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Would it be smart to buy/sell a new Mac laptop every year?
February 24, 2011 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Spurred by today's announcement about new MacBook Pros, I have a quick question about owning a Mac. Specifically, I'm wondering whether it would be wise to just buy a new 13-inch Mac laptop (~$1300, after I upgrade the RAM and hard drive) every year, and sell the old one.

What are the financial ramifications of this? How much could I expect a one-year-old, upgraded MacBook Pro to have depreciated? Could I safely and reliably sell it on ebay? Or Craigslist? Would it make more sense to buy a new one every year, or every two years?

[I got to thinking about this because my current laptop, a 2005 iBook G4, has depreciated from around $1,000 to about $100-200. So I lost roughly $150 a year in depreciation. If, on the other hand, I sold a year-old computer for $200 less than I paid for it, I'd be losing an additional $50/year. BUT, essentially, I'd be paying $50/year to always have a fast, up-to-date computer.]

Anyone have any experience with or thoughts regarding this? Would this strategy make sense?

BONUS QUESTION

I see the new 13" MacBook Pro has an integrated Intel HD 3000 GPU. I've never really been much of a gamer, but I might like to take a stab at a game or two. Left 4 Dead looked kind of fun. What are some games from the last -- I don't know, 10 years or so -- that are really fun and will look great on that processor? Obviously, I don't care at all about the latest and greatest games. Just ones that are fun.
posted by Alaska Jack to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Macbooks hold their value extremely well. One thing you can do is check the completed listings on ebay to see how much laptops from the previous cycle are holding. I imagine it would cost you more in the neighborhood of $150-200 a year in depreciation if you pursued this path. Not bad at all.

Also, be willing to sell on Craigslist for less so you don't have to deal with the exorbitant ebay fees.
posted by lakerk at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2011


You'd be losing whatever sales tax you paid, too.
posted by halogen at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2011


Why would you need the best/fastest computer every single year? Technology changes so fast these days that it seems a lot of pointless work to always be on the very cutting edge - if nothing else, it's a pain to get a new computer, get all the programs you want on it, get it configured the way you like it, etc.

You didn't mention any problems with your current iBook except its resale value - does it still work for what you need it for (except the gaming)? If so, I would say buy the best computer you can afford every 3 years or so and call it good, and not worry about the resale value of your old one.
posted by pdb at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2011


if nothing else, it's a pain to get a new computer, get all the programs you want on it, get it configured the way you like it, etc.

That's not really much of an issue on a mac. You just let it run its importer thing for a couple hours and the new machine ends up looking just like the old one when it starts up.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Game wise the top recommendation is definitely portal.
posted by drethelin at 2:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would not be wise. If you've been getting by with a G4 iBook for 6 years, then you clearly don't need the latest-and-greatest. The year-to-year changes wouldn't be significant enough for you to notice, or to go to the trouble of spending $50/year (by your math) to obtain. You would wind up wasting a certain amount of time and aggravation trying to sell your year-old Mac every year.
posted by adamrice at 2:42 PM on February 24, 2011


The problem with selling one-year-old Mac laptops is that you're competing with the models in the official Apple refurb store. If someone's looking to buy last year's model, that's the first place they're going to look, and they'll get the one-year warranty that would have just expired on your slightly foxed one.

Someone posted here a while back that he/she bought a new Mac laptop every two years, and sold the old one with a year's AppleCare left on it as a way to sweeten the deal and get a decent price.
posted by holgate at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


holgate, you assume everyone knows about the Apple refurb store, which is not true. Sadly (for many buyers), higher prices than necessary are paid because people are uninformed. People overpay on eBay all the time. $100 gift cards to restaurants go for $105. All the time.

The refurb store is an excellent resource, but not "everyone" will look there. A MacBook in good condition will fetch a good price, no matter where it's sold.
posted by santaliqueur at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2011


I don't know of any cleaned up data source for macbook market values, but one guy's idea was to scrape all of craigslist for macbook arbitrage, complete with scripts. My expectation would be that technology depricates like cars: fast at first, and slow later. As a datapoint I do have, memory seems to fall in half every two years (log scale). It seems Best buy follows a similar model; that sets a floor that CL / ebay buyers have to beat, but not a very high one.

So maybe what you do is, buy a used macbook every year and resell that the next. Let someone else take the first year depreciation.

"$100 gift cards to restaurants go for $105. All the time."
My assumption is that this is either some kind of money laundering / mule scam, or fraudsters looking to build up "reputation."
posted by pwnguin at 3:04 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The main problem with this plan would be maintaining the computer well enough to sell it for a substantial amount of money after a year. A friend of mine bought one of the last of the iBook G4's back when Apple released the MacBook, on Craigslist. It was a few months old and in mint condition. The seller had every. single. piece that originally came with it, down to the box, OSX boot disks, etc (all in perfect condition, not even a smudge of dirt on the cord). Friend paid maybe $600-700 for it. The tiniest bit of wear and tear, loss of any one of the bits and bobs that came with the computer, etc. would have brought the price down much more.

I think I'd rather just buy a computer and use it and know that it was mine and a scratch here or a stained owner's manual there wouldn't matter. Especially considering you'd get nowhere near retail when you sold the thing.
posted by Sara C. at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2011


Honestly, I think it's a good plan, but I'd stretch it to two years. Barring a new physical feature like a retina display, or that new connector, I can't notice a difference between a year-old and two-year-old computer.

One year is great for iPhones, though.
posted by supercres at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2011


Interesting feedback!

One thing that has figured into my thinking is the fact, referenced by tylerkaraszewski, above, that it is very easy to transfer all your documents, applications, settings etc. to a new Mac.

The idea of buying a year-old mac every year is also very interesting.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2011


Also, I can attest to the fact that MacBooks on Craigslist definitely go for less than what Apple charges for the official refurbished models. Not more.

Especially models that are a year or more old - the only ones that sell for close to either refurb or new retail price are the "Oh Shit I Bought The Wrong Computer" folks who are selling their brand new MacBook because they realized they need a Pro or transferred to an office that uses PC or something.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on February 24, 2011


One thing that has figured into my thinking is the fact, referenced by tylerkaraszewski, above, that it is very easy to transfer all your documents, applications, settings etc. to a new Mac.

When I got a new mac last year, the importer feature did not work. I called AppleCare, and they were like, "yeah, sometimes it just doesn't work." I wouldn't rely on this to make your plan worth doing.

Also, a two year old macbook on eBay or Craigslist will be lucky to move at all, let alone sell for anything close to what you paid for it. Maybe if it had a year of AppleCare and was in NOS condition.

Just buy a computer and use it like everyone else does. If Apple products retained their value like you think they do, we would be using them as currency.
posted by Sara C. at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the new sandy bridge processors (i have one in a desktop) you will not need a new laptop for a while. Why waste your money and buy a new one every year?
posted by majortom1981 at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2011


a two year old macbook on eBay or Craigslist will be lucky to move at all

For Craigslist, that really depends on your location: I can well imagine NYC buyers being pickier about their second-hand hardware, because it's a huge market where buyers have plenty of kit to choose from, and that makes it closer to eBay than, say, Anchorage.

I agree with your basic premise, though: buy something that suits your needs, and sell it or hand it down when it no longer does. If you use your laptop for work, not play, then you might find it makes financial sense to replace it on a slightly faster cycle, but otherwise, there's no need to dance on the bleeding edge.
posted by holgate at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2011


Also, a two year old macbook on eBay or Craigslist will be lucky to move at all, let alone sell for anything close to what you paid for it. Maybe if it had a year of AppleCare and was in NOS condition.


Dunno, I sold a 4 year old macbook that was all scratched up and well out of apple care for $400 (canadian) a few months back, a put that towards the cost of a new air. Within one week of posting an ad on craiglist i had about 10 offers. If you're in a major city, selling old apple gear won't be an issue.

I think the two-year upgrade cycle is probably the best way to go, since in my experience apple hadwarre starts to crap out around the 3 or 4 year mark, so you want to cash in before that period (i waited longer than that b/c there was nothing i could see worth upgrading to until the airs came out).
posted by modernnomad at 5:19 PM on February 24, 2011


Those on Ars Technica call this the Jade Plan. Here's a few links:

Anyone "Trade Up" Laptops once a year? - Ars Technica OpenForum
Seeking endorsement of the Jade Plan re: Unibody MacBook - Ars Technica OpenForum
Please advise on the "Jade" plan for MacBook Pros - Ars Technica OpenForum
I have an amazing Jade Plan opportunity! Help me execute it! - Ars Technica OpenForum
Getting on the Jade Plan. - Ars Technica OpenForum
The Jade Plan is dead, at least for 2009. - Ars Technica OpenForum
Ode to Apple products' resale value - Ars Technica OpenForum
Should I "Jade" my MBP? - Ars Technica OpenForum
WTS: What are your suggestions for successful Jade Planning? - Ars Technica OpenForum
My MBP ordeal - I'm well screwed. Upd: Nope, Most Amazing AppleCare story of all time - Ars Technica OpenForum
Planning my MacBook (Pro?) buying strategy - Ars Technica OpenForum
First Mac - MB or MBP? - Ars Technica OpenForum
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:58 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sweeten the deal thusly:

1. Become a student and get the student price.
2. Pay to to join the Apple Developer program (you don't need to be a developer). Use the one-time only big hardware discount to buy a Macbook, use it for 1 year, then sell it and buy 1 year old re-furbs every year. You might balance out with no losses that way.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:45 AM on February 25, 2011


I have started updating my Macbook every 15-20 months or so, and, so far so good. In the past I would wait a lot longer, but after 3-4 years I'd have on hand an old machine that was difficult to get much for - in many cases I ended up donating to friends who couldn't really afford a new machine. So I had the big outlay on a new machine with little "behind" to offset the cost.

More recently I've been able to sell my much more recent laptops for a decent amount - again, within my friend network - which essentially means getting a new machine for half price or so, and more frequently.

I'm a pretty intensive user - I work on the same laptop I use at home, I'm on it all the time - and having the latest and greatest isn't strictly necessary but it is nice and I am pretty sure has saved me some massive headaches.
posted by mikel at 8:54 AM on February 25, 2011


Great input, everyone. Thank you very much!
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:32 PM on February 27, 2011


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