridges at $70, but that’s probably OK. If the cartridges have sat out in the open – or even in the machine – for a long time, the drums degrade, causing light printing and occasional streaking if a thing called the “doctor blade” gets pits and scratches in it. If you buy from a supplier who does a lot of them, there are usually no problems, at least with the first recharge. Sometimes a gear tooth will get rounded off or broken, but that’s usually only if the machine has been abused.

    When you unbox the cartridges, you should be able to ease back the little plastic spring-loaded cover that protects the image drum. In most cases you can use the gear train to rotate it by hand. It should only go easily in one direction. If you look carefully, you should be able to see any egregious scratches or junk attached to the drum. Send the cartridge back if that’s the case.

    Sometimes the reman. people will use substandard toner, or toner spec’d. for another machine. This is rare, but it can cause printing problems and a diminished lifespan in terms of clicks/prints. Make a test print and again, if the cartridge performs badly, send it back.

    If I’m not mistaken, it is difficult-to-impossible to recharge the later models of toner cartridges without replacing an RFID chip that “blows” when the toner runs out. The reman. people have a supply of these from somewhere in the Forbidden Zone. We also buy remanufactured fusers and occasionally a rubber roller set for our 8100s. Usually they work fine and last a long time.

    The printer should do its best to calibrate itself (or have a calibration test page) when you replace the cartridge(s). If the colorimetry is way off, send the cartridge(s) back.

    There are some good inkjet machines out there. The main benefit of using an inkjet is that you avoid the high-temperature fusing process, which causes most paper to curl. If you’re not doing any post-processing and it’s small volume, big deal. But if you’re printing thousands of pages and need to fold them, you can have problems.

    Just some ballpark advice and YMMV. Take with a grain of salt because I am not familiar with that machine. I would never buy a brand-new HP cartridge if a remanufactured alternative is available, however, unless I was trying to get top dollar selling an expensive machine. I’m not rich enough either.

    Please do a follow up and let us know how that set of cartridges works!

  5. I tossed my 7 year old OfficeJet Pro X551dw a few weeks ago. A new set of HP cartridges would have cost more than the printer itself so I got some cheap third-party cartridges from a German vendor. After installing them, the left 1/8 of the magenta channel got irrecoverably clogged. I also have a 2 year old Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16600 that is not as fast, but superior in all other aspects and the ink bottles are dirt cheap.

    Any cartridge system is a license to gouge, I will only buy ink tank printers from now on (or possibly the HP NeverStop bottled toner lasers).

  6. I bought a used (like new condition) hp color LaserJet Pro M251n for 75 bucks, with working cartridges. Refill for all color toner catridges will only cost me 40 bucks from third party vendor. Prints great (knock on wood), my first color printer and I love it. I stayed away for a long time because of the costs of cartridges and the printer themselves when priced new.

  7. > Another question is why the refillers don’t want customers to send back the spent HP cartridges. The box says “made in China”, but they need to get their old cartridges from somewhere, right?

    Sounds like they might be coming off the same assembly line as the genuine cartridges!

  8. Dover was the brand name of the printer: https://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/X750.86. It used the Press raster printer language, which was a predecessor of Interpress, which in turn was reimplemented by the PARC alumni who founded Adobe as PostScript.

    Xerox had a thing for giving PARC-related products names beginning with D, like the Dandelion and Daybreak workstations that competed with Symbolics and LispMachine from the MIT side of the US. But the name Dover was earlier and probably unrelated.

  9. Our last two printers, both HP Inkjets, died when I switched from original HP cartridges to refilled ones. We’re not rich enough to buy a new printer once a year, so we bought an Epson EcoTank printer. The MSRP for a bottle of ink is $14.

  10. This is easy – the same people who buy the full price cartridges are the ones who buy jet fuel without a CAA discount. I see it happen ALL THE TIME. If you can fill up your G5 on the rack rate for fuel (watched this happen in Florida last week, girl behind desk confirmed), you probably wipe your @ss with the HP cartidges….

  11. I ordered “compatible” cartridges for my HP color laser printer in mid-2022. I don’t print much, but so far haven’t seen any issues. Good luck with yours.

  12. @philg: > “I started with laser printing in 1979 and never looked back!”

    Epson is completely phasing them out. Sustainability, power consumption, climate change.

    “We’ve long been committed to sustainable inkjet technology and have now decided to phase out sales of laser printer hardware. As a company, we’re totally committed to sustainable innovation and action, and inkjets simply use less energy and fewer consumable parts. While laser printers work by heating and fusing toner to a page, Epson’s Heat-Free inkjet technology consumes less electricity by using mechanical energy to fire ink onto the page,” he said.”


    Where Epson goes, who else will follow?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *