Is AppleCare worth it?

AppleLogoXRedOne question I am often asked is whether or not to purchase AppleCare along with a new Mac. When you purchase a new Mac, you will get a 1 year warranty to cover manufacturer defects, and can at any time within that year purchase an additional AppleCare warranty that extends your coverage to three years from the date of purchase. However, this coverage will be several hundred dollars, and you may find yourself wondering if it is worth it.

Of course, as with any warranty, it is your gamble that the device will function as advertised within the period of coverage, so whether or not you will need the coverage is your decision; however, there is a matter of whether or not the price for service in the event of a problem, will be more or less than the cost of AppleCare itself.

A case study of sorts (mine)

I was recently met with this decision regarding a 2011 MacBook Pro that at the beginning of this year began experiencing graphics errors shared by many. The system was showing pink stripe artifacts over whatever graphics were displaying since time of boot, followed by the system hanging when attempting to load any OS that displayed graphics, including any of Apple’s recovery tools. The only boot mode that could load properly was Single User mode.

Of course, being a system from 2011, it was by no means old when this happened; however, it was out of warranty and I had not purchased AppleCare for it. As a result of this, at the time I was quoted about $1500 for a logic board and service to repair it, so I wrote the system off and purchased a new one.

Despite this, I recently decided to stop by the local Apple Store for the sake of simply seeing if anything could be done, knowing fully well that the logic board would need to be replaced. After a chat and demonstration of the problem with a blue-shirted man, my MacBook Pro was sent in for full repair at the flat rate of $310. This is less than what it would cost to purchase a second-hand logic board and install it myself.

With this pricing in mind, it makes one wonder whether AppleCare is worth the cost. For these services, $310 was less than the $349 Apple wanted for AppleCare, so in this case, by avoiding AppleCare, I ended up with a $39 savings (not taking into account I had purchased a new system as a result of this problem, but I fault myself for that).

So does this mean you should not purchase AppleCare? Unfortunately, the answer to this is not a simple yes or no. While in this case events turned out in favor of not purchasing AppleCare, there are plenty of times when repairs may cost far more than a flat $310, and there also may be times when more than one issue can affect your system. For instance, should my Mac develop a broken trackpad or another problem and need fixing, then I will lose any benefit I’ve had from not having purchased AppleCare.

The question to ask

When considering AppleCare, my recommendation is to simply ask yourself whether or not you would purchase a new system to replace your current one with an identical one if it breaks (as opposed to going cheap with a Mac Mini if your top-end iMac goes kaput). If you find you enjoy or rely on your Mac enough to warrant a full replacement in the event it breaks, then I would suggest the cost of AppleCare will at least be worth the relief to know you can have the system serviced quickly and without any additional fees. While I had saved $39 from the cost of coverage for my MacBook, had I covered it with AppleCare I would not have had to juggle the thought of $1500 versus a new system for a few hundred dollars more, and then ultimately gone ahead with buying the new Mac.

14 thoughts on “Is AppleCare worth it?

  1. Bob Kline

    I also consider how new the technology is — if Apple is introducing something ‘very’ new in their product line, then I’m more inclined to buy Apple Care. If an item is more of a moderate increment in technology then I might pass. A case in point — when Apple first introduced the first Intel processor chips, I would have bought the Apple Care, no second thoughts.

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  2. Chip

    I get Applecare for (a) anything portable (the exception to this being inexpensive iPods) and (b) the 1st-gen of any Apple hardware. Anything you carry with you can break, and the cost to repair iPhones, iPads and Macbooks is generally more than the cost of Applecare. And Apple often has issues with 1st-gen hardware: my iPhone 5 has *two* recalls on it (for the battery and for the sleep/wake button) and my old 1st-gen aluminum iMac had a series of issues with the screen. Without Applecare I’d have had to have laid out a not-insignificant amount to get the screen fixed.

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  3. Lee Maxwell

    For those lower-income folks who scrape together enough money to buy a new Mac but may rely on that one purchase for years of use, the AppleCare coverage is worth the money. As long as you don’t damage it yourself, including spilling liquid on it, the coverage could save you hundreds of dollars in repair cost. Plus, newer Macs are much more difficult to repair yourself. The only drawback is that Apple may use a refurbished part to replace the defective one, and will offer a much shorter warranty on the replacement part.

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  4. Danny

    I have always purchased AppleCare. I had a new PowerMac G5 less than a year and it died. I took in to the Apple store and when I got the G5 back I was told the power supply and motherboard were fried along with several other components. My current iMac was getting dark blotches in the lower left had corner of the display. I got is replaces with a new display.

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  5. Lawrence

    Supposedly my credit card (and many others) will add one year to the original warranty on anything you buy using that card. Presumably this would mean that the Mac’s 1-year standard warranty would become something like a 2-year warranty, thus weakening the argument for buying AppleCare in the first place (since it would only, in effect, add one additional year of coverage).

    However, when I asked the bank what was involved in that 1-year extension, I got a vague answer. I kind of doubt that they would have let me bring my Mac to Apple for repair. Luckily, I never had to find out. But has anybody ever dealt with one of these credit-card extensions for a Mac repair? What was actually involved? How did it work out?

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  6. baltwo

    I always get it for desktop machines, usually iMacs. The last three had HDs and displays replaced, well beyond the $169 I paid for AppleCare. The one display replacement was billed at over $650. It also gets you free phone support for the three years.

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  7. Kevin Murphy

    Since 2000–or 2001, memory is fading–I have owned an original iMac (the last model), an E-Mac, PowerBook 12, MacBook Pro 2008, MacBook Pro 2013, MacMini for one daughter, new iMac (2011), iPhone (4 to 5), and iPad Air. Whenever AppleCare has been available (iPhones ere via phone service provider), it has repaid my investment each time. Cost computatoins must include vast4 distances to Apple stores, travel and waiting time. and/or shipping costs, too. For me, AppleCare is a definite “yes.

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  8. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    I haven’t always needed AppleCare with my Macs, but I’m afraid to get a new Mac without one. Yes, it’s a gamble. But I’ve had a lot of experience with Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Case in point: On my old Mac Pro the video card began to fail just after the Apple Care warrantee expired. By that time replacement options were limited – and expensive. I think I paid around $250 for a new card – though it was a better one; a replacement for the original card was not available.

    From what I’ve seen there is simply no hard and fast rule about it. If you need Apple Care at some point you’ll feel pretty dumb if you con’t have it. On the other hand, if your computer makes it past the three year mark without needing warrantee support, you’ll feel like you’re the sharpest card in the deck. I’ve got a friend who never buys Apple Care for is Macs – he uses four in his business. In 20 years he’s never needed Apple Care. Personally, I think he’s been darn lucky. Your karma may vary.

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  9. Ephraim Fithian

    If you are fortunate enough to buy with the education discount, Applecare is really discounted and that alone makes it worth the money. I also purchased Applecare + for my iPhone 5S which I prefer to carry without a case. Sure enough, while skiing, it fell out of my pocket, was run over by 10,000 skis and temporarily lost on the slopes. I did recover it and it still was working, although the glass was very badly cracked in 10,000 places. $80 for a new one, which was a 64gb model.

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  10. Strod

    Another option that hasn’t been mentioned is to by an extended warranty (I would call it “insurance”) from a third party other than Apple, as sometimes they compare very favorably.

    For example, if you buy the lowest-spec 15″ Retina MBPro, you can get 3 years of coverage with SquareTrade for $300 ($50 less than AppleCare) if you are willing to pay a $75/claim deductible.

    And their coverage includes damages due to drops and liquid spills which are not covered by manufacturer warranties like AppleCare (because they are *your* fault, not theirs) in addition to defective hardware and hardware that breaks under normal use.

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    1. Strod

      Ooops. I meant “buy an extended warranty” (not by).

      And by “damages due to drops” I meant cracked screen or broken internal parts due to your laptop visiting the floor too fast, not mere drops of liquid.

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  11. Andy Ringsmuth

    I always purchase it, but I purchase Macs in a small business environment. My employees routinely travel all over the country, and it is a huge headache-preventer when someone on the road has an issue with their computer. I simply tell them “Just find an Apple Store and go there, it’s under warranty.” We upgrade our computers at about a 3-4 year interval so they are almost always under some sort of coverage.

    The $249 it costs for AppleCare on a 13-inch MBP is well worth it. In a business environment, that dollar amount as figured in employee downtime costs is a no-brainer.

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  12. NYMike

    With a myriad of small issues that can happen without a major breakdown, I find the 3-year free telephone support to be a blessing. In 22 years of owning Macs, the only serious breakdown was a fried power supply on an original white 2006 intel iMac long out of warranty forcing me to buy my current ’11 iMac.

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  13. forkboy1965

    It really seems to be one of those who can tell purchases. You could be lucky and never have a day’s issue with your Apple product… or it could do something terrible in those Apple Care coverage years.

    I’ve purchased it for both my first and second iMacs, but in part I saw it as a good source for technical support. Having moved from Windows the Mac and its OS were completely new to me. While there is almost no issue that cannot be found on the Internet it’s often a question of finding it.

    I don’t relish the cost of Apple Care, but there is a sense of peace of mind I don’t have with other consumer electronics.

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