Refillable vaping pod systems vs. prefilled: what’s the difference?

Over the past few years, pod systems have become so popular among members of the vaping community that almost all of the fastest-selling vaping devices on the market today are pod-based. However, when people talk about pod-based vaping devices, they’re really talking about two types of e-cigarettes that have little in common other than that they store e-liquid in plastic pods.

One of the main differences between pre-filled and refillable pod systems is how they are marketed. While refillable pod systems made by companies like McKesse are often sold in vape stores, you’re more likely to find prefilled pod systems in places like convenience stores and gas stations.

So, are you better off buying a refillable pod system or a unit that uses pre-filled pods? In this article, we will help you through the buying process by explaining the difference between these two e-cigarettes.


What is a pod system?
Before we discuss the differences between pre-filled and refillable pod systems, we’ll first explain what both types of vaping have in common: the pods themselves. In a pod system, the device’s e-liquid and atomizer coil are contained within a translucent plastic pod. A pod is a snap-in component, usually attached magnetically, that you simply lift to remove it from the device.

Unlike vape cans, which are available for all threaded vaping devices, vape pods are proprietary. This means that the pod system only works with the pods it was designed for, not third-party add-ons. However, the pods are designed specifically for the device, which means that the pod system is often one of the sleekest and most stylish vaping devices on the market.


What is a refillable pod system?
A refillable cartridge system is a vape kit that is sold empty, without e-liquid. You buy the device and the e-liquid separately, and fill your own pods. When a pod is empty, you will repopulate it. You can usually refill a vape pod several times before the flavor quality starts to degrade. At that point, you’ll either be replacing the atomizer coil or the entire pod, depending on the design of the device.

Advantages of Fillable Pod Systems
Refillable pod systems have many advantages over pre-filled systems, the biggest of which is variety. In some regions, laws and regulations prevent manufacturers of prefilled cartridge systems from offering cartridges in flavors other than tobacco and menthol. But even where legal restrictions don’t exist, there aren’t any prefilled pod systems that offer a variety of flavors. With a pre-filled system, on the other hand, you can fill your pods with bottles of e-liquid—meaning you have almost endless flavor options.

Another benefit of refillable pod systems is that they are more advanced than pre-filled devices, often offering better flavor quality and steam production. In comparison, prefilled e-cigarettes are a bit underpowered and often taste a bit “plastic.”

A final benefit of refillable pod vapes is that buying bottled e-liquid is more affordable in the long run than pod pods. A prefilled pod lasts a day or so at best, but a bottle of salt nicotine e-juice lasts a few days—even if you’re a heavy vaper.

Disadvantages of Fillable Pod Systems
The only real downside to refillable pod systems is the same one inherent to all pod-based devices: they’re proprietary and only work with the pods they’re designed for. However, some pod systems add more flexibility by offering multiple pod or coil options. Since you can have a different vaping experience by using a different coil or installing a cartridge with a different coil, a refillable cartridge system can offer similar flexibility to what you get with a full-fledged vape mod. Check out devices like the mckesse SPIDER SE for the full possibilities of a refillable pod system.

Example of a refillable pod system: SPIDER
Everything you loved about the original SPIDER, but better. The SPIDER SE features improved airflow, faster coil swapping and simpler controls, all in a smaller package.
What is a pre-filled pod system?
Prefilled cartridge systems differ from refillable cartridge systems in that these cartridges are shipped filled with e-liquid and are not designed to be refilled. Pods are usually sold in packs of two or four and are ready to use immediately after opening the package. All you need to do is put the pod in a fully charged battery and start vaping. When a pod becomes empty, you discard it and replace it with a new one.

Advantages of Pre-Filled Pod Systems
One of the great benefits of prefilled pod systems is that they are readily available in the same stores that sell tobacco products. They are the type of vaping devices sold at most convenience stores and gas stations. The availability of vaping kits at traditional tobacco retailers is a good thing as it encourages smokers to switch to vaping. Pre-filled pod systems are the perfect introduction to vaping, although most vapers will eventually move away from pre-filled devices and look for better performance and a wider variety of products.

Another benefit of pre-loaded pod systems is that they are convenient and easy. Aside from recharging the battery and changing pods when needed, the pre-loaded pod system is maintenance-free and always ready to use. This makes the pre-populated pod system a good option for those who don’t like gadgets and don’t want to go through the hassle of maintaining them – but we’ll talk about a better option shortly.

Disadvantages of pre-filled pod systems
Although prefilled pod systems offer a high level of convenience, they also have a number of disadvantages that you should consider if you are hesitating and not sure which type of vaping device you should buy. The first disadvantage is that pre-filled pod systems tend to be very expensive to use. Because prefilled cartridges only work with the cartridges they were designed for, and only with e-liquid provided by the device manufacturer, prefilled cartridges typically cost only slightly less than cigarettes.

Another problem with prefilled pod systems is that there have been very few new products in this product category over the past few years. Pod-based devices have been on the market for more than five years, and they’ve changed little in that time. As a result, most prefilled pods available today are widely considered obsolete by modern standards. They don’t do much in terms of battery life or steam production. As we mentioned above, many people also find that the taste quality of prefilled pods is simply not great compared to refillable devices.

A final downside to prefilled pod systems is that they have an extremely limited selection of flavors compared to refillable devices. When you use a refillable pod system, you can fill it with whatever bottled e-liquid you want. Because of the competition among e-juice manufacturers, you’ll pay less — but more importantly, you’ll have a wider selection of flavors. At any vape store, you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of different flavors of e-liquid. With such a wide selection, you’re sure to find something that best suits your personal tastes. On the other hand, if you bought a pre-filled pod system and don’t like the flavor assortment, you’re out of luck and you’ll have to live with a poor flavor selection or buy a whole new unit.

Example of a pre-filled pod system: CAPTAIN
The CAPTAIN Pod is equipped with Aquios water-based atomization technology. This provides smoother steam, quicker satisfaction and unrivaled flavor clarity. A unique e-cigarette experience.

For Convenience No Downsides, Try Disposable Vapes
As we explained in the previous section, the convenience of using a pre-pod system comes with some considerable downsides in terms of performance, price structure, and flavor selection. However, the ease and convenience of using a vaping device doesn’t necessarily mean you need to put up with a sub-average vaping experience. While the development of prefilled pods has largely stagnated over the past few years, the technology behind disposable e-cigarettes has advanced by leaps and bounds.
If you want the convenience of a pre-filled vaping device without the drawbacks, modern disposable vaping has largely made pre-filled vaping systems obsolete and has essentially captured this part of the market.

Disposable e-cigarettes are more convenient than pre-filled pod systems because they require no maintenance at all – they’re ready to use right out of the pack and don’t need to be charged or refilled. You can carry the disposable e-cigarette in your pocket wherever you go, and just take a puff when you need nicotine – and when the battery dies, you throw away the device. This is even simpler than using the pod system.

Price is another area where disposable e-cigarettes have a huge advantage over prefilled pods. When you buy pre-filled pods, you are locked into that brand’s ecosystem and have no choice but to pay top dollar for refills. With disposable e-cigarettes, on the other hand, you’re never on a single device for more than a few days, and you can switch brands at any time. Because competition among disposable e-cigarette manufacturers is fierce, prices are much more reasonable. If you switch from smoking to disposable e-cigarettes, you’ll enjoy a high level of convenience — but you won’t be paying more for it.