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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 spend less and sacrifice nothing.

Apple's refurbished items are literally good as new, right down to the warranty. Why pay extra?


Every now and again I find myself in an Apple Store. When I see customers buying things like Macs and iPads ($215 at Walmart), I want to shake them and cry, "Wait! You can get these for less!"

How? Apple's online store carries a rotating selection of refurbished products that are discounted by as much as 15 percent -- sometimes more. And although the term is often equated with "used" and "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.

How much can you save?

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 current-generation iPad Pro 10.5 (Wi-Fi + 64GB) for $549 -- a full $100 less than than what you'd pay for a new one.

How about an Apple Watch? At this writing, you can get an Apple Watch Series 1 42mm for $239. Apple says that's 20 percent off, but a new Series 1 is currently $279, not $299. Even so: It's a $40 savings.

Let's talk Macs. A current-gen 13.3-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299, but you can save $200 by opting for its refurbished counterpart -- more if you choose a higher-end configuration. 

Unfortunately, iPhone ($612 at Walmart) options are, for the moment, limited: The store currently carries only the iPhone 6S Plus (32GB), though the $469 price tag is a full $80 below what you'd pay for a new one. Better than nothing.

What's the catch?

All this sounds pretty good, 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's literally no downside.

There is one small cosmetic difference, however: Refurbs come in nondescript cardboard boxes, not the fancy ones afforded to new gear. Big whoop, if you ask me. It really isn't an issue unless you're giving something as a gift -- and even then, it's what's inside that counts.

Apple's refurb offerings and inventory change over time, so you can't always get what you want. (I'm still waiting to see an iPhone 7 ($200 at Walmart) hit the store.) 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.

Update, Jan. 11: This post was originally published on June 27, 2016, and has been updated to reflect changes in product lines, pricing and refurb availability.