When you buy a Mac, you expect it to last a long time. After many years of study, Apple has concluded that a macOS or tvOS device will last about four years before needing a hardware repair. They say most Macs will “last significantly longer, are kept current through regular software updates, and are passed along or resold by the first owner for others to use.”
Because Apple’s computers are so reliable (and the MacBook is so lightweight), you might want to consider purchasing a refurbished model. Buying a refurbished Mac is a great way to save money and secure a bargain.
You can see savings of between 10 and 30 percent on refurbished Macs. You could use this saving to purchase one or two peripherals, software, or even afford a slightly more powerful model than if you were buying brand new.
Plus, even if you get stranded on an older version of macOS, you can get quite a few new features bit by tweaking the interface yourself.
Here’s the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook and a few things to consider before you purchase.
Before even thinking about the purchase of a refurbished Mac, be sure to do your research. Most importantly, take a look at the current models to see how they differ from previous models. In recent years, Apple has only upgraded Macs during the final months of the year. Keep this time frame in mind before making a purchase.
As part of your research, visit a nearby Apple retail store and see the latest models on display. Ask an Apple employee critical questions about the speed, RAM, and internal storage space. The MacBook Pro comes in different screen sizes. Look at the differences in person. If you can’t visit an Apple store, at least do an online comparison or try another retailer.
Finally, read reviews for the models you’re considering. The more you know about the latest models, the better you can evaluate what’s missing on the refurbished items. You may have to forego Apple’s newer features like a Force Touch trackpad or an OLED TouchBar to save some money, so make sure you’re happy with your decision.
And if you’re doing research to buy a new iPhone as well, take a look at our helpful article on checking to see if an iPhone model is obsolete.
Where to Buy
Not surprisingly, Apple’s own store is a great place to buy refurbished Macs. However, it’s not the only place as you’ll see below.
They don’t advertise it that much, but yes, Apple sells refurbished products. These items are ones that have been recently returned and hardly used. Items available through Apple’s Certified Refurbished program come with a standard one-year warranty. You also have the option of purchasing AppleCare to extend your coverage further, which is something we recommend.
There aren’t a lot of refurbished Macs available through Apple at any given time. However, the company’s inventory does tend to change often. If you can’t find the model you’ve been wanting, wait a little bit longer. Because of quick product turnover, it could show up soon. Typically you’ll have to wait a couple of months (think three, six or even 12) for the very latest Mac models to show up on the refurbished store, and they don’t last long once listed.
If you’re looking for a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, Mac of All Trades is a site worth considering. It offers a robust selection of used and refurbished Mac computers.
Each item at Mac Of All Trades comes with a 90-day warranty and ships within two business days. You can also add a one-year or two-year extended warranty on each item. Some items also come with an unexpired AppleCare warranty, which will give you access to Apple’s tech support.
You can also sell your Apple devices on Mac of All Trades to earn some credit towards a new purchase.
Other World Computing (OWC) also offers used and certified Macs. The items sold here are thoroughly tested and inspected and come with macOS installed. They also ship for free with a 14-day money back guarantee.
Most, but not all, of the Mac computers found at OWC come with Apple’s standard one-year limited warranty and eligibility for the AppleCare Extended Protection Plan. Models without Apple’s warranty are not certified. Keep this in mind before making a purchase.
PowerMax is the only Apple-authorized e-commerce site that specializes in both new and used Macs, iPads, iPhones, and iPads. The site says that it offers the largest selection of used 15-inch MacBook Pro models. A quick visit to the site suggests that this claim is correct.
At PowerMax, each Mac purchase comes with a 120-day warranty. You can return a pre-owned Mac during the first 60 days for any reason and receive credit for the current sale price for the item (less a $50 deductible). Extended warranties are also available for purchase.
There are other places where you can buy used and certified Macs, including Gazelle, Amazon.com, and GainSaver. If you’re having trouble finding the model you want on the sites listed above, keep trawling. GainSaver, in particular, tends to be a great place to find older, pre-owned models.
In addition to where to buy a computer, be sure to check out our tips for when to buy a computer.
Keeping Track of Deals
Finding the perfect deal on refurbished products is sometimes a difficult process due to ever-changing inventories. Because of this, you should consider two other sites that take the guesswork out of finding great deals.
Refurb Tracker provides e-mail alerts and RSS feeds on refurbished products on Apple Store websites. To get started, you simply have to create an alert on the Refurb Tracker website indicating the type of product you’re hoping to find. In addition to Macs, Refurb Tracker offers alerts for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and Mac accessories.
RefurbMe also offers an alert system on refurbished and certified pre-owned Apple products. Besides Apple Store websites, RefurbMe tracks items from Best Buy, GameStop, Gazelle, Target, and Walmart.
In addition to Macs, RefurbMe offers alerts for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.
When looking for a refurbished or used Mac, make sure the site provides explicit warranty and return policies. With these in place, you know that the site backs up each purchase with some guarantees. Second, make sure the site mentions product testing. Apple is the only company that offers brand-certified testing to assure quality. However, this doesn’t mean it’s the only place that offers professional testing.
Also, find out whether the original materials are part of the purchase. Having the original box, instructions, and accessories, make for a like-new experience that’s worth a lot to many people. You should also make sure one final time whether you can give up the latest bells and whistles on the current models. If you cannot, you shouldn’t be considering a refurbished model, no matter the savings. If you find that refurbished isn’t the right choice for you, be sure to look into Apple hardware discounts you should take advantage of.
Finally, remember the saying: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” There are plenty of great deals on refurbished and used Macs, but if the price seems too good, especially compared to other locations, go somewhere else and fast. And if you decided against getting a Mac, there are other great places to find used laptops.
Image credit: Quentin Meulepas (Flickr)