OEM vs. New Compatible Toner: Which is Right for You?


We talk a lot about how printing costs are a significant part of office expenses and what steps you can take to control them (an entire white paper, actually). But did you know you could immediately reduce your printing bill without changing any of your team’s behaviours with one simple hack?

What is this magical hack? Simple, buy less expensive toner… but without sacrificing any of your printing quality or invalidating your printer’s warranty!

In this article, we are going to take a look at two of the most common types of toner cartridges, OEM and Compatible, how they differ, and how you could save your business a ton of money simply by purchasing one over the other.

What is an OEM Toner Cartridge?

An OEM Cartridge is made by the Original Equipment Manufacturer, in other words, the company that made your printer also made the cartridge. For example, if you own a Ricoh printer, then Ricoh is the maker of OEM cartridges for your device.

What is a Compatible Toner Cartridge?

A compatible toner cartridge a generic cartridge made by a third-party manufacturer from parts compatible with your printer. In some places, compatible toner is also called clone toner as they are essentially an off-brand copy of the OEM cartridges. A well-made compatible toner cartridge is designed to work exactly the same as your OEM toner cartridge. However, whenever buying a compatible or clone toner cartridge you must always check if you are buying a new compatible cartridge rather than a refilled or remanufactured toner cartridge as some less reputable brands may not clearly disclaim which they are selling.

(click here to read what is a remanufactured toner cartridge)

How Do OEM and Compatible Cartridges Compare?

OEM Toner cartridges are manufactured specifically for your device so you know that they will work, and if there is an issue, the manufacturer warranty will cover it. These toners generally have low failure rates and provide high print quality as they’re specifically designed for that particular printer or copier. 

Printer manufacturers recommend that you use their OEM toner cartridges as they claim that a laser printer can be damaged by using unbranded toner cartridges. Let’s unpack that claim a little. We have serviced hundreds of thousands of printers over the decades we have been in this industry and we have found that properly installed, new compatible cartridges do not damage printers. 

Where danger can lie, is when people confuse a new compatible cartridge for a used, remanufactured or refilled cartridge.

The one, significant downside to OEM toners is that they are significantly more expensive than a compatible cartridge.

On the other hand, a compatible toner cartridge will carry a notably lower sticker price.

Some vendors claim that their compatible toner offers better print quality than the OEM but we have yet to see solid evidence of this claim. Most times, the quality is comparable or in the case of high-resolution printers, the OEM could win out.

The same debate is often had around the yield of compatible cartridges, however, this one is much easier to prove or disprove. Page yields (the count of how many pages your toner cartridge should produce before running out) should be clearly labelled on the packaging of any toner cartridge, OEM or compatible. So, whenever buying toner, be sure to compare the page yield of your model!

The largest downside to new compatible cartridges is that you must get them from a reputable source. Since they are not produced by your printer’s manufacturer, it can be much harder to differentiate between a high- and low-quality compatible toner brand and a low-quality toner cartridge may have a higher failure rate out of the box.

This means that it becomes extremely important to buy your compatible toner through a vendor who will guarantee the quality of what you are buying. For example, at Office Interiors, if we sell you a defective toner cartridge we will replace it at no charge… OEM or compatible.

So Which Should You Buy?

As you can see, there are not many downsides to using OEM toner cartridges, except that you will likely be paying more than you need. So, for many of our customers, the better option here is pretty clear. New compatible cartridges are much less expensive but work just as well as their counterpart OEM cartridges. They eliminate the risk of buying defective toner cartridges by buying through a vendor who guarantees the quality of their product. 

If you are not sure which solution is better for you or you have other questions about compatible toner cartridges, our supplies experts would be happy to lend you their experience, just drop us a note on this page or by emailing supplies@officeinteriors.ca

Cory Porteous
Director of Marketing & Business Development
Office Interiors

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