Pros and Cons of Buying Refurbished Apple Products

BY George Tinari

Published 18 Feb 2017

Image credit: Apple

It’s not often you hear about refurbished Macs, iPhones, Apple Watches or iPads. In fact, Apple doesn’t push the concept very much and they’re even pretty hard to find on the Apple website. But still, every time a new product gets released, Apple shortly after starts selling refurbished models.

Refurbished products are items people bought, used and returned for whatever reason. Apple then fixes them up from top to bottom, patching most if not all cosmetic damage and any internal defects. Finally, the products are put back on the market for a lower price and a “refurbished” label slapped on the packaging.

Most people buy refurbished products to save some money, but they often get a bad reputation due to being technically used. In Apple’s case, is buying refurbished worth the savings?

The Upside of Buying Refurbished Apple Products

Clearly the biggest pro to buying an Apple product refurbished over new is the savings. As you might expect from Apple though, the savings isn’t very much. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s absolutely worth considering though.

The savings are almost always around 15 percent off. For instance, you can get a 21.5-inch 2014 iMac refurbished right now for $889, saving $160. That’s the most affordable Mac Apple offers. Apple also has entry-level MacBooks and MacBook Airs for $170 off.

As the newness and initial asking price of the Macs go up, so do the savings. You can get a 27-inch October 2015 iMac with a Retina 5K display and 1TB Fusion Drive for $300 off at $1699. Even better, an even beefier one from October 2014 is $430 off at $1769.

iPad, iPhone and Apple Watch all tend to be around 15 percent off too with some notable exceptions. The iPads vary, for example. You can get an iPad mini 2 for as little as $229, iPad mini 4 for as little as $319, and an iPad Pro for as low as $509. However, some models like the original iPad Air from 2013 with wireless and 128GB storage are a whopping 37 percent off. Snag this for $459 for a grand total of $270 off — a phenomenal deal especially for Apple.

iPhones are available for as little as $449 for an iPhone 6s and Apple Watch is as little as $229 for 38mm Series 1.

While price matters, so does quality. All refurbished products come with Apple’s standard one-year limited warranty which basically covers manufacturer defects. You can also upgrade to AppleCare support for an extra cost.

Apple says it cleans, repackages, and replaces any defective parts in all certified refurbished products. In exchange for the discounted price you pay, the company promises that you receive “a fully functional unit with complete documentation.”

Doesn’t sound too shabby to me.

Potential Downsides of Opting for Refurbished

While most companies tend to offer extended warranties with their refurbished products, Apple does not. The one-year limited warranty is the same warranty you get with a brand new product at full price. You can look at this in one of two ways, however. Either Apple is being skimpy about the warranty due to the discount or they’re so confident about the refurbished line that they don’t think you’ll need an extended warranty. Call me an optimist, but my guess is the latter.

The other major downside is that the products usually aren’t up to date. It’s 2017 and a lot of the refurbished products Apple is selling is from 2014, 2015 or even earlier. Apple makes a point to disclose this, so you aren’t getting duped, but be aware you aren’t getting the latest and greatest technology.

On that same note, refurbished products can often come with the operating system that originally shipped with them. So out of the box, your computer or iOS device might not be up to date and would require you to update it right away. This shouldn’t be too much of a burden though.

Finally, it’s important to know that the savings vary from great to mediocre. Some refurbished products are truly awesome deals like the aforementioned 2013 iPad Air for only $479. Others, like $40 off a Series 1 Apple Watch, aren’t so much. For an extra $40 you might as well just buy brand new.

The Verdict

Chances are if you’re considering a refurbished Apple product, it’s to save some money. Is it a huge risk to buy refurbished? Not really. Your product will likely work and function just fine and if it doesn’t, take advantage of the one-year warranty. Even brand new products have occasional duds too.

If you like the best of the best, then spend your money on the best of the best. If you don’t mind getting a slightly older Mac or iOS device to save money, refurbished is a great option to do that.

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