Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, or “the new MacBook”, are some of the best notebook computers you can buy. But they’re also pretty expensive. A few tips and tricks can help the smart shopper save a few bucks while still taking a bite into the Apple life.
If you already have a MacBook, either get a trade-in deal when buying a new MacBook or sell it online yourself. But even if you don’t have a MacBook yet, you can save money by knowing how to shop for one.
Remind Yourself Why You Want It and Set a Budget
Once you start looking for deals, it’s easy to get “deal blindness”. That’s when you end up spending $50 more for a larger hard drive, or getting a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air just because you found a good deal on the Pro. The best deal available isn’t necessarily the best deal for you!
Before you start looking around, figure out if you should buy a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, and what specifications you need. Write down the reasons you want those particular specifications or features e.g. “I want a MacBook Air because I need to carry it around the university all the time.”
Similarly, before you start, figure out a budget. Write down why you have chosen that budget, and how flexible you can be with it.
These two reminders are crucial because the moment you see deals, you’ll be tempted to spend a little extra or buy more than what you need. But the smart shopper knows that the laptop isn’t the be-all and end-all of the MacBook experience. You could be spending that money on other items like the super-useful Apple Care extended warranty.
Buy at the Right Time
When buying a new laptop, you certainly won’t like seeing a new model released just a week after your purchase. Thankfully, Apple is generally quite predictable when it comes to new MacBook releases, so it’s easy to find out when the new model will hit the shelves.
- Number of days since the current model was released
- Average number of days between models
- Number of days between all recent releases of that product line
- Rumors about the new product and what features it will have
- Ratings: Buy Now / Neutral / Caution / Don’t Buy
Before you purchase any new Apple product, I highly advise that you check out the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide.
Once you know when the new model will be released, make a decision on whether you want to wait or not. Typically, the current models in the product line drop in price after the new models are out. So you can stick to your original budget and buy the new product, and save money on upgrading later; or buy the previous generation model and save about $100-$200.
Apple price tracker DealNews says the best time to buy a MacBook Air is in November and in January, based on discount data from the past.
If you’re a student, a teacher, or the parent of a student, be on the lookout for Apple’s back-to-school promotions from July to September, where you can get some neat accessories or good deals on exchanges. Education pricing also offers slight discounts on all Mac models and iPads all year round.
The Apple Store Doesn’t Always Offer the Best Deals
You can purchase the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from an Apple Store retail outlet or Apple’s online store, but expect to pay the recommended retail price. However, if you were to try and purchase it from an authorized Apple reseller like Amazon, you’ll often find the same laptop at about $100 less. And no, there is nothing different about the product itself, no matter where you buy it from.
Benefits of Buying From the Apple Store
“There is the issue that if you don’t buy from a retail location and want to return the machine in-store, then you can’t do a straight swap. You either have to go through original retailer or Apple’s online warranty system,” says our Mac editor Tim Brookes. “I found this out when I tried to swap an iPhone I’d bought from Apple’s online store on a warranty claim a few years ago. They ‘can’t’ do it, apparently.”
However, you’ll get a great discount on Apple’s online store if you are a student (check out the Apple store for students) or work at a company that is part of the Apple Employee Purchase Program.
Pro Tip: The Apple Employee Purchase Program doesn’t seem to actually check if you are eligible! Go to the Apple Store for Businesses and you’ll see discounted products ready for purchase. Try it out, and if it works, you just got yourself a no-fuss discount. I don’t know how long it will take Apple to fix this loophole once it finds out though.
Benefits of Not Buying From the Apple Store
The only real upside of not buying from the Apple Store is that you will almost always save some money. To find the best deal, go to MacPrices.
MacPrices gathers the latest price from all authorized Apple resellers, and it’s the perfect way to compare prices, check what add-ons you get, find out any uncommon conditions you need to be aware of, and whether the seller will charge sales tax on top of the noted price. That last one is important, as it raises your purchase price significantly!
Those add-on bundles can be really enticing. For example, the MacBook Air is already the best value laptop, but it gets even better if you buy it from B&H — even at the $850 price tag, the store is throwing in a free copy of Parallels Desktop to run Windows on Mac.
Remember, even if you don’t buy from an Apple Store, you’re still eligible for Apple’s warranty and all of the same benefits, except for a walk-in replacement. You can also purchase Apple Care protection to further solidify that warranty.
Should You Buy Refurbished or Used MacBooks?
One of the great things about Apple’s laptops are their ability to withstand the test of time. It’s well-known that MacBooks hold their resale value because of this, so it’s safer to buy a refurbished or used MacBook as compared to other laptops. Generally, your options come down to one of three choices.
Buy from Apple’s official refurbished store: Apple takes faulty MacBooks returned by owners, fixes them up, and sells them as refurbished units. Since they’re not brand new laptops, they’re discounted – usually 10-20% lower than the retail price. These refurbished units are tested extensively and Apple guarantees they will work as well as a new model. They’re also backed by a 1-year warranty.
Buy used and tested MacBooks from resellers: Some stores purchase used MacBooks from owners, fix them up and run extensive tests, and then resell them. These stores will offer their own warranty, not Apple. In our guide to buying a refurbished Mac, Matt Smith recommended purchasing from SimplyMac and PowerMax. Another store worth considering is Mac Of All Trades, which offers a 90-day warranty and tests the laptops extensively too. The good news is that these are significantly cheaper than official refurbished MacBooks from Apple.
Buy used MacBooks directly from owners: This is the riskiest option and one I would recommend avoiding when possible, unless you know what you’re doing. You’ll basically be buying directly from Craigslist, eBay, and other such stores. There is no warranty offered; and you’re on your own if scammed. MacBooks are expensive products, so it probably isn’t worth the risk. The upside is that you’ll probably get the cheapest deals this way.
If you’re interested in any of these options, Justin has a detailed guide on how to buy refurbished MacBooks and save money.
Turn Your Savings Into an “Accessories Fund”
Once you’ve purchased your MacBook, it doesn’t end there. You might need a few accessories over its lifetime, like even the simple Apple Mouse. For example, the MacBook Air doesn’t have a DVD drive, so you might need to buy an external DVD drive for it. A broken USB-C power adapter will set you back by $50! Also, Apple doesn’t adhere to most standards used by the industry at large, like a standard HDMI cable.
All of these accessories add to the cost of your MacBook over its lifetime, so turn whatever money you save during your purchase into an “accessories fund”. That, in itself, should be added incentive to save as much as you can while buying your computer. And just in case you manage to save more than you need, heck, jazz up your MacBook with decals and stickers!
The Apple Store Versus the Rest
Do you prefer to buy your Apple products through the Apple Store, whether physical or online? Or do you just go with the best price possible? In fact, does the Apple retail store make you want to buy gadgets there, even if they are cheaper online? Let us know in the comments below.