Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value?

Justin Pot 28-01-2015

You’ve probably heard it before: Macs may cost more, but they hold their value. You get more of the up-front cost back by selling your Mac. Is this true, and if so why?


Jeff Trachsel, the CMO of electronics reseller NextWorth, says Mac fans aren’t just crazy: the trend is real.

“Apple products are generally worth about twice as much as other devices at the same period in their lifecycle,” he said in a Gizmodo article published back in 2013.

Some Quick, Unscientific Research

This intrigued me, so I quickly did some research.

Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? used mac kitten

I turned to eBay, looking only at recently completed auctions. First I looked for my laptop: an early 2011 13 inch Macbook Pro with 500 GB of hard drive space, 4 GB of RAM and an i5 Intel processor. It’s nothing fancy, but I couldn’t find anything selling for less than $400 – and it wasn’t uncommon for them to sell for $600 or more. Even broken Macbooks sell for $250.


I also checked for my wife’s newer laptop, a Lenovo Ideapad u410 with 8 GB of RAM, 750 GB of hard-drive space and an i5 Processor. It was made in late 2012, and is is almost identical to my Macbook in terms of size and weight. The metal case is also similar. In spite of this, I couldn’t find any of these laptops selling for anything more than $500 – and it wasn’t uncommon for them to sell for as little as $250 (which, again, broken Macbooks were selling for).

This indicates there’s a range of prices where these laptops overlap. But overall my Macbook sells for more than my wife’s newer, and arguably nicer, Ideapad. You can do your own research, if you like, but generally you’ll find the same conclusion: Macs sell for more than PCs with similar specs.

Supply And Demand Is What’s At Work

Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? used macbook high price

Why is that? As with any price, supply and demand are the two factors here. And they both work toward higher prices for used Macs. A quick summary:

  • Low Supply: Apple sells a lot of Macs, but there are still way more PCs out there overall. If you’re looking for a used Mac, you’re buying from a smaller pool of sellers than someone open to buying a PC.
  • High Demand: Lots of people want Macs, and if you want to spend less than $899 for a laptop then you’ll need to buy used.

Higher Initial Cost

Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? 1 used imac sales

Let’s get this out of the way: part of this has to do with up-front cost. This is debatable if you only compare high-end PCs to Macs (Apple doesn’t compete at all in the low-end market, with only a few products aimed at mid-market), but it’s true overall: Macs cost more.

This explains, in part, why used Macs sell for more. But it’s hardly the whole story: Macs tend to hold more of their initial value than PCs.

“Apple products are generally worth about twice as much as other devices at the same period in their lifecycle,” says Trachsel.


Part of this might be the appeal of OS X, and all the great Mac software that comes pre-installed The Best Default Mac Apps That You Shouldn't Need to Replace Here are some of the best default, pre-installed, native Mac apps worth using. Don't ditch them before you try them! Read More . But there’s more at work here.

No Cheaper New Options Means Higher Demand

Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? used imac sales prices

When it comes to finding cheap Macs The Best Sites To Find Cheap Mac Computers There are two ways to overcome the price obstacle to find cheap Mac computers: bite the bullet, or use the Internet to save yourself a packet and have a shiny Mac delivered to your door. Read More , used is basically the only option.

If you want to buy a laptop for $500, you’ve got a lot of choice. There’s the used market, sure: you might be able to find an older high-end laptop for that price if you dig long enough. But there are also plenty of brand new laptops you can buy for $500 or less. They’re not top-of-the-line, sure, but they come with warranties and that new laptop smell people love so much. Lots of people will look at these laptops before even considering the used market.


But what if you want to buy a Mac laptop, specifically, for $500 or less? There are no new options: the Macbook Air starts at $900. You could potentially buy a refurbished Mac from Apple Buying a Refurbished Mac? 10 Things You Need to Know Looking to buy a refurbished Mac? Here are several important points you should know about the process. Read More , but you’re not likely to save more than $100 or so. This means anyone looking for an affordable Mac laptop is looking for a used laptop – and there are a lot of people doing this. Trachsel says demand for used Macs is higher than PCs “by a factor of two”.

Put simply: used Macs are a sellers market.

There’s A Smaller Supply Of Used Macs

Apple’s sales are higher than than ever as more people switch their PCs for Macs, 8 Reasons Why I Switched To A Mac I've been using Macs for about 5 years now, and before that I was a 100% Windows and PC guy. What happened exactly? Why did I switch? Without wishing to start a flame war, here... Read More  and Apple’s computers made up 14 per cent of the US computer market late last year. From IDC’s quaterly summary of the PC market:

Apple Tax: Why Do Macs Hold Their Resale Value? mac computer sales

This is great news for Apple, but still means that for every 14 Macs sold there are 86 PCs from other vendors. If fewer people own Macs overall, it stands to reason that fewer people will be selling their used Macs later – meaning the supply of used Macs on the market is much lower than that of other PCs. Combined with the higher demand for used Macs, you can see why the higher prices persist.

Again: it’s a seller’s market.

Will This Trend Continue?

I’m simply trying to explain a trend that I’ve noticed – but I could be missing something. I’d love it if you could offer your own explanations in the comments below.

It’s worth pointing out that there are exceptions. There aren’t many legitimate uses for a PowerPC Mac Are There Still Any Legitimate Uses For a PowerPC Mac? Not sure what to do with your old PowerPC Mac? Here are some ideas. Read More at this point, and anyone trying to sell a Mac from that era will probably see less of an advantage. Rumours of Apple switching to their own processor means Intel Macs might meet a similar fate not so long from now.

But I also want to talk to anyone who’s upset by what I’m suggesting. You might not agree that Macs should sell for more than other PCs – and you’ve probably got a good point. Comparing only specs, and arguably even build quality, the prices should be closer. But the market doesn’t lie, and right now used Macs sell for more than used PCs.

So I want to know: do you think this will hold up? Why, or why not? Let’s discuss.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. pixturesk
    May 27, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I have one simple rule when buying an iMac, the only Mac I use, buy it "USED". I am not into the latest + greatest. My iMac is my only piece of Apple hardware. I refuse to become trapped in either the Apple or Google eco-system. At least in my area, in Ontario, Canada, there are always iMacs for sale, many of which are in excellent shape, I am writing this from my early 2008 iMac (4gigs ram, 1tb) running Mountain Lion, a perfect marriage, all that I require.

  2. squeeg
    April 29, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Well, a fool is born everyday....that's really the only logical explanation, here. Just because some moron is willing to pay $600+ for an obsolete machine (or $250 for a broken one, wtf?) doesn't mean they aren't getting ripped off.

  3. Pwillco
    February 9, 2015 at 2:31 am

    In 2007 I bought a used 2004 Powerbook in excellent condition for $700 on craigslist and (somehow) used it as my primary computer until it finally crapped out in 2013 (it was always getting really hot). If I knew how to fix things, I maybe could have saved it before it went dead, but It seemed time to get a new one. I bought a new one almost immediately (a 2012 model macbook pro) and it's still working fine, no issues. I will never buy used mac again, unless money is seriously tight, mostly due to lack of warranty, though.

    • Justin Pot
      February 9, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      I'm really impressed you got 6 years of usage out of a $700 computer. That's impressive no matter what kind of machine it is. Why wouldn't you buy used again, given that return? I'm curious.

  4. Joao
    January 29, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    When you think about laptops, its pretty easy, macbook pros have much higher quality hardware (keyboard, mousepad, screen, wifi adaptor, power supply connectivity with magnets, external battery life indicator, all case brushed metal) than others, even if the internal components are mostly the same as PCs.

    I am a PC user, and alway have been, I am also a programmer, and when it comes to laptops, I always choose macs. I bought a 800 euro (near 1000 dollar) pc for my girlfriend and I think it was my worst purchase of all time, I could have and should have spent an extra 100-200 euro and get her an equivalent performant but much better overall macbook pro.

    And all of this is regardless of operating system, my home PC (not a mac, hackintosh if you will) is running MacOSX and Windows because the hardware you interact with (30' ips monitor, tenkenless matias-mechanical keyboard, high precision mionix laser mouse, etc) are all top of the line, carefully and individually chosen, its perfect for a setup where you have all components in modular fashion.

    But if you must choose a complete and ready package and want high quality components you will usually end up buying a macbook pro or similar, their mouse pad is unmatched, and their keyboards are good, include backlighting (could probably be improved by finding a way to cram a mechanical keyboard into the laptop, but thats probably going to ruin the laptop-iness of it).

    Back in 2009, in my university here in Portugal, there was still a ton of hate towards mac users, mostly because its/was viewed as a elite-only product, and you will get hate because of that fact only. People will label you as a mac-fanboy and completely ignore the why behind the choosing of a macbook instead of some other full-plasticky laptop.

    PROTIP: call them "power cord huggers", because they must use their "transportables" (barely-portable, humongous-ly big laptops) with the power cord lagging behind them that usually dont last more than an hour on batery. Or even "wall socket hunters", again for the same reason. Pair it with "wireless signal hunters" since I could have 70% signal in the middle of the courtyard while they barely had any inside the classrooms.

  5. rich
    January 29, 2015 at 5:06 am

    John Wiliams to the contrary, there is a difference between a wine from the Napa Valley and the same producer's same grape offer from Sonoma. Whether the quality difference justifies the price difference only the buyer knows for sure.

    Under the trimmings, the Ford Escape and Lincoln MKC are the same car - but till each goes to the crusher, the Lincoln will always command the higher price. They started that way and will ontinue that way. That's market reality.

    I have never found anything an Apple can do better for me than my PC does - that's just how I use a computer. YMMV.
    If you think you can get enough extra goodness from a Mac to justify paying the Apple tax - feel free, go for it. Just don't get snooty with those whose experience is different.

  6. Cliff
    January 29, 2015 at 2:40 am

    I sold our two iPads and my wife is using my old 4S. I was tired of the 'walled' garden and use Android for personal devices now. But, I know many people who don't want to fiddle around and midst use iPads or for started with the spinning disk iPods.

    Like the Mac though, they don't need to be worked on.

    If iTunes wasn't so bad there would be many more Apple users. Terrible to deal with.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Me too! I would never buy an iOS device, but I love my Mac. For mobile, though, Android all the way.

  7. Tom West
    January 29, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Most Mac users are members of a computer cult. Apple is best at branding and marketing hands down. However if it wasn't for the iPod and iPhone I wonder if Apple Corp would even be alive today?

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Apple was quite close to dying around the time Steve Jobs took over – they were actually bailed out by Microsoft, if you can believe it. The turnaround started with the iMac, but Apple only became a hugely successful company with the iPod. So to answer you: they probably wouldn't be around without it.

  8. Cliff
    January 29, 2015 at 1:48 am

    I'm sorry. Mid 2009 macbook pro.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      All good, I was just confused!

  9. Cliff
    January 29, 2015 at 1:31 am

    My first is still working just fine. It's a macbook pro - mid 1999. Free, from my home insurance tornado claim. It also came with a free iPod and shipping. My son still uses the iPod. I upgraded the memory and put a SSD drive in it, replaced the DVD with a 1T 7200 drive. The only "maintenance" I've done was out a NOS Apple battery in it. Windows 7 runs pretty well and the Yosemite does a great job.

    My 5 thinkpads can't keep up and still they get ALL of the viruses.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:47 am

      The first iPod didn't come out until 2001, and there is no way you're running Yosemite on a Mac made before 2005 – PowerPC processors don't play nicely with it. Maybe you're not remembering the year properly?

      Or maybe you're attempting to troll, in which case well played.

  10. John Williams
    January 29, 2015 at 12:30 am

    There's no fathoming why people pay double the price for devices that have the same functionality. It's safe to say though, that people are so desperate for the kudos that owning an Apple product appears to give them, that they would rather own a pre-loved Apple than a brand new higher spec device.

    An example is the wine business. People are buying the label, the snob value, the bouquet, the terroir, the je ne sais quas. Some undefinable "something" that sets this wine up as better than that and lay it down in dusty cellars like gold bars.

    For comedy value, the very same CD or black plastic LP that Joe Public can buy miraculously sounds better when played through 500 Dollar speaker cables - that's the cables, not the rest of the gear.

    If you pay more - even second hand, you instinctively convince yourself that you have something "special" - well relatively special, only 14 out of a 100 can have it. Like the HiFi though, it's still the same internet, wifi and phonecall everyone else gets.

    There are many, many places in the world where no-one actually knows what a real Apple product looks like. 2nd user Apple really is a first world exclusive issue. In the land of fake Rolex, any silver Chromebook with an Apple sticker can be used to fleece the gullible. Like the old Rolls Royce in Bangladesh, it will sit in the dealership for years and years. No-one could ever possibly afford it - even secondhand.

  11. Col. Panek
    January 28, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    People pay extra for not-Windows, not realizing that they could run Linux on a cheaper PC for free.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:15 am

      Say you love Linux, but also need Photoshop. The Mac is a nice compromise.

    • Col. Panek
      January 29, 2015 at 1:49 am

      Oh, well, if you "need" Photoshop instead of Gimp, then the boss is paying for it. So, why not get a Mac.

    • Harry
      January 30, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Using GIMP is the closest digital equivalent I've found to having your face banged into the wall. Repeatedly. It is a miserable piece of software!

      • Lazza
        October 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm

        The fact that you are not able to use it does not make it "miserable".

    • Col. Panek
      January 30, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Apparently somebody agrees with you, because they redid the UI and made "Gimpshop". I like the moveable toolboxes on my wide screen when I do photos.

  12. dragonmouth
    January 28, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    The situation is anlogous to cars. If you buy a high priced car, you will want more for it when you sell it, even if it is beat up and rusted out. A used BMW 745 in poor condition will cost more than a the same year used Hyundai Sonata in excellent condition. But then a Bimmer is a status symbol while the Hyundai is just transportation. You pay for the perception.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:14 am

      Do you think it's all perception, though? I sincerely enjoy using OS X more than I do Windows 8, does being willing to pay for that difference necessarily mean I'm obsessed with status?

    • dragonmouth
      January 29, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      "I sincerely enjoy using OS X more than I do Windows 8"
      Bad example. I think most people would choose OS/X over Win 8.

      Windows and OS/X basically offer the same functionality and applications. Apple does have the beautiful design on its side. But is the design enough to justify the premium one pays for basically the same functionality as the ugly products?

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      It's not just that the design looks nice, to me – it's that it works better. For me. I don't care about how people think of me – I mostly work at home, and use the laptop there. I've covered the logo with a sticker, because I hate the branding. I'm actually kind of embarrassed to own a Mac, because of the status thing, but I have it because I think it works better and I'm willing to pay the difference (though I did buy mine used, took a while to find a deal I liked).

    • whaletail
      January 31, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Luxury cars lose a far larger percentage of their initial value , and far quicker, than econoboxes.

      According to the article, Apple products don't.

  13. Anonymous
    January 28, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    I don't believe the trend will continue. Apple has locked them down. Preventing battery, ram and hard drives from being switched on some of their newer computers. Apple has made their computers disposable.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:13 am

      You might have a point, it will be interesting to see how this develops. I'll be watching the used market closely.

  14. nfafan
    January 28, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Not all rainbows, unicorns, and fuzzy puppies in the orchard; you have an old Macbook that can't be upgraded to the latest OS/X - may as well have a paperweight. I can cram Win 7 on a boatload of "old" PCs around the house. Or some flavor of Linux. Not so with wifey's Macbook.

    And don't get me started on the iPad Air I was gifted - my Samsung smartphone is more useful, just nowhere near as much the status symbol.

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 1:12 am

      Is the old Macbook PowerPC? Because if not you should be able to get pretty much any Linux distro onto it.

      I do agree: MacBooks of a certain age aren't as useful. Yet, for some reason, they continue to have value on the used market.

    • Anonymous
      January 29, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Why not just run windows on it and ditch Mac OS X if you'd rather? Even older MacBooks
      can do that...

      • Amar
        April 16, 2016 at 3:51 pm

        With Windows even the mac hardware could become garbage. I mean virus. So why risk it?

  15. Drew
    January 28, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    This seems right on. I'm looking for a Mac right now - not because I prefer them over Windows, but because I want to release my apps on iOS. I'm gonna end up paying twice as much as I would on a similar Windows system, but hey - I need one. What can ya do?

    • Justin Pot
      January 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      This is a good point I never thought of: iOS developers need to have Macs, don't they? I wonder how much of the recent rise in Mac sales is directly tied to that...

      • theo
        January 10, 2016 at 6:22 am

        As well as the rise in devs scrounging for cheap used macs... Like me :(. Even used and outdated as all get out, they're STILL too ridiculously expensive.

  16. 16UE
    January 28, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    The problem with Apple products is that only Apple makes them and if one likes them, one has to buy them from Apple. Very few components can be swapped out with a third party units. When a part breaks in a used Mac, sourcing the replacement part will be limited as well. I just prefer to have choices, at least more than one choice.

    • Donna Beede
      January 29, 2015 at 1:32 am

      You can find parts for old Macs on ebay.

  17. Maarten De Winter
    January 28, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Nice article.This is definitely worth more investigation, but for now: Great work!

    The status of an Apple product stays higher than any other brand. This is an aspect of consumer preferences. I think much people associate owning a Mac with having a higher status in life. It maybe sounds silly, and it can happen unconscious, but it certainly plays a role in choosing products to buy.

    Economics isn't always about numbers, graphs,... there's definitely a lot of psychology involved as well. And that's what makes it more interesting. "How will people react to a price change on this brand vs another one?". In this case, people are willing to pay more for a brand like Apple, just because it's Apple. It's luxury, even if they put some med-range specs in a high-range price. But that's just my opinion.

    I'm not that kind of an Apple fan because 1, I can't afford it to spend so much money for less specs. And 2, in my current lifestyle, Windows fits a lot better than Mac OS.

    Justin, very nice, and this is certainly stuff to discuss about.

    • Chris
      January 29, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      "Economics isn’t always about numbers, graphs,… there’s definitely a lot of psychology involved as well."

      That "psychology" can be quantified as a higher demand graph through brand recognition and marketing.

      I own a mac and am still a PC person at heart but I don't regret my purchase decision. Firstly, I was able to get my mac heavily discounted. Just because you don't know where to get good deals and when to get them, doesn't mean they're always overpriced. Secondly, my MacBook Air holds the longest charge I have ever seen in any PC laptop I have ever owned. By the time I purchase a laptop with a 12 cell battery, it'd be more clunky and expensive as a Macbook Air. On top of that, the weight on most PCs are simply much heavier than the Aluminum chassis. All I'm saying is there is some merit to these purchase decisions instead of it all being psychology.

      Otherwise, great article by Justin.

    • Justin Pot
      February 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks for the input, guys! The battery life thing is a huge deal for the Air, and shows what you can do when the same company makes the OS and the hardware.

      There's lots to learn about the market by looking at used Mac prices, I might need to put even more thought into it and do a follow-up at some point.

  18. Tim
    January 28, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    I think it might also have something to do with the fact that Apple products don't change a whole lot from version to version.

    Granted, I've never owned one (and frankly couldn't justify the price even if I wanted one) but it seems like the macs of today don't really look/behave much different from the macs of a few years ago. Whereas with windows computers theres always a radically different OS and a different 'new' design to draw people in.

    • Anonymous
      January 29, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      You really have to define what kind of change this is. If you're talking about OS and Chassis design, probably only slightly. However I'm sure the hardware changes at the same rate (albeit higher in price) as the rest of the industry.

    • Justin Pot
      February 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      I don't know, I look at newer MacBook Pros and they're a lot smaller than mine – probably because the optical drive is gone. But that's certainly an industry-wide trend.

      Anyway, interesting thoughts.

  19. Leah
    January 28, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    So basically a Mac holds it's value because all things Apple are priced high, so the only way to buy one is at a high price, new or used.

    • Justin Pot
      January 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      That's not the whole story: there's also a lot of people looking for used Macs.

  20. Stephen
    January 28, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    "There aren’t many legitimate uses for a PowerPC Mac at this point"

    I like this choice of word, as if what PowerPCs can be used for now is cooking meth.

    • Justin Pot
      January 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      My old PowerMac gets pretty hot, it might actually be helpful for that. Not much else, though.

    • Mark Wilson
      January 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      I still use my 2003 era PowerPC dual 1.8 workstation (still chugging along after 10+ years). It has been mostly replaced by my newer 27" iMac but it still runs Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, Indesign CS2, Microsoft Office 2004, etc just fine...and it will always remain VIRUS FREE! So basically it is a backup that wont ever lose its value to me!

  21. zivar
    January 28, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    how do they keep selling these things ? I have no idea
    PS: I'm an old basic jo who uses windows because its logical :)

  22. T N
    January 28, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    There are couple other aspects to this.

    1. Support && upgrades.
    2. Hardware and Software integration.
    When I initially started using laptops I was frustrated by the speed of the laptop. Because different manufacturer's uses different quality of the hardwares. In begining days all laptops looks great and awesome, after 6 months or 1 year heavy use they kind of sucks with a reason.

    Same hardware but slower performance except IBM Thinkpads.

    When It comes to apple I have noticed the same characteristics as well but it takes 2.5 to 3 years to notice the aformentioned issue.

    Let's do simple math
    I would say buying an apple Mac is safe for 3 good years for moderate user. But laptops are not just good enough except Thinkpads.

    From past 5 years:
    2009(BOXING DAY) - Toshiba purchased for $1200.
    2011(BOXING DAY) - Dell inspiron purchases for $800.
    2012 (BOXING DAY) - Dell XPS for $800
    2013(BOXING DAY) - Mac book pro for $1600 and So far it is great, never thought of getting new one yet.

    If you just observe an average every year I spent $1000 on PCs but now I spending approx $700 for year($1600 for 2.5 years).

    This is just because of their hardware integration and software optimization.

    When It comes to support Apple is top notch. They are responsive and help you every possible way to fix your computer.

    • brad
      January 29, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      9/10 when people say they have a hardware issue, it's not a hardware issue. Your hardware should not be wearing out in a year. You should try rebooting the system before shelling out another 1000 dollars for a new one

      • Amar
        April 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        Windows computers are just bad and attract virus because they are not built properly.