Taking the plunge into AppleCare territory
October 22, 2007 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Is the AppleCare Protection Plan a "make-it-or-break-it" add-on when purchasing an Apple laptop? Even one that gets low usage?

The AppleCare Protection Plan often comes up in discussions here, with many opining that it's absolutely necessary when buying a laptop from Apple.

But for me, with the laptop I'm buying, the numbers don't seem to add up.

The machine I'm hankerin' for is a MacBook 13"White Intel Core 2 Duo 2Ghz 1GB 80GB Combo, at $1,044 new at MacConnection. (I've looked at refurbished versions of this on the Apple site, and they're about the same price.)

The AppleCare Protection Plan add-on is a $249: A whopping 24% of the sticker price! Holy jeez!

Now, I'd be more keen to get the Plan if I banged on the MacBook daily, but that's not the case. I'll be using it once a month or so. If that. It's a low-mileage travel machine.

-What does the Protection Plan offer that's worth this exorbitant sum? To me, it seems reminiscent of the extended service contracts at electronics dealers.
-Do Apple laptops suffer from breakage or failure to the extent that the Plan is warranted? How do their newer MacBooks fare these days?
-Does shelling out $249 make sense in my case, for a laptop with extremely low usage extended over time?
posted by Gordion Knott to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most likely part to die within 3 years in the HD.

Cost of new 160GB HD is about $150 iirc. Probably much less by the time it wears out.

You do get phone support and they generally treat you better if you AppleCare, and getting the trickier parts replaced is kinda expensive. However I've been using Apple laptops for about 5 years without ever having a catastrophic failure due to my ineptitude or theirs so far.

The HD in both my laptops has gone a bit funky after a couple of years and I've replaced them without too much hassle. I drag mine around a lot as well so it takes a lot of knocks. Both had up times of over 6000 hours before getting SMART errors.

AppleCare isn't anything but an extended warranty, and yes, Apple no doubt make tons on it. Apple laptops don't have a life span lower than any other laptop in the same class afaik. My friend actually threw his PowerBook down a short flight of concrete stairs by accident once and other than being a bit bent out of shape it was fine.

Personally I wouldn't bother.
posted by public at 3:48 AM on October 22, 2007

I'm in the "Applecare or nothing" camp. I often like to tell my horror story of how my penchant for cheapness caused me to not purchase Applecare protection on a G5 workstation. I, like you and public, thought it was a ripoff.

Then one day, the logic board literally went up in smoke. When I went to the Apple support site to check my warranty status, I discovered to my horror that my 1-year limited warranty had expired 3 days prior. So instead of getting my logicboard replaced for free under Applecare, I had to pay over $750 to get it fixed.

I've heard similar stories of people who have had DVD drives in un-Applecare'd Powerbooks fail, and being quoted in excess of $250 to get it fixed and replaced.

Yeah, it's a racket. But I've known too many people whom Applecare protection has benefitted that it's hard not to recommend buying into Apple's racket.

You have up to one year from the time of your purchase to decide to purchase Applecare on your computer. Up til then, you have pretty much the same protection that a full Applecare plan gives you. If, by the end of that year, you have any sense of doubt or paranoia about your computer flaking out, and you don't plan on upgrading to a newer computer, then purchasing an addtional 3 years of Applecare protection is a no-brainer.
posted by melorama at 4:16 AM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

For public, and other people in the EU, AppleCare doesn't give you any legally enforcable rights that you wouldn't have against the retailer if you skipped the expensive add-on. See this previous AskMe. But I'm guessing that Gordion Knott is in the U.S. somehow.
posted by grouse at 4:23 AM on October 22, 2007

Totally get it.
posted by sneakin at 4:37 AM on October 22, 2007

As a rule, I never purchase extended warranties on anything I buy. But I got AppleCare back when I got my G5 and Cinema Display.

When you consider the complexity and inherent fragility of computer equipment, it's pretty obvious that the standard warranties are horribly inadequate.

As far as Apple products go, they tend to be relatively reliable. And, while HDs are cheap to self-replace, if you have problems with the laptop display (and Apple has been known to have occasional issues with them) you will thank whatever gods you sacrifice goats to that you had AppleCare.

And, for the record, I actually did use my AppleCare coverage...once.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:39 AM on October 22, 2007

You can save yourself ~$50 if you purchase AppleCare for a MacBook through Amazon or similar.

I guess the question becomes how much risk are you willing to take and do you think you can diagnose and fix anything that might go wrong yourself? Some people take a lot of comfort in knowing you can take any quirky issue to the Genius bar.
posted by dereisbaer at 4:44 AM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's how I've used Applecare for the last 10 years or so. I buy a new system, let's say in the year 2000. Around the two year, six month mark I sell the system used. Because Applecare is transferable from one owner to the other I can sell the computer on Craigslist with a 6 month (or 5, 4,3, etc.) warranty from Apple.

Thus, i get a decent return on the Applecare investment, I don't have to deal with any headaches if something goes wrong a week after I sell it, and the buyer has peace of mind for a few months.

All that, plus the obvious benefits of Applecare for the first few years.
posted by jeremias at 5:02 AM on October 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

The cost of parts (should you ever need them) justifies the cost of Applecare. Yes, warranty programs are a numbers game, but unless you keep enough disposable cash on hand to immediately replace the system, it's a numbers game that you can lose.

Also, I think it's worth noting that Applecare does NOT cover accidental damage, and from what I can see, they don't have a warranty level that does.

Get a supplemental laptop insurance policy. For my zip code, insuring an $1100 laptop would be $69/yr with no deductible.
posted by mysterious1der at 5:05 AM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

The other thing you might consider is whether any credit cards you have include extended warranty. One of my credit cards doubled (or maybe tripled, I don't remember) the manufacturer's warranty.

Before I got my MacBook, I had a PowerBook for three years with no AppleCare. Well into the second year, the hard drive failed. I submitted the repair receipt to my credit card company and they sent me a check.

All that said, I'm not against AppleCare by any means. There are a lot of arguments for it. But just wanted to throw this option out there.
posted by veggieboy at 5:18 AM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

Applecare is the only extended warranty I consider worth buying. I automatically figure it into the purchase price. I have many times been grateful I did -- like the time I spilled half a litre of water on my iBook and when the keyboard shorted, got a new one gratis. There've been a few blips like this, some my fault and some not, that have made me very, very grateful for Applecare.

No, they don't cover accidental damage in any official way but depending on who you buy from and go to for service the customer service can be pretty amazing. I find that the places I've bought my Macs have all been very solutions-oriented and will work with you. I strongly recommend going to a university bookstore, or a smaller local dealer. I can't think of any good reason to go to a flagship store for either sales or service.
posted by loiseau at 5:24 AM on October 22, 2007

In my personal experience, I have benefited hugely from Applecare. I get it for every one of my computers, and its amazing. Once I sent in a laptop to have a couple of keys unstuck (my fault, no doubt) and they did $1,000 of repairs that they just noticed needed to be done (they replaced the LCD because it was fragmenting funny, and a few other things as well). Several times there have been injuries which were entirely my fault and Apple fixed them no questions asked (ones which, if not fixed by Apple, would have rendered the computer toast). Its not their official policy to do so, but they've always been wonderful to me. Just last month I called because I lost my OS disks and they sent me a whole new set per Applecare. Yet another thing I didn't expect but entirely appreciated.
posted by letahl at 5:48 AM on October 22, 2007

I might had bad luck with my hardware but I got, over 8 years, about 5000$ worth of parts and labour paid for by AppleCare. I even got a brand new Powerbook when, after 2 years and eleven months, my older model was not reparable because they didn't receive the parts from Taiwan in time.

I always buy my AppleCare at eBay because prices are much cheaper (especially for non-USA customers) and a 16 digit code ships really easy. Make sure however that the seller is not forcing you 20$ to ship the actual box (with some software) if you don't need it.
posted by maremare at 7:04 AM on October 22, 2007

Just to throw in my personal experience with the MacBook & AppleCare...

My MacBook is relatively low-usage as well; however, I've had to take it to an Apple store three times. One of those times required a hard drive replacement, and another necessitated a logic board replacement. Usually I don't go for extended warranties, but laptops are an exception. They are fragile, and difficult/expensive to repair when they break.

I sleep much better knowing I have two more years of service available for my MacBook.
posted by upplepop at 7:36 AM on October 22, 2007

I can't say whether or not the AppleCare I purchased on my Apple laptops has really been worth it given the repairs I've had done, but I can say that in my experience selling my old laptops on eBay, still having AppleCare on your laptop seems highly desirable for a lot of buyers.

Something you might consider if you were planning to hold onto this laptop for a year or two and then upgrade.
posted by jacobbarssbailey at 8:35 AM on October 22, 2007

Apple laptops are among the most reliable laptops out there... but laptops in general tend to be much less reliable than desktops. So while I normally avoid extended warranties, I think it's a good idea to get AppleCare for Apple laptops (though I don't think it's necessary for desktops/towers). I've already used it once on my MacBook Pro (for a fan that went bad), and I still have a year and a half left on it.
posted by klausness at 10:24 AM on October 22, 2007

I've had multiple laptops: a Toshiba, a Dell, and now my MacBook Pro. On all of them, I shell out for the extended warranty.

The Toshiba warranty turned into absolute crap. They stopped having parts for my laptop in stock about a year and a half after I bought it, resulting in me being without for almost two months until they got a replacement for my video card. I stopped even considering them for machines of any sort after that. (They also refused to send it back to me until the parts were in, so I couldn't even try to find a second-source and get someone else to repair it. And when I got it back, I had to call again because, despite my notations, they formatted the hard drive 'to fix a driver issue'. Dear Toshiba: formatting a HD to WinXP Home with NO drivers is not 'fixing' a driver issue. Enough said there.)

My Dell XPS2 is two and a half years old. It's also had some issues with the video board (I play a lot of heavy-graphic online games like City of Heroes and World of Warcraft). Dell, however, has an outcall warranty option, where they come to you and fix it. Yes, I've had my video board replaced twice. But in my kitchen, and I was able to check first before letting the guy go..

After that? No way I was not getting my MBP without Applecare. I want the security of a machine that I can, if it blows a seal, hop a couple of buses to the nearest store, go and take to the Genius Bar and have them work on, and have a reasonable chance of not having to shell out half my rent to get that done.
posted by mephron at 10:26 AM on October 22, 2007

I'm presently using a new 15 mac book pro that was offered to me when the optical drive on my 12" powerbook (2.5 yrs old) quit for the third time in as many months (along with a couple of other issues). I took it in and the genius at the apple store offered a replacement. I hated losing a great computer, but the absolute willingness on Apple's part to abide by the apple care agreement and replace an inconsistently operating machine was awesome. That was the fourth mac I've owned for which I purchased apple care. This once incident justified all of those purchases for me (not to mention all of the great customer care I have received through apple care).

Get it and don't worry about it.
posted by jmgorman at 10:38 AM on October 22, 2007

Someone pointed me to L A Computer Company as a source for AppleCare in a related discussion. The prices are even better than Amazon's. It's probably worth seeing if there's an even better deal out there.
posted by epugachev at 11:16 AM on October 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have two Apple computers and I have never bought it, and never had an issue that extended Applecare would have covered.
posted by mzurer at 11:30 AM on October 22, 2007

The great thing about Apple is they make mostly good computers. The bad thing about Apple is that when they make a bad one, they're not very quick to admit it. The really bad thing about Apple is that when they make a whole line of bad ones, they're even slower to admit it.

I had a G3 iBook of the bad-logic-board generation. It was sent in for repair 8 times and they never really did fix it (I upgraded before its next inevitable failure.) By about the fifth return, Apple tech support as much as told me that if I'd had AppleCare, they'd have swapped it for a new G4 iBook instead.

So now I always get AppleCare.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2007

If you have access to an educational discount, that's the cheapest way to get AppleCare. This was pointed out to me by somebody who works at an Apple Store.

As another data point, I remember hearing about some Consumer Reports article that basically said all extended warranties are crap designed to separate your money from your wallet, but AppleCare is the exception.
posted by calistasm at 6:00 PM on October 22, 2007

Apple laptops aren't really made to be disassembled by the end user, and my experience with several laptops is that Apple care is worth it. They are very good computers, but almost entirely unserviceable by Average Joe. If it breaks, you want it put back together by an experienced tech.

Also, $250 is only about 80 bux a year, and after 3 years, it's time for a new one, anyway. Applecare has saved my butt on each of three laptops. I highly recommend it.
posted by FauxScot at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2007

Before easy user-replaceable hard drives, AppleCare was a must: it got me through two HD replacements on my iBook in three years. Now, it's a probable-must for the reasons Armitage Shanks lays out: the turnaround is extremely fast (48hrs in my case) and any repair will probably get any little niggles fixed as well. And since US consumer protection law is all over the place (as opposed to, say, the UK) it removes any worry that your state laws will come up short.

It's the one extended warranty I'd consider part of the budget.
posted by holgate at 6:50 PM on October 22, 2007

the turnaround is extremely fast (48hrs in my case)

For anyone outside the US (this probably doesn't include the original poster, who's quoting prices in dollars), the turnaround might not be so good. Here in the UK (without an Apple store anywhere nearby), I had to take it to my local authorised service provider. And they have a backlog of about three weeks (that is, it's three weeks before they even put it on the bench to have a look at it). Yes, three weeks. In the US, my wife had her laptop worked on via AppleCare, and they sent her a box that she used to send the computer to Apple via overnight service, and Apple overnighted the fixed computer back to her about a day later -- three days turnaround, from sending the laptop off to getting the fixed laptop back. This was before the ubiquitous Apple stores, which I apparently give similarly fast turnaround. I think Apple needs to fix their non-US service situation, since a three week minimum wait is just way too long. Some of us depend on our computers (luckily, I have a desktop that I could use until the laptop was fixed).
posted by klausness at 4:15 AM on October 23, 2007

As others have recommended, look into other sources (like the educational discount).

I would purchase the AppleCare regardless. $60 - $85 a year over three years will be a small price compared to (God forbid) the cost of a serious malfunction 2 years from now, when your model may long be out of production and parts potentially scarce.

And my experience with Apple's telephone support has been very positive, though I've only used it once in the past 2 years I've had my laptop.
posted by lorenzism at 9:22 PM on October 23, 2007

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