The Best Place to Buy a Used Mac is the Apple Refurbished Online Store
If you want to buy a used Mac to save a bit of money, the best place to do so is directly from Apple’s Online Refurbished Store. We’ve bought used Macs from just about everywhere under the sun before, from friends, coworkers, Craigslist, and eBay, but nothing beats the official Certified offerings from Apple. Why? Apple Certified Refurbished products have been thoroughly tested, cleaned, and any defective item has been replaced. For portables, Apple Refurbs usually get brand new batteries too. You can read more about the official refurb process here, but we’ll elaborate on six main reasons why we think buying refurbished is the way to go when buying anything in the used Mac market.
1: Competitive Pricing
Apple certified refurbs are often cheaper than buying on the used market from places like Craigslist and Ebay. For example, a base model 2011 MacBook Air 11″ from the Apple Refurb Store is $749, but the average price on Craigslist is closer to $800. Yes, there are outliers on both Craigslist and Ebay, but those lower prices can come with hidden costs. Was the ebay/craigslist item thoroughly tested before being resold? Were any faulty items replaced? Does it have a full manufacturers warranty? The answer to those questions is probably not, so though you may be saving $50 or so by finding a screaming deal, that could come back to bite you if the hard drive fails a few months later and there’s no longer a valid warranty.
Even the newest Macs are usually available as certified after a month or two from the refurb store thanks to returns. You’ll typically save at least 15% off the sticker price grabbing one of these rather than getting the same thing new.
2: Full 1 Year Warranty – Same As Brand New
Other than the discount, this is arguably the most important aspect: You will get the exact same 1 year warranty with a refurb as you would with a brand new Apple product, even if the refurbished item is a few model years behind. You’ll also get the exact same great service when calling Apple or when going to the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, there’s no difference in service at all. This alone is worth going the certified route, in our view.
3: Eligible for AppleCare Extended Warranties
Speaking of warranties, official refurbs are eligible for the full 3 year extended warranty through AppleCare. Macs acquired on the used market are only able to buy the extended warranty if it was purchased within the past calendar year.
4: Free & Fast Shipping
Apple always offers free basic shipping, and even the free shipping is fast. Sure, a lot of Ebay sellers also give you free shipping, but if you’ve done a fair amount of shopping on Ebay you know not all sellers ship free, ship and pack items well, let alone ship items quickly. Apple’s shipping on refurbs is very quick, usually going out the same or next day as the order, and everything is very well packed. Speaking of packing, scroll down below to see what the packaging looks like, and how well protected a MacBook ships.
5: Usually Eligible for OS X Up-To-Date Program
Almost all Macs currently being sold on the Refurb Store are eligible for a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion through the update program. If the Mac you’re buying used elsewhere is still on Snow Leopard or Lion, you’ll be out at least $30. Don’t forget to factor that cost in. Plus, with the Up-to-Date program offering, your Apple ID gets the OS X Update, meaning you can install it to your other Macs too by downloading it again through the App Store.
6: Random Upgrade Lottery
Just like playing the lottery, don’t ever buy from the refurb store expecting to get lucky, but it’s not unheard of for some refurbished Apple gear to come upgraded with better hardware than what you paid for. For the lucky few, you can sometimes get more RAM, a better processor, or an upgraded hard drive. Again, this is never something you should count on or bet on, but it does make for a very pleasant surprise if you do get lucky.
What About Downsides?
Of course there are a few things that aren’t so great, here are the primary reasons you may not want to go refurb:
- Not configurable, what you see is what you get and that’s usually the stock configurations
- Choice and supply is limited to what’s listed on the Refurbished Store, you’ll find greater diversity elsewhere
- You don’t get the same shiny Apple box as a brand new product, bummer for the box collectors out there
- The “New Mac Smell” is not as strong, only the biggest Mac fans can understand this one…
- Sales tax is enforced, unlike buying on the private market
What Does an Apple Certified Refurbished Unboxing Look Like?
Admittedly, the unboxing of a refurb isn’t quite as exciting as a brand spanking new Apple item, but when you save $400+ from new, do you really care? Here are a few shots of a refurbished MacBook Air and what the packaging looks like.
This is the discrete box that arrives:
Opening it up shows an “Apple Certified” box containing the power cables, manuals, Apple stickers, and whatever else usually comes with the Mac:
Pulling that box out shows the ridiculously well insulated and protected MacBook Air, floating in the middle with at least 4″ of foam on each side:
Once you pull the computer out, everything else is the same as getting a brand new device. It’s wrapped in plastic, the keyboard and screen has a cover/protector separating the two, and the cords are wrapped in plastic as usual. At this point it’s basically impossible to tell it apart from a brand new Mac. No complaints!
Have you bought a refurb from Apple? Would you? Why or why not? Let us know your experience and thoughts in the comments!