Is the AppleCare warranty for an Imac worth the money?
December 19, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking into buying a new Imac 21 1/2" for about $1300. They offer an AppleCare extended warranty for $100 a year. Is it worth it? What's your experience with the Imac? Thanks!
posted by crazylegs to Computers & Internet (33 answers total)
In general, yes. Unless you're prepared to either buy a new iMac within 3 years or pay Apple's often very expensive repair fees (which can be the better part of a new computer), you should buy AppleCare. Of course there's no guarantee that something will go wrong, but paying for AppleCare now will save you any worry about that possibility.
posted by The Michael The at 6:59 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. You should buy it. It's a wrench, I know, but the actual service provided is very good (they did some very expensive work on my computer very quickly) and honestly, there's a high enough percentage of lemons in Apple products that the odds are reasonable that you'll use the service. So, for example, we needed the service on 2 out of 5 new Apple computers (three of which were work computers, admittedly).

It's a huge tradeoff - I feel like when Apple products are good they are very, very good, but they have weird, flukey quality-control problems far more often than you'd think.
posted by Frowner at 7:05 AM on December 19, 2013

The real question is would you be able to cover the cost of a major repair or a totally new iMac after the initial warranty period wears off?

AppleCare has pretty great service and should you need any repairs it will be easy to get them done. This is vs my experiences with a BestBuy warranty where they really didn't want you to use it and made it very annoying to do so.
posted by fontophilic at 7:06 AM on December 19, 2013

There are lots of previous discussions here on AppleCare, and the general assessment is that it's worth the money in most cases. I've always bought it with my Mac laptops and tablets.

Desktop machines are less likely than portable ones to need it, but newer iMacs are becoming as tricky to repair as portables. It's a fixed cost that covers all manner of problems, and you get fast, no-questions-asked service. If you're relatively close to an Apple Store, the turnaround is even better.
posted by holgate at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have 2 decades of experience supporting and deploying macs and the answer to this question comes down to your comfort level with risk.

It makes sense if you are only buying one computer. It makes no sense if you are buying 10 (in this case buy 11 and keep one as a spare if you really have to.)

I consider it expensive insurance, and I've never had to use it, but I still buy it. I just like the idea that when I have problems they are not a stress. I buy it on all my devices (iPhones, iPads, Air), but a good case can be made for not getting it. You can probably get 3rd part insurance (friends of mine do this on their iPhones). You're kind of banking on the idea you'll need the insurance to make it worthwhile.

I disagree with Frowner up there. Apple doesn't have a higher percentage of lemons. There are an occasional one, but Apple generally makes good on those regardless of warranty. I see the same level with any manufacturer. I'm willing to allow hard data to change my mind, but you now have my anecdotal evidence offsetting his.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:09 AM on December 19, 2013

Another advantage of AppleCare is that you do get better/faster treatment from the Geniuses, call centers, etc. I always buy it, though sometimes if cash is tight I will wait 11 months and buy it before the original warranty runs out.

In one remarkable instance I received a new iMac (of a model two iterations newer than the one I had) because Apple said it would take too long to fix it.
posted by Gungho at 7:13 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The service provided under AppleCare is very good. However, I've owned a number of Apple products in recent years and have never had one break on me, knock on wood. So....
posted by dfriedman at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2013

One thing I feel compelled to point out is that unless I'm missing something, Applecare isn't $100 a year - it's $169 for 3 years.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Is there any possibility of getting it discounted? In the UK, I know it's possible to get it for three years for under £50 with a student discount (& when I was a student, that was the only way I could possibly afford it).
posted by littlegreen at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2013

I have never been a Mac person, but I have owned a looot of computers and the number of them that have not needed some kind of repair in the first three years of ownership is very small. I do have family and good friends who are Mac people and, hell, all it really takes is looking at that iMac to realize that it is not something you are going to be able to do repairs on yourself. So, I tend not to buy warranties on my desktop PCs, but I also buy the sorts of desktops where I can replace bad memory or bad hard drives with little effort. I always buy warranties on my laptops because many of them are less maintainable by the user. This very clearly falls into the realm of something where if anything goes wrong, you're going to be paying Apple to fix it one way or another, and you're probably going to be paying more than the warranty cost.

If you get lucky and don't need it, even better, but three years is a long time for a computer.
posted by Sequence at 7:29 AM on December 19, 2013

I had an imac at work that ended up with a problem with the display (one half of the backlight started failing. The repair would have been about $800 I think, but with Applecare it was free. And remarkably fast.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 7:36 AM on December 19, 2013

We didn't get apple care for our 2008 iMac. In the past 5 years, we have replaced the graphics card, DVD drive twice, and the hard drive. We've spent nearly $1,000 keeping that thing running. And they gave us a break on labor charges. If we get another mac, we'll get apple care. But that's a big if; we love iOS and the Mac look, but the reliability has need pretty disappointing.
posted by Kriesa at 7:40 AM on December 19, 2013

Joining in the chorus saying "Do it," especially if you live near enough to an Apple Store that you can just roll in and hand it off to them.
posted by Etrigan at 7:40 AM on December 19, 2013

I never, never, never buy extended warranties, with only one exception: AppleCare. I have had good luck with the reliability of my Apple computers, but it's one of the few warranties I've seen that offers a reasonable price for very, very good service. Absolutely, yes, get the AppleCare.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agree with Pater Aletheias above, the only warranty I ever bought was AppleCare. Even just for the goodwill it bought me - they replaced my iphone for free after I dropped it in water, even though I was 1 month out of my extended warranty and it was totally my fault.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:06 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're in Australia, they will probably be on their best behaviour for a while even without AppleCare.
posted by flabdablet at 8:15 AM on December 19, 2013

I currently own three iPads, a MacBook Pro, a Thunderbolt Display, and an iPhone. I've owned at least three other iPhones, various iPods and such, and at least half a dozen other apple computers.

In general, I have never bought AppleCare (maybe once or twice) and I generally haven't missed it. I think it's unnecessary.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:16 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tomorrowful: "One thing I feel compelled to point out is that unless I'm missing something, Applecare isn't $100 a year - it's $169 for 3 years."

I think it's important to note that you automatically get 1 year of Applecare (Apple certified repairs, only 90 days telephone support) with the purchase of the computer. Purchasing it extends both Apple certified repairs and telephone support for two more years, and it can be purchased at any time in that first year, even up to the last day before it ends.

Also, you don't have to buy Applecare directly through Apple. It's a code that you apply to the serial number of your computer, and some retailers offer a discount. B&H photo is a well known retailer that offers Applecare for the iMac for $122.
posted by bluecore at 8:16 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

You may want to also consider a personal articles rider on your homeowners/renters insurance instead of Applecare.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:26 AM on December 19, 2013

I've had both a 2009 iMac and a 2011 Macbook Pro serviced under the extended AppleCare. Absolutely worth it to me.

Also, you don't have to buy it right away, just any time within the first year.
posted by kidbritish at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2013

As long as we're offering anecdotal evidence, I've owned two iPods, two iPhones, a Macbook Pro and a Macbook Air. I've bought Apple Care on everything but the two iPods.

iPod touch: charging capabilities broke about 1.5 years in, had to pay $150 for a replacement (for an iPod that cost $300 when new; the $150 was well over the cost of what Apple Care would have been)

Macbook Pro: had the trackpad replaced because it wasn't clicking anymore, had the power adapter replaced because it wasn't charging, myriad of other small repairs in the year 2-3 periods. Repairs also cost over the cost of the Apple Care.

iPhones: my iPhone 4S has been replaced 3 (!) times. One time was my fault because I dropped it in water, so I had to pay $50 "co-pay" to replace it. Once, the sound stopped working, and the other time, the top right screen-off button stopped working, and I got new replacement iPhones for free. (That last time happened only 15 days before my Apple Care expired and they gave me an entirely new phone!)

The only devices I haven't yet had to use Apple Care for was my very first iPod click wheel (the video one) and this current Macbook Air, which I've only had for half a year. I'm also sort of hard on my technological devices, and they are simultaneously very essential to my life, so it's totally worth it. It's possible I could have gotten the repairs done for cheaper elsewhere, but I like the peace of mind of knowing I can waltz into an Apple Store and the ultimate level of accountability is getting a new replacement computer. YMMV.
posted by andrewesque at 9:04 AM on December 19, 2013

My mid-2007 iMac hard drive committed hari-kari a month before AppleCare expired. This turned out to be great for me, since Apple replaced it with a new one without any fuss, effectively winding the clock on our comp back to 0. It's almost 2014 and still going strong.
posted by Beardman at 9:11 AM on December 19, 2013

I am meh on AppleCare.

On the one hand, I had a minor problem with my laptop about a year and a half ago, and it was nice to just go to the Genius Bar and get it fixed on the spot, for free. On the other hand, I'm not sure it would have cost less to do the repair, which is the only support I've needed on my laptop in four years.

So far I've had two Apple laptops, both of which have lasted 4-5 years and never needed extensive repairs. I've never had an iMac, so I can't speak to reliability issues on that particular machine, but I can't imagine it's really much different. In my experience with Apple products, it's more a luck of the draw thing (for instance I have never needed to repair or replace anything on either iPhone I've had, or any iPod) than a "this product is notoriously unreliable" thing.

You're buying the AppleCare as insurance against something going catastrophically wrong. Probably, nothing will go wrong and you will feel, as I do, like it might have been a waste of money. On the other hand, on the off chance that something happens, you will be glad you did and feel, going forward, like AppleCare is a must.
posted by Sara C. at 9:23 AM on December 19, 2013

I've bought AppleCare whenever I've bought a machine from Apple, and to date, I am in the black when I compare what the repairs I've had done under extended warranty vs. the cost, by many hundreds of dollars.

Apple doesn't mess with you much when you know what you're talking about, either -- they don't give you the run-around. If I call them & say I have a problem with part X, they'll start the troubleshooting script, & once I go through "I tried that, tried that, and also…" they realize I know what I'm talking about, and they issue an RMA without much further hassle. I've also been surprised on the upside by their turn times on repairs a couple times.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:03 AM on December 19, 2013

Some anecdata from my parents: they bought a brand new iMac last year along with Applecare. A faulty surge protector fried the power supply, Apple sent a brand new iMac to replace it. The same faulty surge protector fried THAT ONE, too, and Apple sent ANOTHER brand new iMac to replace it; I believe the second replacement had an upgraded amount of RAM as well. This is around when someone diagnosed the surge protector as the problem. I'd say it's worth it.
posted by ltisz at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go against the grain here. If you are at all disciplined, never buy extended warranties. Instead, deposit the money in an investment account. Then, if something should need a repair, pay for it out of that account. You will find, over the years, that the account grows much faster than your need to withdraw from it. At the end of a few years, you will own a pile of money that otherwise would have gone to various manufacturers, much of it as pure profit.

Homeowners and automobile policies protect against major disasters which you would be ill-equipped to weather. An iPhone dropped in a swimming pool, however, can easily be paid out of your self-insurance account, and the remaining funds will continue to grow.
posted by dinger at 10:44 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like Pater Aletheias above, I never buy extended warranties except for Applecare.

I only get it for the bigger items - iMacs and laptops - not for our iPhones or iPads or AppleTV (although our iPhones cost almost as much as our iMac now). For laptops, certainly, I highly recommend them. More agnostic about iMacs, but Applecare's no-questions-asked service policy is really quite good.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2013

An iPhone dropped in a swimming pool, however, can easily be paid out of your self-insurance account

Let's assume that you pay $199 for an iPhone, and instead of paying $99 for AppleCare, you deposit the money into an account. If the iPhone takes a bath in its second year, you're no longer entitled to the subsidy price, so a replacement will cost you $269 per Apple's out-of-warranty service fee. Where are you getting that level of return?

(Yes, I know, you're considering extended warranties en masse, magic of compound interest over time, etc., but still.)

The alternative is to use a credit card which matches and extends the warranty -- Amex does it, some other cards do as well -- but claiming on those third-party warranties is like claiming on extended warranties for most other purchases, i.e. a royal pain in the arse. AppleCare is not a pain in the arse to use when you need it. If it were, I wouldn't buy it.
posted by holgate at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2013

The nice thing about AppleCare as opposed to insurance, adding your computer to your home insurance policy, or buying it on an Amex, or starting some kind of investment account, is that it requires NO action on your part if you ever need anything. You just call Apple, and they take care of it, and there is no charge.

The Genius Bar is not going to care about what card you bought your computer with.
posted by Sara C. at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2013

One of the most likely points of failure on any computer is the disk drive. The iMac's disk drive takes some real work to get to (and it helps to have ~$30 worth of semi-specialized tools. Even better, apparently the drive used in the iMac has some proprietary cabling for a temperature sensor which means that a 3rd party replacement requires jumping through some hoops to avoid the system fans running at 100% all the time.

While I personally like Apple products, I find this particular quirk maddening. If I were in your position I'd be torn between cursing apple and skipping AppleCare, and cursing Apple and buying AppleCare.

In the end though, while another $100-200 is nothing to sneeze at, its also not that much in the great scheme of things, and I think, worth a good deal more than most extended warranty programs.
posted by Good Brain at 3:26 PM on December 19, 2013

I personally own four apple devices and only purchased applecare for the laptop and cinema display. When the fan on my laptop started whirring loudly, having the applecare on it saved me hundreds of dollars in repair costs. I have had no issues with my display nor my iphone and ipod.

Now comes the part where I strongly encourage you to get extended the warranty. A little over a year ago, we bought each of my parents iphone 4S because we thought it was user friendly. A year later, my mother's phone lost internet and bluetooth capability. It's an issue apparently affecting many others but apple does not admit hardware/software issues as the cause. When I took her phone in to apple store, they told me I could pay $200 to buy another one.

Shortly thereafter, my father could not talk into his phone and be heard by the person on the other end unless he was on speakerphone. Took it into apple, they wanted him to buy a new phone.

I would advise you from personal experience that the 3 year support is worth the money for the chance you'll have issues with your device despite how well you take care of it. It still burns me up to have the apple genius suggest that the iphones were broken by user handling after describing both phone's conditions as "pristine".
posted by loquat at 4:20 PM on December 19, 2013

There are two warranties one should always get: Applecare and Carmax MaxCare.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:18 PM on December 19, 2013

We have been using Macs and other Apple products for years (I'm talking since the eighties). Counting desktops, laptops, iPods, iPads, iPhones, printers, and Airports, we've probably owned sixty Apple products over the years. I have never bought AppleCare.

In those (nearly) thirty years, I have needed repairs on exactly four Apple products:

One was still within the one-year warranty period, so no charge.

One needed a new hard drive, which I replaced myself (with a larger-capacity model).

One, a dead iPhone battery, I also replaced myself.

Finally, a broken screen on a daughter's iPhone, I also replaced myself, with a cheap kit and tools bought online.

Total cost of all repairs: about three hundred bucks.

Total cash I have in my bank account by not buying AppleCare (including investment gains): conservatively, about five thousand bucks.

Apple products are about the most reliable in the world. A handful will fail, and a handful will meet disastrous ends through accidents. But, for all but the most hopeless klutzes, I doubt that AppleCare is a good buy.
posted by dinger at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2013

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