Apple makes great computers, but they don’t come cheap. Even if you’re happy to pay the entry-level price for a new iMac or MacBook Pro, you may know painfully that you can get a much more powerful model for just a few hundred pounds or dollars more. But can you justify the extra expenditure?
Fortunately, you don’t have to, as you can often find a previous generation Mac and sometimes even the current generation model for less money in Apple’s Refurbished and Clearance Store.
However, it is not only Apple that offers refurbished Macs. There are other places you can buy used Macs that have been refurbished, but not all refurbished Macs are as good as the ones Apple sells, so you have to watch out for the pitfalls. Fortunately, in this article, we’ll walk through the things to avoid so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best refurbished Mac or MacBook for your needs.
We’ll also explain what the Apple Refurbished Store is, what price you can expect to pay for a refurbished Mac or MacBook, and other ways to buy a cheap Mac. We also highlight some of the best refurbished Mac deals currently available.
Should you buy a refurbished Mac?
We’ve dedicated an article to this question here: Why you should buy a refurbished Mac. But to recap, there are plenty of reasons why it’s a good idea to buy a Mac from the Apple Refurbished Store.
The Refurbished Store is a section on Apple’s website where you can purchase refurbished Macs and MacBooks, as well as other Apple products, including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, HomePod, and Apple TV.
These refurbished Macs can be models from a previous year, or they can be current models. A refurbished Mac could be an ex-demonstration model used in Apple education programs, or it could be a device sold to a customer who decided to return it using the standard sales-and-return procedure. (Apple allows any customer to return a Mac purchased from the Apple Store within 14 days for a refund – see Apple’s US Standard Return Policy and UK Standard Return Policy).
It’s also possible that a customer returned the Mac because of a defect, but that defect would have been fixed by Apple before the Mac could be resold. In fact, Apple states that: “Every Apple Certified Refurbished product goes through a thorough refurbishment process that includes full testing that meets the same functional standards as new Apple products. Your refurbished device is truly ‘as new’”.
In addition, every Mac has:
- Will be thoroughly cleaned and inspected
- Includes Apple’s standard one-year limited warranty
- And up to 90 days of free technical support
- Comes with all accessories, cables and operating systems
- Comes packaged in a brand new white box
- Will be shipped with free shipping and returns
- Can be purchased through financing options
- And the next day at home
The important thing to note is that Macs purchased from the Apple Refurbished Store are not noticeably different from new ones purchased directly from the Apple Store. All Macs purchased from the Apple Refurbished Store have been cleaned, inspected, tested and visually indistinguishable from brand new models.
Reasons not to buy refurbished Macs
As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to buy a refurbished Mac from Apple. Are there any drawbacks?
One downside is that buying an older Mac probably means not buying a Mac with one of the M1-series or M2-series chips. This could become a problem in the long run as the Intel powered Mac will not be as future proof as an M1 or M2 powered Mac. Read: Should I Buy an Intel Mac.
The other downside to buying from Apple’s Refurbished Store is that it may not always have the model you’re looking for. Since inventory depends on the number of returns or exchanges made, Apple may have more of one item than another, which is when you may need to turn to other retailers.
Another drawback is that the discounts you get when you buy something from the Apple Refurbished Store are not always as good as when you buy the same model elsewhere. But buying from someone other than Apple can be risky.
For example, you can get refurbished Macs on Amazon US and Amazon UK, but these are usually really old Macs and not the ones we’d recommend buying. There are several other places that sell refurbished Macs and MacBooks that we’ll go through below, but before buying from any of them, we recommend that you do the same checks as Apple, otherwise you’re not doing much better than buying a used one. Mac second hand, which we do not recommend. Read: Should I Buy a Used Mac?
Where can you buy refurbished Macs
Apple isn’t the only company to resell used, refurbished Macs. You can also pick up a refurbished and refurbished Mac from the resellers listed below:
In the U.S:
In the United Kingdom:
Buying refurbished, even if it’s not from Apple, should mean that the Mac has been inspected by an authorized Apple technician and, if necessary, any defective parts replaced (but we recommend that you check). It may seem attractive to buy the same Mac used, but it’s not guaranteed to work. It’s worth paying a little extra for a refurbished model for peace of mind. It’s like buying a car from a garage instead of someone on Gumtree.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a refurbished Mac to get a good discount are not equal. For example, Amazon often gives discounts on previous-generation Mac models, so you could buy a fairly new model at a discount. The difference is that while Apple sells a model that has been returned due to a defect (that has been repaired), the other reseller can sell an identical Mac that has never been used.
To find a deal, check out our articles on the best iMac deals, best Mac mini deals, best MacBook Pro deals, and best MacBook Air deals to find the best discounts on new Macs and MacBooks. Make sure that the model you find in Apple’s Refurbished Store is not being sold as new by someone else.
Best deals in the Apple Refurbished Store
Now that the M1-series Macs have been out for a while, they regularly appear in the Apple Refurbished Store – along with some huge discounts.
American Apple refurbished offers
UK Apple refurbished offers
Again, it’s worth comparing if other retailers offer better prices on the same models when buying new ones. Amazon and other dealers often have good discounts on new Macs. Check out our deals to find the best prices:
How much cheaper are refurbished Macs and MacBooks?
The price for refurbished Macs in Apple’s Refurbished Store changes regularly, but is usually 15 percent lower than the original price. With Macs charging a high retail price, this can be quite a difference.
Keep in mind that Apple’s stock of refurbished models is limited and you’re unlikely to find every style of Mac all the time. Other Mac resellers may offer even lower prices than the Apple Refurbished Store, so it’s worth poking around, especially during sales events like Black Friday.
What is the oldest MacBook/Mac I should buy?
With the arrival of the new Apple chips (M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra and the M2), you’ll want to think twice before buying an old Mac, because Intel-powered Macs are likely to lose value much faster than Macs with Apple silicon inside. But with the introduction of the first M1 Macs towards the end of 2020, there will be plenty of older models available to buy refurbished. The question is should you?
If you can afford it, we recommend that you use models with Apple M1 or M2 series chips, but if that’s too expensive for you, we recommend that you don’t buy a Mac older than seven years. This is because older Macs may not run a version of macOS that Apple supports with security updates. Even if the Mac you’re buying now is supported by Apple, it might only be for a year or so. See: How long will Apple support Macs and MacBooks?
Here’s a rundown of the Macs Ventura will run on when it launches in Fall 2022:
- 2017 or later MacBook models
- MacBook Air models from 2018 or later
- 2017 or later MacBook Pro models
- Mac mini models from 2018 or later
- 2017 or later iMac models
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro models from 2019 or later
- Mac Studio (all models)
If you want a Mac you’ll be comfortable using in three years, don’t buy anything older than these models.
What should I do if I have a problem with a refurbished Mac?
When you buy from Apple, you are in good hands. Apple states: “All Refurbished Mac models include full functional testing, replacement of original Apple parts (if necessary), a deep cleaning, the original operating system or later version, a brand new box with all accessories and cables.”
More importantly, a refurbished Mac or MacBook comes with a one-year warranty (extendable to three years with AppleCare protection). You also get the same sales and returns process from Apple as you do with any new model, so you can return a Mac purchased from the Refurbished Store within 14 days if you’re not happy with it. (But keep in mind that you’ll have to send it back, as Apple doesn’t accept returns to a physical Apple Store for refurbished products).
Not that we think you should return your Mac. We have a lot of experience buying from Apple’s Refurbished Store and have yet to get a Mac from the Refurbished Store and find it missing.