The Age-Old Question: Should I Buy AppleCare?

If you’re not a Mac user, this question could be about extended warranties in general. I’m currently in the market for a new Mac laptop, and am considering whether or not a three-year, $250 protection plan is worth it.

This time around, I’m armed with something I didn’t have the last time I bought a Mac: experience with AppleCare. In the three years I had AppleCare, I’ve had to visit Apple’s Genius Bar just twice—both times to replace the power adapter for my MacBook, which would have cost me $79 per adapter if I had paid for them out of pocket (why are the power adapters so terrible?). So if you subtract $158 for two adapters, AppleCare saved me negative $92 last time around. 

Warranties are cash cows for retailers because the products they insure hardly ever need replacements or repairs. If the opposite were true, retailers wouldn’t offer them. And if an electronic falls apart after a few years, most consumers would rather replace it with a new shiny gadget than repair it.

But I’m being disingenuous when I say that my last AppleCare experience was worth negative $92 over its three-year run—that $92 also paid for some peace of mind. Laptops aren’t cheap, freak accidents do occur, and I can afford to pay $250 for a warranty now instead of risking $1,200 next year if my laptop decides to die.

Our experiences vary. AppleCare was worth it for this person. It’s not worth it for this person.

But reader, I’m opening the question up to you. If you were buying an expensive laptop, would you get the $250 warranty?

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32 Comments / Post A Comment

A power adapter should not cost $79. I’ve gone through two of them (I’m an overzealous vacuumer) and replaced them with generic ones from ebay.

My mom insisted on adding an AppleCare policy when she plunked down 2K for a Macbook for me (thanks mom!). The guy in the store insisted that it would cover damage of ANY kind, even if you spill a beer on it. Since I figured that would be the most likely way for my laptop to get damaged, I agreed that it was probably for the best. A year or two later, when my laptop was out of warranty but still covered by AppleCare, the keyboard stopped working properly (for non-beer-related reasons) and our boys at the Genuis Bar told me that water/beer damage was not covered, and if water damage was determined to be the cause, it would cost $750 to repair. Lame. I ended up getting comped a new keyboard anyway, but I was pretty pissed that an Apple store employee straight up lied about the coverage.

If something happens to my laptop now, am I going to go out and spend another 2k on a laptop? Of course not, I will buy a used one on ebay from a reputable seller for $500 or less. Electronics consumers should consider whether they really need the best and fastest and newest technology currently available, or if a modest step up from what they’re used to will do.

wearitcounts (#772)

for what it’s worth, i bought it, and after three months, promptly spilled a glass of white wine on my laptop’s keyboard. the sugars in it destroyed the motherboard, and i got a brand new laptop (they just happened to come out with a newer model the month before) for free. that being said, i’ve had the replacement laptop (for which i purchased applecare again) for the three years since without a problem. however, i’m still not sorry i bought the warranty again. that peace of mind thing you speak of, it is worth more than $92.

Applecare is WORTH IT. I got my 15″ MacBook Pro in 2007. Around early 2010, it started randomly shutting down. I took it in and had the battery replaced for free (because I was nice to/flirted with the dude, it wasn’t covered under warranty), had the motherboard looked at, and something else done. When the random shutdowns didn’t stop, Apple replaced my old laptop with a brand new 2010 pro and transferred everything from my old laptop. If I had not been covered under AppleCare, I would have had to replace it out of pocket and I would’ve been out ~$3000. That, plus the peace of mind, makes the $250 AppleCare WAY worth it for me, although it was about $400 in 2010. Still worth it though.

undinespragg (#867)

I’ve had three Apple laptops, all with AppleCare. I got an iMac this January and probably won’t buy AppleCare when the warranty runs out. Laptops get all kinds of wear and tear, most of which is covered under AppleCare (though liquid spills are pretty much never covered under any warranty–you’re always going to have to pay for that). Especially if you’re getting a laptop w/a traditional hard drive, rather than an SSD, there’s so much potential for hard drive problems, and that peace of mind is often worth it. My desktop doesn’t get banged about, so I’m not going to worry as much about AppleCare for it.

Sometimes the folks at Apple will fix things for free even if it’s not under warranty–I had to have the hard drive replaced on my first iBook and I went to pick it up and pay for it and the invoice said no charge. I asked the dude if the store if he was sure, and then hightailed it out of there before someone changed their mind. That was back in 2003 or so, but I think you can still get lucky with out-of-warranty repairs.

moreteawesley (#545)

I got AppleCare when I bought my new laptop last year. I hated to spend the money, but I’ve had 2 Macs break in pretty serious ways, both of which could have been repaired/replaced if I’d bothered with AppleCare. But I didn’t, so I am not on my 3rd Mac in 8 years and I’d rather spend the extra money even if all it ever gives me is peace of mind.

sp0ka@twitter (#1,020)

I always buy AppleCare. It’s replaced hard drives, mice, power adapters, three or four entire iPhones, and given me roughly 4 hours of very patient phone support for when I knocked my wireless card out of place dropping my laptop on the floor.

Mike Dang (#2)

These comments are making me question the durability of Apple products.

thenotestaken (#542)

@Mike Dang I know three different friends, plus myself, whose Macbooks died JUST after the first year (during which they’re still covered even without Applecare). So those who bought the warranty were okay, and those who didn’t weren’t. I’ve got more than a few conspiracy theories about this.

alpacasloth (#108)

@Mike Dang I’ve been using my MacBook Pro since 2006! I took it to Italy for a semester abroad and have been using it ever since then without major issues. I’ve had to get two new adapters (one covered under warranty, one not) and a new battery (guy at the Genius bar gave me two new batteries FOR FREE) but other than that the thing just keeps running. KNOCK ON WOOD

dotcommie (#662)

@Mike Dang My friends with Macs seem to have more spectacular laptop failures than I’ve ever had with my trusty, fusty PCs. Sure, PCs slowly degrade over time, but I’ve never had one randomly break in such a way that makes it unusable. Mac folks always say “but we can go to the Genius Bar whenever I need help!” My response is…I’ve never really needed to. PC ftw.

pearl (#153)

@Mike Dang I’ve had my black MacBook since May 2007. It’s slow, the battery has a short lifespan, and it’s prone to freeze and shut down, but otherwise it still works. I am planning on getting a new one later this year though

EmmaG (#1,023)

@Mike Dang : I’m one of the lucky ones! I’ve been using the same Macbook for 5 years this June. Had to replace the battery a year ago, but that would have put me a full year past what AppleCare would have covered anyway. I even spilled water on it 6 months ago and it’s still going strong (after 3 days of letting it sit upside down next to a fan, of course, but that’s the procedure for any laptop).

thejacqueline (#799)

@dotcommie I’ve had the opposite experience–all of my friends who have Macs have had their computers last them for years. I finally switched over this year because my last two Dell laptops have died rather spectacularly.

I was using the first one at my college library. Shut it off and packed it up. Back at my apartment (which was a two-minute walk away) I pull it out of my bag. IT HAS MELTED. The entire top of the laptop. And the screen.

The second one’s power cord plugged into a weird place on the back of the computer, so the cord would rip from being stretched around the laptop all of the time. After I sent it in the first time, the computer came back with a battery that didn’t work, and they had to send me another power cord. Shortly after that, the panel surrounding the output hole(? whatever that is called) broke off as I picked my computer up. Sent it in to be fixed again. They sent it back to me without my power cord (?!?). Several months later that same plastic panel broke off again and my computer died in the middle of grad school finals. With all of my research on it. Now it works but only if it’s plugged into the wall at all times.

Anyways this was really long and rant-y and I guess the moral of the story is don’t buy a Dell?

Kclaw (#1,021)

I had this exact conversation with my husband in the Mac store this weekend. He decided to go for the AppleCare, because his last laptop’s screen died in the last month of his warranty, saving him around $400 bucks (or so the geniuses said) for repairs. We’re in Canada, and the package he got this weekend was only $199 for three years. It’s still better than all the warranties I bought for my crappy PC laptops in the mid-2000s, which ran me an $300 and ended up not covering “accessories” like the adapter (blew twice) or the battery (only held ten minutes of charge after two years of use). I think more than anything, though, you guys are right; it’s about peace of mind, not the actual dollar amount saved in case of repairs.

Pistol Franny (#1,024)

Honestly, when I was in undergrad AppleCare saved me. I had horrible luck with laptops and went through 4(!!!!!) hard drives in five years. The experience was traumatizing enough for me to be a permanent AppleCare consumer.

IMO: There’s a totally different calculus involved in an Applecare warranty and your typical Best Buy extended warranty, and it comes down to the fact that Apple mostly sells proprietary or at least semi-exclusive hardware that’s marked up at a substantial rate: hence the $80 power supplies, etc.

If your Apple thing breaks, there’s typically not going to be a cheap alternative fix. You’ve got one choice, and it costs whatever it costs. Whereas with a PC, it’s almost certainly better to pay as you go once the initial warranty wears out, since most PC hardware is heavily generic and can be had on the cheap for reals, and even if you can’t fix it yourself there are a million smaller PC stores, some of which won’t even try to gouge you! (This is less the case with laptops, however, which again tend to use a number of proprietary or simply not-easily-accessible parts).

3jane (#645)

@Leon Tchotchke THIS. Additionally, most self-repairs other than installing more RAM automatically void your warranty (and are a BITCH compared to the same repair on your run of the mill PC). This is why, rather than replacing the power management unit on my husband’s eight-year-old iMac, we bought a $400 MacBook Pro on eBay.

EmmaG (#1,023)

Finally compelled to comment on The Billfold because of this post. I am both a Mac user and a former AppleCare support “specialist” – meaning I had 6 weeks of training on machines I had never used before and instructions on how best to navigate the Mac Help menu.

In my experience, AppleCare tech support (by phone) best serves the technically disinclined part of society who also happen to have unending patience for call center workers. I suspect this a rather narrow segment of the population. However, there are plenty of people who need to call someone to figure out where the Power button is, so there is a need for this sort of thing.

As for hardware support, the vast majority of hardware problems experienced by computers will happen in the first year, which is covered by the regular warranty.

However, there are also a number of recall programs that effectively extend the warranty on known defective parts – in my time as tech support, this included batteries, laptop cases, and power adapters on a number of models. Even without AppleCare, you can call the support line and ask if you’re eligible – just be sure to say your problem is with hardware. If a rep says that you need to pay for phone support for a swollen battery (or other obvious physical defect), immediately ask for a supervisor because they are just trying to rack up their own sales numbers (yes, even support staff have sales targets!).

In the end, if you’re reasonably comfortable using Apple software and have the wherewithal to be attentive to recalls (available at apple.com/support), you can get by without AppleCare.

DISCLAIMER: This is also based on the experiences of someone that has never lived near an Apple Store and would have had to rely totally on phone support instead of the Genius Bar.

allreb (#502)

I’m a big fan of AppleCare for my laptop, though I probably wouldn’t bother for anything else. My first ever Mac laptop was a relatively rare lemon. During the years I had it for college, I replaced at least the logic board, motherboard, hard drive, speakers, keyboard, and power chord. Possibly more (*is* there anything else?). All of this was done for free under AppleCare, including times it shouldn’t have been (once after coverage ran out, when I kept really really insisting — genuinely by mistake — that it should have been, and they gave in and did it; and once when it was an iced tea spill that they covered anyway — the other issues were all random breakages that weren’t my fault). As frustrating as it was to keep sending it out to be repaired, I definitely couldn’t have afforded a new one at that point, so I was grateful for the coverage, and they were generally quick and kind enough that I stayed brand loyal despite the laptop’s serious issues.

In the 10 years since that computer finally bit it for good, I’ve always bought it and have only needed it once, when a hard drive died out of nowhere. Luckily, after that lemon I became a huge believer in backups, and was in and out of the Apple Store with the hard drive replaced in under half an hour.

pizza (#599)

I bought my applecare off ebay for my last laptop. It was around $70 cheaper than what Apple sells it for.

I’m all for AppleCare. I went through 2 PC laptops in college that died at very inopportune times for no good reason. I take very good care of my tech, so unforseen accidents aside, I expect it to last. PC laptops do NOT last.

Anyway, finally bought a Macbook Pro in late 2006 with AppleCare. One of the biggest reasons I decided to go for it was that it provides international support, and I was moving out of the country. About a year and a half later, the superdrive started acting up (it didn’t completely break, it just wouldn’t write discs and was making funny noises). There’s no Apple store in Edinburgh, but there’s a certified reseller that handles Apple stuff, so I brought it in there, they shipped it off to Apple for free, and a week and a half later I had a brand new superdrive. This is the only service I ever needed, but it would have cost me at least twice as much as the AppleCare. And knowing I could get my machine fixed no matter where I was in the world was bigtime peace of mind.

I just bought a new Macbook Pro this Christmas on their no interest finance deal they run every December, and I included AppleCare no question. The old machine still works, but was slowing down quite a bit and the casing was warping slightly from overheating since the fans are probably tired out. I’ll either repurpose it or give it to someone for parts, but I got 5 good years of serious service out of that computer. I don’t know anyone who has a PC laptop that’s lasted that long.

Mirch (#228)

I bought a used mac that had the warranty, and it was a big selling point. So if you end up selling your new computer before the warranty is out, having that extra selling point will be a positive.

Yes you should get the warranty.

mishaps (#65)

Oh, man, AppleCare is the best. I’ve had extremely, extremely positive experiences with the Genius Bar folks, like “oh, you have a problem with that? here’s a new one” a la Mike Dang experiences.

Fun fact: the Genius Bar/Apple Care are widely believed (maybe known?) to be part of Apple’s product process – they look at the stuff that breaks or doesn’t work and look for solutions. I’ve been told that’s where the MagSafe power connector came from – too many of the old-school ones getting broken by people tripping on/yanking on their power cords. So every time you bring an Apple product in for help/replacement, you’re making the next generation device better (probably!).

mishaps (#65)

@mishaps and I should add, I NEVER buy in-store warranties, or extended service plans, other than AppleCare. It’s the only one I actually think is worth it.

dude, eff apple care. get square trade if you want a warranty. their warranties are so much better. their coverage includes accidental damage and their prices are reasonable.

wellwellwell (#1,049)

Had to add my two cents: I bought my Macbook Pro in 2007 and got the Apple Care. I had to replace the battery twice in the first two years, which was done with absolutely no hassle whatsoever at the Apple Store.

Then in 2010, I foolishly brought my computer with me to camp in 110+ degree humid weather with no Air Conditioning and then treated it… not very well. Long story short, it kernel panicked out the butt. I took it to the authorized Apple repair place in town and got a new motherboard, optical drive, and some other junk. THEN the repair job didn’t clear out the dust build up (I’m not sure on the details, just remembering bits the Genius told me) and everything failed, and Apple replaced all of that again. For absolutely nothing.

So yes, that was definitely worth the $250.

mouthalmighty (#165)

I bought AppleCare when I got my (refurb) MacBook in 2006. It saved me from having to replace: the disk drive, the keyboard (three times), and the hard drive. It was worth it.

With AppleCare I got a replacement trackpad, optic drive, charger, and battery, all for free. I thought those were pretty good… until my screen started flickering and, on my third trip to the Apple Store about it, they finally realized the problem was with the screen itself AND GAVE ME AN ENTIRE NEW COMPUTER (upgraded, of course, because the lowest-rung Macbook model was that much more powerful than when I’d bought mine two years before). Which continued with my old AppleCare warranty plus the built-in year warranty for any new computer. So, yes, AppleCare is worth it.

Aren’t we all forgetting the fact that this is ridiculous? We shouldn’t have to pay extra money so that a thing that’s not supposed to break all the time can be fixed when it breaks all the time. Wow, Apple. You’ve really got us there.

mangosara (#1,211)

I got AppleCare and it saved me SO MUCH MONEY. Got my battery replaced when it stopped holding charge because it was “defective” (it’s technically not covered under the warranty unless that’s the case, and it was at the end of its life but they still replaced it). I took my computer in a few weeks before AppleCare was to run out because I was having problems charging the computer. They replaced the hard drive (what they thought was the problem), but it turned out the problem was the motherboard, which failed a week out of AppleCare coverage, and they STILL replaced it. Basically, thanks to the extra $200 I spent I got a brand new laptop.

I’m on the phone now, on hold of course, and I can say with my Macbook Pro / Apple Care warranty, I will not be purchasing anymore Macs and when my cell contract is up, I will also sever all ties with Apple and switch back to the Droid. Power adapter (class action lawsuit on this, btw) cable completely split and after terrible service and insinuations that it was user error (IT industry over 13 yrs. and hold several certs), I was told that I had to buy a new one as the warranty would not cover the damage. This is after video flickering problems, which required the logic board being replaced. I took the Macbook to be serviced before my warranty expired, detailing the problems that I had been having for several months. Ironically, no “problems” found. Now tonight, the Macbook is completely dead. All user troubleshooting done, but of course my warranty just expired on the 29th. At this point, I’ll be contacting the BBB, Attorney General office, DOJ Consumer Division and a few other organizations. Stringing customers along for questionable products is highly suspect. Back to PC I go. At least I build my own barebones system and not worry about the secret handshake club.

It’s fallacious to claim that Apple hardware is more proprietary or exclusive than other makes of hardware. No matter from whom you buy a laptop, music player or phone you are going to be buying a product that contains custom hardware. Even name brand desktop machines can have specialised boards that can only be bought from the manufacturer. Apple only really makes one true desktop product and that is the Mac Pro, which is almost entirely the same standard hardware as a PC.

Apple Care is one of the company’s major profit areas. They can only be making that profit if the majority of buyers make few or no claims on Apple Care. Obviously they wouldn’t even offer it if the likelihood was that you would on average gain from taking out the cover.

I get peace of mind from knowing I’m not throwing down $250 every time I buy some computer hardware. Over my lifetime the probability is that at worst I’ll end up paying repair/replacement costs no more than what all that Apple Care would have cost me. Apple is certainly banking on it.

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