Buying a refurbished Mac or MacBook is a great way to save, but there could be risks. Here’s what you need to know, and where to buy refurbished
Apple makes great computers, but they’re not cheap. Even if you are happy to pay the entry-price for a new iMac or MacBook Pro, you may be painfully aware that for just a few hundred pounds or dollars more you could get a much more powerful model. But can you justify the extra spend?
Luckily you don’t have to, because often you can find a previous generation model still on sale with better specs than the cheapest new model, and you might even be able to pick it up for less. Especially now that Apple has released its new M1 MacBooks and Mac mini, and the M1X and M2 in the near distance, you can be sure to find plenty of discounts on previous models.
If you’re considering buying a Mac, especially if you are on a budget, we would recommend buying from the Apple Refurbished Store or another seller of reconditioned Macs, rather than pay full price. Here, we explain what the Apple Refurbished Store is, what price you can expect to pay for a refurbished Mac or MacBook, and other ways to buy a cheap Mac. We’re also highlighting some of the best refurbished Mac deals available right now.
Should you buy a refurbished Mac?
We have an article dedicated to this question here: Why you should buy a refurbished Mac. But to summarise, there are lots of reasons why buying a Mac from the Apple Refurbished Store is a good idea.
The refurbished store is a section on Apple’s website where you can buy refurbished Macs and MacBooks, as well as other Apple products including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, HomePod, and Apple TV.
These refurbished Macs could be models from a previous year, or they could be current models. A reconditioned Mac could be an ex-demonstration model used during Apple teaching programmes, or it could be a unit sold to a customer who decided to return it under the standard sale-and-returns procedure. (Apple allows any customer to return a Mac bought from the Apple Store within 14 days for a refund – see Standard Returns Policy).
It’s also possible the customer returned the Mac due to a fault, but that fault would have been rectified by Apple before the Mac could be resold. In fact, Apple states that: “Every Apple Certified Refurbished product completes a rigorous refurbishment process that includes full testing that meets the same functional standards as new Apple products. Your refurbished device is truly ‘like new'”.
The important thing to note is that Macs bought from the Apple Refurbished Store are not discernibly different from new ones bought directly from the Apple Store. All Macs bought from the Apple Refurbished Store are cleaned, checked, tested, and visually indistinguishable from brand-new models.
As you can see there are plenty of good reasons to buy a refurbished Mac from Apple. Are there any disadvantages?
We’d say that the main disadvantage is that the discounts aren’t always as good as you would get if you bought the same model from somewhere else.
Amazon, for example, often discounts previous generation Mac models, so you could buy a fairly new model at a discount. The difference is that while Apple could be selling a model that had been returned due to a fault (which has been repaired), the other reseller could be selling an identical Mac that’s never been used.
If you want to spot a deal, simply compare Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis’s, or anyone else’s offer on an older model to the price at Apple’s Refurbished store – though ensure they are also offering the one-year warranty (they should be). Below are some of the new Mac deals we’d recommend:
The other downside to buying from Apple’s Refurbished Store is it may not always have the model you’re after. Since the stock depends the number of returns made or traded in, Apple may have more of one item than another, which is when you may need to turn to other retailers.
Check out our articles about the best iMac deals, best Mac mini deals, the best MacBook Pro deals and the best MacBook Air deals to look for the best discounts on new Macs and MacBooks.
Get the latest M1 Mac from the Apple Refurbished Store
Now that the M1 Macs have been out for the better part of a year, stock is appearing at the Apple Refurbished Store too – along with with massive discounts up to £230/US$230 off. Check out our full coverage: Apple’s selling M1 MacBook Pros with £230 off!
Again, it’s worth comparing whether other retailers are offering better prices for the same models when buying new. Amazon often has discounts on the M1 Macs; in fact, it currently has £150 off the M1 MacBook Air.
We’re separately looking at where to buy all the M1 Macs (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Minis) along with the where to buy the 24in M1 iMac.
How much cheaper are refurbished Macs and MacBooks?
The price for reconditioned Macs on Apple’s Refurbished Store changes frequently but is typically 15 percent less than the original price. With Macs commanding a high retail price, this can be quite a significant difference.
If you really want to take advantage of these discounts, then aim high: you could get an amazing £680 off a Refurbished 27in 3.2Ghz 8-core iMac Pro with a 5K display. The pro iMac would normally set you back £4,499 but you can get it from the Apple Refurbished Store for £3,819.
Again, keep in mind that stock is limited on refurbished models from Apple, and you’re unlikely to find every style of Mac at all times. Other reconditioned Mac resellers might offer even lower prices than the Apple Refurbished Store, so it’s worth shopping around – particularly during sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Boxing Day.
What’s the oldest MacBook I should buy in 2021?
With the arrival of the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with M1, there are even more options on the market for refurbished Macs. If you’re buying an old Mac, we’d recommend sticking to models released after 2012, preferably 2015. Apple generally supports its devices for about ten years, so you don’t want to swing too far back, lest you’re prepared to upgrade again in a couple of years.
Plus, if you want to buy a refurbished Mac and upgrade to Big Sur, which is the latest OS, you can only really go as far back as early 2015.
Here’s an overview of the Macs that will run Big Sur:
Here’s everything you need to know about Big Sur compatibility
As for specs and components, you want a device with a solid state drive, or SSD, which is much faster and quieter than an HDD, or hard disk drive. Also opt for a quad-core device with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor – this should allow a nimble performance despite the age.
What if I have a problem with a refurbished Mac?
Apple states: “All Refurbished Mac models include full functional testing, genuine Apple part replacements (if necessary), a thorough cleaning, the original Operating System or a more recent version, a brand new box with all accessories and cables.”
More importantly, a reconditioned Mac or MacBook comes with a one-year warranty (extendable to three years with AppleCare protection). You also get the same sales and return procedure with Apple as you would with any new model, so you can return a Mac bought from the Refurbished Store within 14 days if you’re not happy with it. (But note you’ll have to post it back, as Apple will not accept returns to a physical Apple Store on refurbished products).
Not that we think you will need to return your Mac. We have plenty of experience buying from Apple’s Refurbished Store and have yet to pick up a Mac from the Refurbished Store and find it wanting.
Where to buy refurbished Macs
Apple isn’t the only company to resell second-hand, refurbished Macs. You could also pick up a refurbished and reconditioned Mac from resellers, including Amazon, Laptops Direct and various Mac resellers listed below:
Buying refurbished should mean that the Mac has been inspected by an authorised Apple technician and, if necessary, faulty parts replaced. Buying the same Mac secondhand for less might look attractive but it’s not guaranteed to work. It’s worth paying a little extra for peace of mind.
Best refurbished Mac deals right now
1. Apple MacBook Air (Core i5, 8GB/512GB)
This refurbished MacBook Air with a Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage and a Retina Display with True Tone has £280 off from the Apple Refurbished Store.
2. Apple Mac mini, M1, 8-Core CPU / 8-Core GPU, 512GB
There’s an incredible £140 discount on the M1 Mac Mini with 512GB storage and 8-Core GPU.
3. Apple MacBook Pro (2020, M1, 8GB/256GB) – Refurbished “Very Good”
MusicMagpie has £274 off an M1 MacBook Pro with 256GB storage, graded in a “Very Good” condition. Purchases included a 12-month warranty and you get a free delivery too.
4. Apple MacBook Pro (2020, M1, 8GB/256GB) – Refurbished “Pristine”
If you prefer, there’s also £294 off an M1 MacBook Pro with 256GB storage in “Pristine” condition from MusicMagpie.
5. Apple MacBook Air (2020, M1, 8GB/256GB) – Refurbished “Very Good”
MusicMagpie also has £129 off the MacBook Air (256GB). This option is graded in a “Very Good” condition.
6. Apple MacBook Air (2020, Core i7, 8GB/512GB) – Refurbished “Very Good”
An Intel Core i7 processor is still robust, and this option in a “Very Good” condition on the top-tier 512GB model has £260 off from the launch price. See our full review of this early 2020 model.
7. Apple 27in iMac Pro 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W (Retina 5K display)
Save nearly £700 on this top-end iMac Pro from the Apple Refurbished Store.
8. Apple 16in MacBook Pro Retina (2019, Core i9, 16GB/1TB)
French company Back Market is one of the leading refurbished resellers with 5 million customers worldwide. Right now, US customers can save nearly $300 on this refurbished 16in MacBook Pro with a Core i9 processor and 16GB RAM.
Buying a new Mac at a discount
As we said above, you may be able to get a good discount on a new Mac that’s not been returned due to a fault, and we’d always recommend that as the best option.
We advise that you seek out a certified Apple Premium Reseller. These are dealers and service providers certified by Apple for their expertise and quality. These can be found all over the world. If you’re looking by address, UK readers can find their nearest Apple Premium Reseller via Apple directly, while readers from the Republic of Ireland can see the listings here.
These resellers will try to meet or exceed the service you’d get at an Apple Store – and prices may be cheaper then buying from Apple.
Some resellers may offer discounts on older Mac models shortly after a new one launches, so look out for bargains!
KRCS, for example, always has offers on Macs that you can order online, even configure-to-order models.
Other online resellers include Laptops Direct, which offers iMacs as well as MacBooks, despite the name, and even high street retailers like Currys PC World occasionally stocks refurbished Macs.
Music Magpie is another refurbished tech seller we would recommend. It often has excellent discounts on even the newest Macs and Apple devices. Right now you can save £274 on the 256GB M1 MacBook Pro (now £1024.99).
If you prefer shopping with a retailer that you’re familiar with, then John Lewis offers a two-year warranty on all Apple products as standard, which is twice as long as the standard one year offered by Apple, and occasionally stocks refurbished models too.
Visit our one-stop guide to the best place to buy any Mac, either refurbished or new. You’ll also like our round-ups of MacBook deals and Mac deals.
Buying a second-hand Mac
Second-hand sites are also worth considering, although where possible we’d recommend you opt for new or refurbished as you will have better protection as a consumer. The other risk with buying second-hand is if the original user doesn’t dissociate the device from their Apple ID, you may be permanently locked out, rendering the device useless.
Buying a second-hand Mac on a site like eBay is a riskier business. It can be fraught with problems, but this is particularly true with high-value products such as computers. The old adage runs ‘buyer beware’, but sellers need to take precautions as well.