Refurbished Mac - stupid or smart?
February 2, 2007 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Refurbished Mac: Good idea? Bad idea?

I'm thinking about buying a refurbished mac from the Apple store (online) in the next 3 or so months. Is this a wise choice? I really, really, really want a Mac (either Mini or iMac - leaning toward iMac even though I don't need it for the monitor, I just like the over all specs), but given my budget for a 2nd computer, new Mac prices are much more than I'd like to pay. Refurbed machines seem right in my price range, however. (I would definitely get applecare if & when I make this purchase.)

Is a refurbished Mac a crappy computer, or is it a good computer with a previously disgruntled owner? Is a refurbished Mac from Apple no better than a refurbished Mac from a reseller? Any and all wisdom on this topic is appreciated.
posted by contessa to Computers & Internet (39 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Get Applecare. Enjoy your Mac.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:18 PM on February 2, 2007

Get Applecare and it's a totally reasonable thing to do.
posted by jessamyn at 10:23 PM on February 2, 2007

I have bought a couple of refurbished macs at over the years. I bought a macbook new, in an apple store. Neither of the refurbs have had any trouble, but the macbook has been in for repairs twice.

Still, yes, get applecare.
posted by whatnot at 10:24 PM on February 2, 2007

Best answer: Refurbished mac=chinese machine that didn't make it in china's assembly line, fixed by hand


defective machine replaced for customer then fixed


store floor model refreshed by hand

either way...its a HAND checked/built machine, probably better than the average retail mac. just be sure and get applecare
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 10:39 PM on February 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do some research on the iMac before you get one, I work in a Mac office and the only ones that ever give us troubles are the 20" iMacs. One of three is working right now.

Also, one nice thing about refurbs is you stand a decent chance of getting one with a hard drive stuffed full of porn. They called it a mistake, I call it a feature.

And I would buy a used mac over a new PC anyday but I hate Windows. Besides, as long as you have AppleCare, you should be covered. I've never had to send back a Mac for service (yes, I am knocking on wood as I write this).
posted by fenriq at 10:46 PM on February 2, 2007

I've never gotten a refurbished Mac, but I've had quite a few used ones, and they've all been rock-solid. I only just this year retired my Blue & White G3, an 8-year old computer. It was being used for processor-intensive graphics work up until the end.

But cover your ass - get Applecare.
posted by lekvar at 11:29 PM on February 2, 2007

Best answer: assuming it works it's a much more ecological choice, for whatever that's worth.
posted by lgyre at 11:37 PM on February 2, 2007

I have bought numerous refurbs from the apple website, and also a refurb ipod. All have been wonderful. Some items have different packaging, but... no complaints, and hundreds of dollars in savings. My next one will probably be a refurb too. I keep my eye on the apple web site clearance section.
posted by The Deej at 11:55 PM on February 2, 2007


*proud user of multiple refurb apple products--I mean, really--what in the win/PC world even compares for the price? Nada. That's what. How much eMachine do you want to own with it's multitudes of trial versions of AOL and anti-virus spyware for around the same cost as a Mac Mini? Even without Applecare should it die in 18 months you still come out ahead compared to the tripe from the other camp.
posted by sourwookie at 12:30 AM on February 3, 2007

Oh--and the fans. Don't even get me started on how noisy they are. Computers should be silent.
posted by sourwookie at 12:37 AM on February 3, 2007

Ditto all the above.

My refurb powerbook (from the apple store) took me a month or two to find why/where it was different to new (aside from coming in a brown box, not retail box). A tiny dent on the inside of the battery compartment. Get applecare and you're absolutely good to go.
posted by devbrain at 12:46 AM on February 3, 2007

I have a refurb Mini that's been working fine since I got it. Plus, if you're willing to go "last-gen" you can save a boatload of money.
posted by cebailey at 1:42 AM on February 3, 2007

Every one I've heard about that's bought one has been happy with it. The only thing you might not get is a proper box.

I don't know why everyone's recommending Applecare. You get a one year warranty anyway.
posted by cillit bang at 3:25 AM on February 3, 2007

Devil's advocate . . . the difference in price between a refurb plus Applecare and a new Mac without it is almost nil (I am an AppleCare skeptic, unlike most Mefites). Apple has been upgrading the feature set on much of its line every few months. The newest machines with the Core2 Duo chips are significantly more capable and will likely give you longer service before obsolescence. If you wait a few months you can save the price of a Leopard upgrade.

Really, the best savings I've seen on Apple-refurbed models is about 20 percent off the comparable latest version of the platform in question. Amortize it over the life of a computer and its trivial. The only really sound reason to do it is to reduce the environmental impact of your purchase, which is of course a noble reason. But not if you end up wanting a new computer a year earlier than you otherwise would have.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:31 AM on February 3, 2007

Every mac I've bought since 2000 or so has been a refurb, and they've been great. They are basically indistinguishable from new, and they have the same warranty as a new one, so go for it. Get Applecare if you really want it, but you get that first year's warranty either way.
posted by litlnemo at 3:57 AM on February 3, 2007

I think the packaging is different -- if that matters to you.
But, yes, refurbs can be a great way to go.
posted by skepticallypleased at 6:02 AM on February 3, 2007

Just make sure you get an Intel Mac.
posted by designbot at 6:51 AM on February 3, 2007

I got a refurbished iMac G5 right after they announced the Intel Macs (or right before? I don't remember) last March because the computer we had been using (my husband's PC laptop - NEVAR AGAIN) died a sudden and violent death. I did have to immediately take it to the computer hospital as there was something screwy with the video card (Apple was great about it and I didn't pay a thing), but since it's come back, the past 10 months have been glorious.

Refurbished from Apple gives you the same warranty as a new computor, just in a duller cardboard box rather than those shiny packages. Perhaps it won't have all of the newest bells and whistles, but you can be sure it's a damn fine machine nonetheless.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:03 AM on February 3, 2007

You don't need an Intel Mac.
posted by Kirklander at 7:55 AM on February 3, 2007

My last three macs have been refurbs. No out-of-the-ordinary gripes. I had issues with my Powerbook, but they were handled speedily and politely by competent staff on both occasions. (gone out for repair only 3 days, both times) I will probably always buy refurbished.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2007

Great way to go -- have bought 2, no problems. At the time I bought my G5 it was a $2700 machine for $2000, shipped.
posted by omnidrew at 8:11 AM on February 3, 2007

I bought a refurbished Macbook.

The system has been unstable since I got it (occasional app crashes, ~weekly kernel crashes, goes to sleep and never wakes up). The hard drive just gave it up after 8 months. I was hoping the replacement would help with the stability, but the system is still crashy. Yes, I know Applecare will fix it, but the downtime is annoying.

So if I had it to do over, I would have bought new.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2007

I bought a refurbished iBook (w/o AppleCare) three years ago. It was great until I had to start fixing stuff six months or so ago. I just replaced it with a refurb MacBook (w/o AppleCare). It has a ding in the screen, but I'm just living with it. I assume I can't do anything about that. (Can I?)

I appreciate the advice to get AppleCare with a refurb, but I think fourcheesemac is right. A memory upgrade and AppleCare would put it out of my price range.
posted by booth at 10:35 AM on February 3, 2007

Best answer: sourwookie , must you turn every mac thread into a pc bashing thread. please note the irony of the 'superior' machine which is more of a 'value' but which for some reason requires to buyer to purchase a 150-200 dollar extended warranty. Just answer the question if youre going to bother to post.

That said, we have refurbs at work and they are indistingushable from the new machines. Factory refurbs have always treated me right both from the pc and apple worlds. Like someone wrote about this usually means a technician has examined the machine and fixed it, when new machines just roll off the assembly line. So you usually get a machine thats been hand inspected and you get to pocket the savings.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:50 AM on February 3, 2007

Personally, I believe extended warranties are a scam and never get them for my own machines. If the manufacturer cant provide adequate protection for the consumer at the retail price point then thats a serious problem.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:52 AM on February 3, 2007

I have no experience with factory-refurbed macs, but I'm typing this on a used 12" G4 powerbook that I bought from a friend about 2 years back. It had been dropped, so the superdrive is really finicky (I just use a LaCie external) and there's a bit of case damage, but even so, it's a rock-solid machine. I'm sure that a refurb would be an even more solid value.
posted by Alterscape at 11:39 AM on February 3, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, so --

1) More ecological choice
2) Hand-checked
3) Any defects likely fixed/invisible
4) Possibility of free porn

My choice is made. Thanks mefi!!
posted by contessa at 12:16 PM on February 3, 2007

damn dirty ape, Apple Care is more than a warranty - it's fantastic tech support. Once, when my daughter was 11, she somehow clicked some combination of keys to seriously change the screen. The tech guy from Apple Care sat on the phone with me for an hour to figure out what she'd done and to undo it (I think he said she's put it into colorblind mode). He thought it was a great challenge - and he did fix it.

The Apple Care people have never been less than fantastic, polite, informed - and we've had Macs for a decade & a half. Worth EVERY penny. We've bought a refurbed iPod & iBook, and they've both been great.
posted by clarkstonian at 12:44 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dunno. Looking at the cost, it might make more sense to get a new Mac without AppleCare than getting a used one with AppleCare. The price of the protection is usually $200 or so, and for that extra $200 you could have just as easily gotten a new model.
posted by Aanidaani at 5:15 PM on February 3, 2007

I'm genuinely curious: the general consensus around here is that extended warranties are a total scam (and I completely agree). But this thread wholeheartedly endorses AppleCare, which sounds to me a lot like an extended warranty, with the added bonus of being allowed to dick around on the phone with tech support dudes. What's the difference?

(Also, the variable pricing of AppleCare--it costs more for more expensive items--gets my Bullshit Detector twitching. If it's tech support + "it breaks, we fix it," why isn't it a flat fee across the board?)

I'm not a troll...just look at my user name. I'm seriously considering a refurbished Mac, but having to pay a few extra hundred bucks for AppleCare goes pretty solidly in the right hand column of a Pros/Cons chart.

PS: Thanks for posting this, Contessa! I'd never heard of refurbished Macs until this thread.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:24 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I purchased a refurb MacBookPro (core duo 2ghz with 1gb ram, 256mb video for about $1599 cdn) from the Apple store two months ago and have been extremely happy with it. Although the packaging wasn't as new as I'd hoped, the notebook itself was pristine, no hiccups, and $1000 (cdn) cheaper than had I purchased new. I'm getting the apple care next week. Do it!
posted by furtive at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2007

Best answer: Not sure if I'm beating a dead horse here, but I'll toss my two cents in. (How's that for a mixed metaphor?)

I've been a Mac user for years, and my last 3 desktops, 2 notebooks, and 1 iPod have all been refurbished units, purchased from Apple's website. I've heard a variety of stories on where these units come from; some people have told me they're used by Apple internally, then pushed back out for sale, others have said they're ones that failed QC in the States before being shipped to consumers and have been fixed, etc. I don't know, and don't honestly care. They've been great computers in my experience, and if you can get the model you want refurbished, I think you'd be silly not to get it.

About AppleCare: I think that it's worth getting, in general, on Notebooks, but not on Desktops. There are people who are probably going to disagree on both counts, saying that you should get it on desktops or shouldn't bother even on notebooks, but it's been my experience that notebooks get beaten around a lot harder than desktops, and also that Apple has had some more problems with notebooks in the past 5 years than with their desktops.

Ultimately the decision on Applecare is a judgment call: are you the kind of person who is hard on your gear? Thinking back to other computers that you've owned, have you ever sent one back for warranty service? If you have, maybe you should consider it. Personally, I've only bought Applecare once, on a notebook, and I never ended up using it. (But, knock on wood, I seem to have good computer karma; I haven't had any significant hardware problems with any system I've ever owned since 1996. Maybe I'm just on borrowed time.) My brother, however, has run through screens, logic boards, hard drives, optical drives, and keyboards like nobody's business. (Not all of which have been Apple's fault, he's just a goon. But they've fixed it anyway.) For him, Applecare is a necessity. Which camp you fall into is a personal judgment call.

So anyway, if you can find a system you like and it's refurbished, go for it, and enjoy. I don't think you'll regret it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2007

I've always been a fan of AppleCare for laptops, but not for desktops. Laptops just get SO much more abuse.
posted by rokusan at 10:17 PM on February 3, 2007

AppleCare vs. No AppleCare is a complex question. It depends, mostly, on the useful life of a computer in *your* work context, your ability to fix some things yourself, and so forth. for example, I need a new machine every 10-12 months or so, so Applecare is waste of money for me. But even the old Macs I keep around mostly keep on ticking, sort of. And the major repairs they've needed have mostly been Apple-initiated recalls, some long after the warranty expired. Over time, across dozens of Macs (I run a lab full of them, and have owned ca. 2 dozen myself), if I had purchased AppleCare for all or even most of them I would have been throwing the money away, as with most extended warranties. For one user, with one computer, the calculus might be different. Statistically, I'll bet Apple makes a fortune on the margin between what it costs for them to deliver AppleCare covered service and what they charge for it. As an Apple shareholder, that makes me happy. As a customer, not so much.

You can also buy AppleCare up to one year out on a new Mac. Not sure that's true for refurbs.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2007

Laptops just get SO much more abuse.

And a cursory search of AskMe, or Apple's AppleCare policy, will reveal that "abuse" is not covered (well) under AppleCare. Dropped machines, spilled liquids, etc. are not warranty items, and they are (following theft) by far the most common causes of laptop damage.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:53 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've bought several refurbs from Apple. All have worked flawlessly, and while none came with free porn, all but one came with some extra RAM or an upgraded hard drive, or something along those lines. And FWIW, I've never bought AppleCare, but I'm more of a fix-it-myself kind of guy anyway. I don't see a problem with buying AppleCare if you think you need it though.
posted by spilon at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2007

I've had excellent luck with refurbs from Apple, and I never buy extended warranties -- except for Applecare. I've got an iBook that I use heavily, got Applecare a few months into its life (early 2004), and have made out like a bandit.

To wit: I'm on my 5th keyboard, 2nd HD, and 2nd LCD screen (when my habit of picking the open computer up by the corner of the screen finally caused me to damage it). Plus, the thinger that holds the battery in (the one you turn with a nickel) was busted when I sent it in for the screen problem -- so they went ahead and replaced the whole bottom case. Plus, they sent me 2 new batteries when mine was recalled.

All in all, a pretty good deal.
posted by turducken at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2007

I haven't read the previous comments, but just wanted to mention my personal experience.

Last January (right after the Macbooks were introduced) I bought a refurbished Powerbook from the apple site and I couldn't be happier with it. Still. I adore it.

If I hadn't bought refurbed, I only would have been able to afford an iBook, and I'm so so so glad I got the Powerbook.

(Didn't get the Applecare.)
posted by pyjammy at 9:58 AM on February 5, 2007

The refurb machines are nice. They used to do the actual refurb process at the Apple manufacturing faciity in Elk Grove, CA. The guys that were over there did an excellent job and took pride in their work.

My iPod Nano is a refurb. Never had a single problem with it, and it was inexpensive.

When i was working with AppleCare (as an employee) and did equipment ordering for the department, we frequently got refurbished gear and had very few problems. When we did, it was usually something like a bad hard drive or power supply. Pretty much the same things that fail on brand new machines.
posted by drstein at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2007

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