Compatible, remanufactured and refilled cartridges – what's the difference?


Compatible, remanufactured and refilled ink and toner cartridges – huh? Here's a handy little guide that spells out their respective differences.

Buying ink and toner cartridges should be a simple affair. Thing is, type printer ink into Google and you start getting all these different types popping up – Compatible? Remanufactured? Refilled?

Saving money is becoming an important concern for many people, making these alternatives a really useful solution.

But many people think they should only use branded printer ink and toner – believing other types might damage their printer in some way, or produce less quality prints.

This is rarely the case – alternative ink and toner cartridges are perfectly capable of performing as good as – if not better than – their original brothers and sisters.

And with budgets increasingly stretched – it's no surprise that these products, which can offer the same or superior quality, are proving popular.

Compatible cartridges

Compatible cartridges are cartridges that, typically, haven't been made by what is known as the OEM – the original equipment manufacturer. So ones made direct by Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Brother, etc.

Usually compatible cartridges are produced by a third-party firm. Apart from that, there is very little discernable difference – they are designed to work in your printer in exactly the same way as branded cartridges.

They're also quite versatile, because they are designed to function with a range of printer types, rather than just one.

Buying compatible cartridges – especially online – also tends to be cheaper than buying those from the OEM.

Remanufactured cartridges

Compatible and remanufactured cartridges are often mixed up and thought of as being the same thing.

They're not – there are some important differences. Whereas a compatible cartridge is a brand-new product, a remanufactured one takes parts of an original cartridge – namely the shell and the printhead – and, well, remanufactures it – by refilling, repairing and refurbishing it.

A good way to think of it is like a recycled cartridge. Remanufactured cartridges tend to be a cheap option – and are a way to do your bit for the environment, too.

Refilled cartridges

A refilled cartridge is an ink cartridge that can be refilled using a home refill kit. As long as they're looked after properly, they can be used many times over.

Home refill kits are pretty cheap to buy – after the initial purchase the only outlay you'll face is buying ink to keep them topped up, which is fairly inexpensive.

However, it is the case that the quality of a refilled cartridge will start to diminish over time, even if you work hard to keep it in top notch condition.


The type of cartridge you ultimately go for will depend on what your printing needs are. However, an important thing to note is that it's certainly not the case that remanufactured, compatible and refilled cartridges are inferior alternatives to genuine products.


But why choose INKredible for your cartridge needs?

We asked our General Manager, Tom Coley the same question. You can read his answer here.