There are several things to take into account when buying ink cartridges. Firstly, you should start thinking about replacement ink cartridges before you ever even buy your printer.
You need to choose a printer that is specific to your needs and uses ink cartridges that will produce the results you want at an affordable cost. To do this consider what type of printing you will be doing: high volumes of monochrome text or top-quality photo printing?
The biggest decision is choosing between a laser and an inkjet printer. Laser printers produce fast, economic results for high-volume printing but are initially more expensive than inkjet printers. Inkjet printers are generally better for high quality photo printing and can often be bought at rock-bottom prices. But don't just consider the initial cost of buying your printer; in the long term laser printers are usually cheaper to run. Replacing some ink jet cartridges costs almost as much as a brand new printer.
Next, consider the type of ink cartridges your printer uses. Some take combined color cartridges that must be replaced when only one ink has run out, others take separate cartridges for each color - a system that produces better quality prints and gives you the option of only changing the cartridge that is low on ink.
It's also worth taking the time to check information on print yields. Ink cartridge manufacturers should be able to supply you with information on how many pages each individual cartridge can print. Use this to calculate the print cost per page for each printer. This can greatly affect the printer running costs.
Don't be afraid to quiz the sales team at the computer store about the pre-installed ink cartridges when you buy your printer. Printers that take six or eight cartridges are often supplied with only four installed and many printers are sold with 'starter cartridges', ink cartridges that are only half-full.
Once you've bought a printer you'll need to source replacement ink cartridges.
Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) ink cartridges are the most expensive but also guarantee the best quality results. Ink manufacturers spend serious amounts of money improving the quality of their inks to produce vibrant colors, improve fade resistance and ensure top quality prints every time. Compatible cartridges, remanufactured cartridges and ink refills may be cheaper alternatives but won't produce the same results and rarely have the same print longevity of OEM cartridges.
In all, the best advice is to spend a little time doing research - both before you choose a printer to buy and when buying replacement ink cartridges. Taking the time to find out what type of cartridges you're getting and what ink they're filled with will save you time, money and much gnashing of teeth in the long run.