Ask LH: Is It Safe To Buy A Refurb Mac?

Hi Lifehacker, I need to buy a new laptop for university, and I’m considering buying from Apple’s online Refurb store. Is it reliable? Is it worth it? And is it possible to find out what the fault was that landed it in the refurb centre in the first place? Thanks, Deal Hunter

Dear Deal Hunter,

We’ve recommended the refurb store more than once here at Lifehacker as a way to score discounted Apple gear. If you don’t need an absolutely brand new model (and as a student, you almost certainly don’t), you can potentially score a machine for a lot less than the as-new price by heading to the Apple site and checking out the refurbished machines.

One thing you’ll need if you go down this route is patience; you won’t always find a model that matches your requirements straight away. That said, as I write this there are If you have very specific requirements, check out an alerts service such as RefurbMe or the Apple Refurbished Stock Checker to track when your preferred machine goes on sale.

It also pays to check prices carefully. Last time we did a detailed check, the typical discount for Mac models was around $200. Bear in mind that non-Apple outlets regularly sell Macs for 10 per cent off; for pricier machines, that might work out to be a similar saving. As a student, you may also score a 10 per cent off deal from your campus store.

Is there a risk involved with refurb gear? Not to the extent you might think. Apple offers a one-year warranty on refurb gear, which is the same as it offers on its as-new hardware. As we’ve pointed out before, warranty periods don’t restrict your legal rights: if your machine developed a major flaw 12 months and one day after you purchased it, you might well be able to argue that it should be covered under consumer law anyway. You’re likely to encounter more resistance with a refurb machine than with an as-new purchase, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t mount an argument under some circumstances.

The one catch? Apple doesn’t offer any way of finding out what the refurb issue was. That’s a gamble you have to take (a machine whose drive has been replaced because it was dead-on-arrival seems a good bet; I’d be less keen on one which had experienced motherboard flaws, but the fact is you won’t know either way). If money is tight and you’re keen for a Mac experience, it’s definitely an option to consider. Happy shopping!


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