5 Ways to Save Money When Buying a MacBook
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Apple’s MacBooks are some of the best laptops you can buy. But they’re also pretty expensive. A few tips and tricks can help the smart shopper figure out how to get a MacBook for cheap.

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If you already have a MacBook, you can 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.

1. Specify Needed Features and Set a Budget

Set a budget for macbook

Once you start looking for deals, it’s easy to get “deal blindness.” That’s when you end up spending a few hundred dollars more for more storage space, or getting a MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook just because you found a good deal on the Pro. Remember, the best deal available isn’t necessarily the perfect choice for you.

Before you start looking around, ask yourself which MacBook you should get MacBook vs. MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: Which MacBook Is Best? MacBook vs. MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: Which MacBook Is Best? Wondering how the MacBook models compare to each other? Here's our guide on deciding whether a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or MacBook is best for you. Read More . You should also figure out what specifications you need. Write down the reasons you want those particular specifications or features. For example, “I want a MacBook Air because I need to carry it around campus 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 itself isn’t the only part of the MacBook experience. Instead, you could spend that money on other items like the AppleCare extended warranty.

2. Buy at the Right Time

macbook buyer's guide

If you buy a new laptop, you certainly won’t want to see a new model released a week after your purchase. Thankfully, Apple is generally quite predictable when it comes to new MacBook releases, so it’s easy to predict when the new model will hit shelves.

The MacRumors Buyer’s Guide has always-up-to-date information that provides a snapshot of:

  • 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

Once you know when the new model will release, make a decision on whether you want to wait or not. Typically, the current models in a product line drop in price after the new models come out. So you can stick to your original budget and buy the new product, which saves money on upgrading later. Or you can buy the previous-gen model and save a few hundred dollars.

If you’re a student, a teacher, or the parent of a student, be on the lookout for back-to-school promotions from July to September on Apple’s promo page. With these, you can get pick up discounted accessories or score good deals on exchanges. Education pricing also offers slight discounts on all Mac and iPad models year-round.

3. The Best Deals Aren’t Always at the Apple Store

You can purchase a MacBook from an Apple Store retail outlet or Apple’s online store, but expect to pay the sticker price. However, if you buy from an authorized Apple reseller like Amazon, you’ll often find discounts. For example, you can get an Apple MacBook for less than the retail price.

Apple MacBook (12", 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) - Space Gray Apple MacBook (12", 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) - Space Gray Buy Now On Amazon $899.99

And don’t worry—as long as you’re buying a genuine new product, there’s nothing different about Mac no matter where you buy it from.

The Benefits of Buying From Apple

how to buy cheap macbooks from apple store

Our resident Apple expert Tim Brookes explained that “If you don’t buy from a retail location and want to return the machine in-store, you can’t do a straight swap. You either have to go through original retailer or Apple’s online warranty system. I found this out when I tried to swap an iPhone I’d bought from Apple’s online store on a warranty claim and was denied.”

Thus, if returns and the warranty are concerns for you, buying in-store gives the best peace of mind. However, you’ll get a great discount on Apple’s online store if you are a student or work at a company that is part of the Apple Employee Purchase Program.

The Benefits of Not Buying From Apple

MacPrices tracks prices of macbooks across online stores

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 prices from all authorized Apple resellers. This makes it the perfect way to compare prices, check what add-ons you get, discover any uncommon conditions you should 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. In addition to discounts, retailers might throw in extra hardware or software to sweeten the deal.

Remember, even if you don’t buy from an Apple Store, you’re still eligible for Apple’s warranty and the same benefits, except for a walk-in replacement. You can also purchase AppleCare protection AppleCare Warranty: What Are Your Options and Is It Worth It? AppleCare Warranty: What Are Your Options and Is It Worth It? AppleCare+ protects your Apple device, but is it worth the cost? Here's what AppleCare+ offers and whether you should get it. Read More to further solidify that warranty.

4. Get a Refurbished or Used MacBook

Buy refurbished macs from official Apple store

Apple laptops famously 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 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 come with a discount that puts them at 10-20 percent lower than the retail price. These refurbished units are tested extensively and Apple guarantees they will work as efficiently as a new model. They’re also backed by a one-year warranty.

Buy used and tested MacBooks from resellers: Some stores purchase used MacBooks from owners, fix them up and run extensive tests, then resell them. These stores offer their own warranty, not Apple’s. Stores worth considering are SimplyMac, PowerMax, and Mac Of All Trades. These are significantly cheaper than official refurbished MacBooks from Apple.

Buy used MacBooks directly from owners: This is the riskiest option, and we recommend avoiding it. There is no warranty offered, and you’re on your own if you get 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, check out our detailed guide on how to buy refurbished MacBooks and save money How to Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops and Save Money How to Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops and Save Money Apple's natural stranglehold on the Mac market means discounts on their hardware aren't frequent. That said, you can get a Mac for less — you just need to know where to look. Read More .

5. Turn Your Savings Into an “Accessories Fund”

Create an accessories fund with cheap macbook savings

Your spending doesn’t end once you’ve purchased your MacBook. You might need a few accessories over its lifetime, like the simple Magic Mouse. Or you might need a dock to add more ports to your MacBook How To Add Missing Ports To Your New MacBook How To Add Missing Ports To Your New MacBook Sometimes you just need more ports, particularly if your laptop only has one connector. Here's how to add them to your new MacBook. Read More . And a replacement USB-C power adapter will set you back by $50 or more.

All 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 should be added incentive to save as much as you can while buying your computer.

It’s Not All About the Apple Laptops

Don’t forget that Apple makes desktop computers too. If you’re looking to save money, the new Mac Mini is the cheapest way to get an Apple computer. You should also consider the differences between an iMac and Macbook before you make a decision. And if you’re smartphone also happens to be an Apple device, you can use these iPhone apps to supercharge your Mac experience.

If you use Numbers on Mac to keep track of your savings, give the interactive charts in Numbers How to Create Interactive Charts and Graphs on Mac Using Numbers How to Create Interactive Charts and Graphs on Mac Using Numbers Want to visualize your data? Numbers for Mac offers a feature for creating interactive charts and graphs and here’s how to use it. Read More a try for a nice visual of your budget.

Explore more about: Buying Tips, MacBook, MacBook Air, Save Money.

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  1. Art Perin
    January 10, 2019 at 4:12 pm

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  2. Andre Alvarado de Araujo
    February 5, 2017 at 5:13 am

    I liked a lot your article! Thank you for share this informations! I really want to buy a Macbook! I'm in US but I'll back to Brazil, so I need of Apple international warranty! I found best prices on Amazon but I afraid to buy in Amazon and don't to have the Apple international warranty. I talked with the apple chat and they told me that if don't buy from an Apple store (online or a retail store) I won't have the warranty and I read too that if I buy from a different store than Apple store I could check if the product still have warranty time available, but I can´t find this kind of information! I'm really confused. Someone already used the apple international warranty from a product bought from a different store?

  3. Andre Alvarado de Araujo
    February 5, 2017 at 5:11 am

    I liked a lot your article! Thank you for share this informations! I really want to buy a Macbook! I'm in US but I'll back to Brazil, so I need of Apple international warranty! I found best prices on Amazon but I afraid to buy in Amazon and don't to have the Apple international warranty. I talked with the apple chat and they told me that if don't buy from an Apple store (online or a retail store) I won't have the warranty and I read too that if I buy from a different store than Apple store I could check if the product still have warranty time available, but I can´t find this kind of information! I'm really confused. Someone already used the apple international warranty from a product bought from a different store?

    Thank you!

  4. Merry
    August 16, 2016 at 2:56 am

    For me making a decision on a new computer is very difficult. And the prices make the decision even more important.

    I like visiting the apple stores when they aren't super busy and noisy. I think there workshops are lacking in depth. They only will teach you certain things and not the rest.

    The apple stores are very attractive but not all comfortable.

    I am trying to learn as much as I can before I walk in to one again.

  5. Aakash Sohani
    August 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Really very nice article....and helpful too.
    Now-a-days there are many such apps through which we can come to know about discounts like MyTrendyApp.com. I have read about many such apps at betapage.co. You can also try it once.

  6. Stevens
    July 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Dear Mihir, first thanks for tutorial, it's very helpful.

    I'm going to purchse a Mac air 13" and I want to save money. After reading some articles, I think I'll buy one on Amazon.com at Blackfriday 2016...

    Your guide maybe the best one out there.
    Thanks

    • Rick Petko
      August 8, 2016 at 9:58 am

      absolutely right..

  7. Anonymous
    October 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I have been buying refurbished macs through the Apple store for a while now. The best value there, with the best warranty. The only real difference that I notice about these units is that they come in a white box, not the box with the graphics that the new ones come in.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 26, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Yup. I find "unboxing" to be really overrated anyway. So I'm happy to save some money on the box too.

  8. Anonymous
    October 23, 2015 at 8:17 am

    or
    6. Not buying one

    • Anonymous
      October 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      You'll use your abacus instead, huh?

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 26, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Har har.

    • Anonymous
      October 27, 2015 at 7:21 am

      SYNERGY124 you just wrote the whole article in one line!!! I guess they had extra type faces and fonts and decided to write this article. It comes down to 1) CHECK PREVIOUS MODELS (like 1 or 2 years earlier depending on specs; you need a macbook pro at least for the backlight keyboard anything is a macbook pro without a backlid AND SAVE or 6) DON'T BUY ONE.... Rocco Rizzo NOT AN ABACUS there too slow; get an overprice surface notebook or get an I5 touch laptops at $600+

  9. Anonymous
    October 19, 2015 at 5:35 am

    “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.”

    Really? You have to be kidding me… You mean to say that if you buy a product at one store, you can't return it at a completely different store?

    That's just crazy talk!!! I buy things from amazon and return them to best buy, walmart and Target all the time!

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

      The straight swap is Apple's "no questions asked" replacement. That's what you don't get. You can still take it to an Apple Store and get it repaired, and if they can't, they will replace it.

  10. Anonymous
    October 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Even better way to save money when buying a Macbook? DON'T!!

    I bought a Macbook Pro 13 inch this February. I ordered it from the Apple Store (Australia) online as I upgraded the HDD, RAM, Processor, etc. And since it was delivered, it has had an intermittent issue with sections of the screen flashing. It's been back to Apple Stores about three times, each time they replaced various bits and pieces, and each time it has done nothing to fix the problem.

    Finally got in contact with the online Apple Store to try and arrange a replacement, had the rep I was speaking to promise to replace it with an upgraded model (the most recent version). Finally, I thought the pain and frustration of the whole situation was going to be resolved, only to have the same guy call me back an hour later and withdraw his offer. Took Apple to the Department of Fair Trade, but they are still refusing to fulfill their promise.

    If I hadn't sunk hundreds of dollars into software and accessories which are Mac only, I would take a refund and run. But I can't - I bought a lemon and now I am stuck drinking crappy lemonade for the rest of my life. Extremely unimpressed with my first, brand-new, laptop/desktop purchase from Apple.

    Buy a PC instead. They are better value, better quality, and have a more embracing peripheral/accessory market (not to mention application market).

    • Anonymous
      October 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Wow, Lucanos, sorry to hear that. I bought a macbook pro in 2012 and I've loved it ever since. I used to run Dell laptops but they are total crap now. My 3 year old Dell XPS 8300 isn't upgradable to Windows 10 because Dell refuses to support it. My company gave me a Toshiba laptop and I had to retire it after 18 months because the uncontrollable fan spin wedged my entire network at home. I upgraded my macbook to 16 GB of RAM and put a 1 TB SSD in it and it screams. Moved my 1TB SATA drive to the DVD slot and put my DVD drive in a USB clam shell. I run windows 7 / 8.1 in parallels and OL (Oracle LINUX) 6, 7, Solaris x86 11 and the ZFS appliance simulator in Oracle VirtualBox. I couldn't be happier with my apple laptop. It's a shame you've had a bad experience. My system is bullet proof .... I will admit one thing though. I've never darkened the door of the apple genius bar with anything but my iPhone. I agree there are some things windows is better at (but I have that covered too ;-) ) but most of my work is in UNIX (Mac OS X, LINUX and Solaris). I upgraded one system to Windows 10 and I have to admit, I'm keeping the rest of my systems on Windows 7. Windows 10 is like Windows 8/8.1 .... a solution in search of a problem. I do find it humorous that one needs to pay $10/year just to play good old fashioned Solitare ..... really Microsoft? .... what were you thinking?

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 26, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Wow, this is a horrible experience, sorry you had to go through all that, lucanos. Best of luck on your fight, I really hope things work out for you, this sounds like a nightmare.

  11. Anonymous
    October 16, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I bought a macbook from a private seller on craigslist. It's a bit of a gamble, but there are a lot of people with perfectly good macbooks that want to upgrade every 1-2 years.

    • Mihir Patkar
      October 26, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Nice. How much did you end up saving, Vitaliy?