Tips For Buying A Mac

Several people have asked me recently about tips for buying a new Mac. David Sparks and I did an entire episode of Mac Power Users on this topic. I strongly suggest listening to Mac Power Users Episode 014 Buying and Selling Macs if you want a more in-depth discussion. Here are some highlights: When To Buy

I favor buying a product when you need it. If you keep waiting for the next greatest thing you’ll never upgrade because you’ll constantly be waiting for something better to be right released. Newsflash: something better will always be released.  That new computer you bought will only be the latest and greatest for so long, get over it.

That being said, if you can, avoid buying right before Apple announces an upgrade. Apple user to have fairly predictable upgrade cycles with Macworld in January and WWDC in June but now they call their own press conferences and things are a little more difficult to predict. MacRumors has a Buyers Guide that can offer some guidance. It gives statistical data on when a product was last refreshed, a summary of the latest rumors and a timeline of past updates. It’s not a sure bet, but it will give some guidance and hopefully allow you to avoid smacking your head when you find out that Apple released an update just two weeks after your purchase.

If Apple releases an update immediately after your purchase, you may have some options. Apple’s pricing policy states that if Apple reduces it’s price on any shipped product within 14 calendar days of shipment you can request a refund or credit of the difference. Apple also has a 14 day return and refund period, however a 10% restocking fee may apply. You can find full details on Apple’s website and should review the policies before your purchase as they may change between the time I’ve written this post and the time of your purchase.

Where To Buy

If you’re looking for the latest and greatest with the most customization options, Apple’s website or an Apple Store is probably the way to go. The Apple Website offers build to order and customization options on just about every machine. Some of these options are available in store, some aren’t.

If you’re going to buy one of the stock configurations of a machine, it’s worth the time and effort to compare prices. There are numerous Apple Authorized Resellers that will offer special deals or bundles that will beat Apple’s offerings.  AppleInsider keeps a pricing guide that is updated regularly. Usually, prices on Apple machines don’t vary much, but special deals may make a difference in your buying decision. You should also consider tax and shipping, some resellers require that you pay it, some don’t. Of course, check your local laws as you may be responsible for the taxes even if it isn’t collected by the retailer.

If you are affiliated with an educational institution, check to see if you qualify for an Apple Education discount. You can save anywhere from $50 - $300 on the purchase of a Mac and accessories. Likewise, if you work in government or for a large business you may also be eligible for discounted pricing direct from Apple.

Refurbished Deals

Besides looking for the best price as mentioned above, there are other ways to find deals. One of my favorite ways to get a significant discount on a Mac is to buy from Apple’s “Special Deals” section of the store. This section typically includes refurbished machines and sometimes new machines that are not the current revision. You can easily save a couple hundred dollars on the purchase of a refurbished machine. Before I make a purchase, I always check the refurb store.

Some people are nervous about buying refurbished Macs, but I prefer it if I can find the machine that I want. Let me explain.  First, you save money and I’m all about saving money. Second, you’re getting a machine that you know has been inspected by a technician and restored to Apple’s stringent standards. On a new assembly line run, only a handful of every couple hundred or thousand machines gets tested for quality control purposes. It’s possible that you get a dud that comes off the line. With a refurb, you’re getting a machine that has already had a little TLC from Apple’s techs. Third, Apple has very high standards. Every refurbished Apple product I have purchased looks and feels new. (It even has that new computer smell!) It may have a plain brown box (that is a little disappointing) but otherwise it’s just like a new Mac. Fourth, refurb products are fully eligible for AppleCare and came with the same warranty as new produces. In other words, Apple stands behind them. Lastly, on occasion, you find a little “surprise” inside a refurb product. A hard drive upgrade, extra RAM, etc. Not often, but sometimes the product you get is on that has been custom configured by the original purchaser, so you get the benefit and end up with a bonus.

Other Deals:

There are other deals to be had on Mac related products and accessories if you know where to look. One of my favorite sites is DealMac because they prescreen their vendors and list only reputable sources. I also suggest that if you’re shopping for AppleCare or MobileMe that you price check as you can regularly find deals on those products through authorized resellers for significant savings, just make sure you’re buying from a legitimate source. Here are a few other promotions you should look into:

  • Save $30 on the purchase of MobileMe with the purchase of a new Mac or an iPhone
  • Save $30 on the purchase of iWork with the purchase of a new Mac
  • Mail in Rebates for qualifying printers
  • Free iPod for education purchases during Apple’s “Back to School” promotion (Only during summer months.)

If you’re considering purchasing through Amazon, I would appreciate it if you would use the Amazon link in my sidebar. It costs you nothing, but if you buy a very small portion of the purchase comes back to me. It helps pay the hosting costs. Happy shopping!