If you’re anything like me, you love Apple. Their products are an amazing mashup of quality, usability and design. Even their support is stellar if something breaks. The downfall of all things Apple is that you’re gonna pay for it. That truism presents a problem for “value conscious” techies like me. OK, I’m cheap. I admit it.
Is it possible to get Apple quality without paying the premium price?
In a word, yes. And I’m going to share a few ideas on just how to do that. A couple are not innovative, just practical. But at least one should get your attention, and I hope you’ll get a few tips along the way.
Where to Buy
Option One: Educational Discounts
If you have a student or teacher in your home, you automatically qualify for an educational discount from Apple. Click here for the Apple Educational Discount Store: http://store.apple.com/education. You’ll have to go through the process of finding your school, but soon you’ll see a list of prices that you qualify for.
On average, plan on saving about $100 with an educational discount. Here are some examples at the time of writing:
- Entry level MacBook Pro 13”: $1099 (regularly $1199)
- Entry level MacBook Pro 15”: $1699 (regularly $1799)
- Entry level MacBook Pro 17”: $2299 (regularly $2499)
You’ll also get a discount of roughly 10% on any upgrades you add to the configuration, like increases to memory or hard drive space. The AppleCare warranty is also discounted in the $100 range. Be sure to read on below for some tips on determining whether it’s better to buy your upgrades from Apple or another source.
All in all, not a bad way to buy a brand new machine. These discounts are available in the Apple online store and also in its retail locations. Be prepared to show proof that you are an educator or have a student in the home.
Also, don’t forget that very inexpensive educational software can be purchased at places like http://www.academicsuperstore.com.
Option Two: Apple Refurbished
Refurbished computers are a great way to save money and still get a quality product. Just be sure what refurbished means to a particular company. Some will sell returns that are dinged or damaged and carry less than standard warranty. Not so with Apple. Apple’s refurbs are quality tested and carry the full original warranty. They’re even eligible for AppleCare extended warranty.
Apple’s refurbished store is available here: http://store.apple.com/refurbished. You’ll typically be presented with options from last season’s lineup, but the discounts are substantial. Here are some examples:
- Entry level MacBook Pro 13”: $929 (current model: $1199)
- Entry level MacBook Pro 15”: $1359 (current model $1799)
- Entry level MacBook Pro 17”: $1949 (current model $2499)
I’m a big fan of Apple refurbs. They’re definitely worth your consideration.
Option Three: Buying a Mac on eBay or Craigslist
Refurbished macs can offer great savings over retail, but for the stout of heart, the best deals are found on eBay and Craigslist. This is by far my favorite way to get deals, but you really have to know what you’re looking for and how to weed out the duds. I’ll talk more about that below.
For practical tips on buying on eBay or Craigslist, please get the full version of this article in PDF form for just $1.99:
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How to Get a Great Deal on a Mac
Getting a great deal on a Mac is a combination of luck, knowledge and skill. Here are a few practical tips that will help you along the way.
Decide what hardware you actually need
Like any computer, a Mac’s price depends on what’s inside. Major savings can be had by determining what you need and what you don’t. Unlike PCs, Macs tend to be priced first by screen size then by processor.
Decide if you can live with a 13” screen or if a 17” screen is really necessary. Then there’s the processor. Do you really need an i7? If you’re not doing video editing, probably not. The i5 is a very capable and all most people will probably need for now. If your Mac will just be doing basic email, web and office documents, you can save a bundle by going with a Core 2 Duo.
And, as a side note for all the speed seekers out there, there is an immense difference in performance between the first and second generation Intel Core processors (i3, i5, i7). Often these are just listed as i7 for example. You want to ask whether it’s a first or second generation. Apple’s web site will tell you based on model number what processor came with the Mac.
Determine what upgrades you can make yourself
Apple charges an exorbitant amount for increases in RAM and hard drive size and speed. For example 8GB of RAM can be found here on NewEgg.com for less than $50. A 500gb Hard Drive can be found here on NewEgg.com for as low as $100. Upgrading RAM and Hard Drive on a Mac is very simple. Countless video tutorials are available on the web. If you can do the job yourself, you can save a bundle.
Determine your baseline price
To get a great deal, you have to know what the Mac you’re looking at is actually worth. The nice thing about Macs is that, unlike PC laptops, there are a comparatively few number of models available which makes pricing much easier.
Once you know that you want (for example, a 15” MacBook Pro with an i7 processor, 4gb RAM, and at least a 320 GB Hard Drive), you need to find out what laptops like that are selling for. There are a few ways to do this using eBay.
Get my tips on using eBay to determine your selling price when you buy this article in PDF form for just $1.99:
It’s less than a buck and totally worth it to get the best price on your next Mac. You’ll get a PDF link by email as soon as you pay by PayPal. Proceeds go to hosting costs to keep my blog alive.
The Ultimate Way to Get a Great Deal on a MacBook Pro
I almost hesitate to share this tip because it’s been so profitable for me. In the past month, I’ve bought two Macs using this tip along with the others above and made a tidy profit in resale.
If you’ve still on the fence about getting the full version of this article, let me give you the final reason. In 2012, I have made over $2000 from buying and selling Macs from Craigslist using this final tip. It’s totally worth $1.99:
Two Final, Very Important Tips
Check the Serial Number
As part of your process of qualifying the seller and identifying the Mac you’re purchasing, be sure to run a check of the serial number. I do this in 3 places:
- Stolen Macs Database – be sure what you’re about to buy hasn’t been reported stolen. That’s not good.
- Spec Check – Run the serial number in the search box here on Apple’s site to find the exact specs of the laptop you’re looking at.
- AppleCare Check – Check to see the warranty status of the laptop. I’ve been surprised when sellers don’t realize they have 3 year AppleCare or don’t factor that into their sale price. AppleCare is 100% transferrable.
The serial number can be found by clicking the Apple menu > About this Mac. The Serial Number is listed on the Overview page.
Get a Signed Bill of Sale
When you purchase from Craigslist, be sure you come to the meeting with the seller with a printed Bill of Sale. This does two important things. First, it keeps you from getting scammed in case the seller takes your money and reports the laptop stolen. Second, you have a piece of paper that says you own the laptop in case you have to get warranty service. There’s nothing magic about a Bill of Sale. Here’s the standard language I use:
Bill of Sale
Sold by _____________________ (seller’s name) to _____________________ (buyer’s name):
One _____________________ (item description, like: 15” MacBook Pro) with Serial Number _____________________
For the sum of _______________ (sale price) cash, which has been received in full by _____________________ (seller’s name).