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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Shopping for an Apple product? Save big on refurbs

If you're in the market for a Mac, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV, think seriously about choosing a refurbished model. You'll save big and sacrifice nothing.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect changes in product lines, pricing and refurb availability.

Every now and again I find myself in an Apple Store, and when I see customers shopping for things like Macs and iPads, I want to shake them and cry, "Wait! You can get these for less!"

That's because Apple's online store carries a wide selection of refurbished products, and although that term is often equated with "used" and/or "bad," Apple's refurbs are quite literally good as new.


Indeed, when it comes to Apple products, I see no reason to choose anything but refurbs. I say this not as a gushing Apple fanboy, but rather as someone who thinks most Apple hardware is overpriced -- and sees refurbs as a rare opportunity to get it for less.

Here's a great example, from the US but equally applicable in the UK or Australia. Head to the Apple store's refurbished iPad section and you'll find the iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi + 64GB) for $419 shipped -- a full $80 less than what you'd pay for a new one.

Likewise, you can score a refurbished 32GB iPad Mini 2 (Wi-Fi + cellular) for $369, versus $449 for a new one. And shipping is free.

Recently, and for the first time, Apple added iPhones to the mix. At this writing, only the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were available, but it's a good bet iPhone 7 models will get there eventually. Savings across the board: 15 percent. So an unlocked iPhone 6S Plus (64GB) would run you $589 instead of $699, while a 16GB iPhone 6S comes in at $449.

Now let's talk Macs. A current-gen 13.3-inch MacBook Pro could run you $1,499, but you can save $230 by opting for its refurbished counterpart. You can also score a MacBook Air for as little as $759, 15 percent off the price of new.

Sounds great, right? Sure, except for all the inevitable catches. What exactly do you give up by opting for refurbished Apple gear?


Apple's refurbs come with a new outer shell and new battery, meaning you get same-as-new appearance and performance. Better still, you get the same one-year warranty Apple extends to new hardware. There is literally no downside.

However, there's one small cosmetic difference: Refurbs come in nondescript cardboard boxes, not the fancy white ones afforded to new gear. Big whoop, if you ask me. (It's an issue only if you're giving something as a gift.)

Apple's refurb offerings and inventory change over time, so you can't always get what you want. But I think it's the only logical place to start your shopping. I've purchased several refurbished products this way, and every one of them arrived in perfect, like-new condition. Consequently, when it comes to Apple gear, I can't see any reason to pay extra for the new stuff.

If you can, let me know! I'm eager to hear your thoughts.