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.
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
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. 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
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.
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
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
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 to further solidify that warranty.
4. Get a Refurbished or Used MacBook
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.
5. Turn Your Savings Into an “Accessories Fund”
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. 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.
If you use Numbers on Mac to keep track of your savings, give the interactive charts in Numbers a try for a nice visual of your budget.