used Mac

Buying a Mac: Is Refurbished a Good Idea?

used MacIt’s natural to be cautious when buying a computer, especially a used computer. I never recommend that people buy a computer they see listed on eBay or Craigslist, as there are just too many scams out there. It’s vital to buy from a trusted source, but you still want a deal. Apple’s best-kept secret is your answer: the refurbished section of Apple’s online store.

Is it Safe?

When you go into an Apple Store and pick out the iMac or MacBook that you want, you know you’re getting a brand new computer that is going to work right out of the box. At least you assume that, and there’s the key to this whole discussion. The fact is that Apple manufactures millions of computers, and like with all manufacturing there is a small percentage that could have a problem. Now Apple backs all of its products very well, and in fact frequently wins awards for its service. But that won’t erase the feeling you’ll have if you’re the one who gets a Mac that doesn’t work right out of the box.

The thing is, those Macs are manufactured by machines, packaged by machines, and shipped by machines. It’s simply not possible to check each one out and make sure it works great. Only a very small percentage ships with a problem that evades quality control. A refurbished Mac, on the other hand, has gone through a thorough process of testing and certification to make sure that it works great, and is fully backed by the same one year warranty Apple includes with brand new computers.

So what exactly is a refurbished Mac? In some cases they were slightly used, in some cases they were returned for technical issues (part of the small percentage), and some are simply bought, opened, and returned because the buyer changed their mind and wants a different model instead. In all of these situations, Apple fully tests the computer, replaces any part that needs replacing, thoroughly cleans and inspects it, makes sure all the original items are present (such as the power cord, manuals, etc.) and repackages it. In effect, this Mac can be seen as a better purchase, because you know this Mac has been fully tested and certified.

And what do you get for all the extra work Apple has done? Well, because it’s refurbished Apple can’t sell it the same as a new computer – they have to reduce the price. In many cases, savings can be substantial. What’s available can change quickly, but at the time of this writing you could get a Mac for as much as $630 off the price of a brand new model. I’ve seen a MacBook Air as low as $719 for what was a $899 model. I use an iMac and a MacBook Air that were both purchase refurbished, and have had no issues at all with them.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking at buying a Mac, and knew you could get the same high quality, with the same full warranty, buy it directly from Apple, and save hundreds doing it – why wouldn’t you buy a refurbished Mac?


4 thoughts on “Buying a Mac: Is Refurbished a Good Idea?

  1. Went to an Apple store with the intention to buy the outgoing 2011 27 inch base model iMac. They sold out. The Apple associate checked availability and only found a refurbished one. I have never bought a refurbished item. But the associate suggested that it is good as new and could actually be better than a new one. I had to decide right away coz she said that refurbished iMacs don’t stay available for long. So I went for it. Now I am really nervous and cross my fingers that I made the right choice. Wish me luck.

    • Remember that Apple backs up their refurbished Macs with the same warranty as a new Mac, and you can (and should) get Apple Care for it as well which provides coverage for three years. If you have any trouble at all, Apple will take care of it. Enjoy your new Mac!

      • I bought a refurbished mac book pro which has been defective from the start. After 5 calls I have finally been offered a replacement or a refund. Which should I take?

        • I’m sorry you had trouble with your Mac. I would recommend going with the replacement, and here’s why: refurbished Macs all included the same full warranty for one year that a new Mac does, so any problems that arise will be taken care of by Apple. As with all manufacturing, sometimes there are issues, however overall Macs have a very low percentage of manufacturing problems. They also last much longer than other computers. Apple has also ranked tops in customer satisfaction for many years now, so you’re in good hands. It can be frustrating when this happens to you, but don’t let that frustration cause a bad decision that you’ll regret later.

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