How to buy a refurbished Mac

Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display review lifestyle back
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Do you find yourself looking wistfully at the screen and counting the zeros on the latest Apple price tag? It’s no surprise that students, professionals, and entertainment gurus around the world struggle to afford the new, super-resolution iMacs and MacBooks. But there is a savior, and it comes in the form of refurbished products.

Here’s what you need to know when buying a refurbished Mac — either through Apple or another retailer.

What does refurbished actually mean?

First things first, let’s be clear: Refurbished is not the same as resold. Resold just means that someone is selling the same item again, often used, with all the problems that entails. Refurbished means that the Apple product in question was sent back to (ideally) a professional because of a minor issue, or because it was no longer wanted. Any malfunctioning parts are replaced, the product is given a once-over to make sure that everything is shiny and working right, and then it is repackaged to be sold again.

Because refurbished Apple products cannot be sold at MSRP, they are typically sold at a discount, which means you save money while buying a product that is often just as good as new.

Apple manages its own refurbishment store, complete with its own Certified Refurbished certification, which means trained professionals ensure every device functions properly before putting it up for sale. The store offers the highest quality, so you’re essentially getting a machine that barely differs from a new model. Many people think of it as an instant discount option when shopping for a new Apple device — as long as inventory is in stock.

A couple other caveats also apply, however. First, it’s unusual to find recently-launched Apple products that have been refurbished, given they likely haven’t come back yet. Typically products have to be out for at least a few months before any refurbished Mac deals hit the market, and these will be quickly snapped up. The greatest range of products will probably be between one and two years old. It’s difficult to find refurbished Apple electronics beyond a few years old.

Buying from Apple

apple store opens in kyoto japan trevor mogg dt 19

If you want to buy straight from the source, then head over to Apple’s Refurbished and Clearance section. Purchasing directly from the manufacturer is a great way to go when it comes to refurbished items, because you know they have been professionally inspected, fixed, cleaned, and repackaged by people with experience in those specific electronics. Apple even backs these products with the same warranty you’d find on a new Mac, and you can further your device via AppleCare. Below are some additional notes to consider.

  • Both pre-owned and once-defective models are available, and Apple guarantees that all products meet Finished Goods testing. The discounts on the Online Store are a bit underwhelming, though. The average discount rate hovers around 15 percent, which is good but doesn’t exactly get hearts thumping. Some discounts can be as high as 25 percent, however, if you get lucky.
  • It’s not just about Macs: Macs and MacBooks are some of the most popular options, but Apple sells refurbished models of just about everything in the company’s arsenal, including Apple Watches and iPhones. The website’s left-most menu shows what’s available and what isn’t, but keep in mind that inventory can change quickly, especially for popular products.
  • Refurbished items become extremely popular when a new Apple product comes out. Sure, it takes a while for refurbished versions of new products to hit the digital shelves, but consumers immediately begin wondering if they can get an older model for a cheaper price, which drives them to seek refurbished products. In other words, availability tends to be scarce and competitive immediately following an important Apple release.
  • The cheaper models tend to be the most in-demand. For example, iPads with just Wi-Fi are hard to find, but those with cellular data options are more common, and so on.
  • Free shipping and returns apply to all these products.
Computing

AMD’s 2020 Ryzen CPUs could have a big boost in power efficiency

The sequel to AMD's Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs is slated for a 2020 release and when it arrives, could leverage the new Zen 3 architecture to deliver impressive gains to performance and power efficiency.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for April 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Trash

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for April 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for April 2019.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Computing

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.
Computing

Dell slashes prices of XPS 13 and Alienware 17 laptops in latest promo

Dell's latest promotion will score you big savings on the XPS 13 or the Alienware 17. The stylish XPS 13's discount is for $430, and only the rose gold model is on sale, while gamers who choose the Alienware 17 will save $860.
Computing

Lenovo’s Yoga C930 sale drops a $650 discount on its 2TB SSD laptop

Lenovo is offering one of its 2-in-1 laptops at a $650 discount. This Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop comes with a 2TB solid-state drive, a digital pen, a fingerprint reader, and a Dolby Atmos sound bar.
Computing

You won't want to miss these deals on some of the best laptops around

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Computing

These business machines can rival any consumer laptop in style and function

These laptops have the reliability, performance, and battery life you need whether you're at your desk or flying across the country for a meeting, letting you to revel in a function-first approach.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Computing

Online passwords: Research confirms millions of people are using 123456

According to recent analysis of data caught up in cyber attacks, millions of people are continuing to use super-simple passwords, with 123456 topping the list of easy-to-crack codes.
1 of 2