Refurbished

I’m always on the lookout for a good deal when it comes time to buy new gear, and I hate paying full retail for anything. When it comes time to replace my Mac, iPhone, iPad or other Apple accessory, I hunt around, hitting the retailers who I know offer deep discounts, and I use bargain hunting apps and services too. There’s one place I always check out, and often find the best deals on Apple gear, however: Apple’s web site itself. More specifically, the Certified Refurbished section of Apple’s web site. That’s often where you’ll find the best deals.

Over the past decade and a half I’ve bought a few Macs and other devices using Apple’s Certified Refurbished page, and I’ve never encountered a problem with my purchase. I’ve referred a lot of friends, family and clients there as well, and everyone who’s bought that way has been pleased. It’s always worked out.

About refurbished Apple Products

One thing to understand right off the bat: “Refurbished” means that the product was returned to Apple for some reason. So the products you’re buying this way have been touched by another customer. That’s enough to put off a certain segment of buyers who either find that prospect unpleasant or unsettling. But for the rest of us it’s a good way to save up to hundreds of dollars on our purchases.

Apple goes through a multi-step quality control process to make sure the refurbished products meet its standards. They’re thoroughly inspected, physically cleaned, and if you’re buying an iOS device this way, you can be guaranteed you’re getting a new battery and outer shell as well. Refurbished Apple products come with all original accessories, but they don’t ship in the original livery. Apple delivers the equipment in plain boxes that eschew the typical Apple packaging, so there’s no mistaking your refurbished product as brand new. Unless you’re buying these for someone who will appreciate your thriftiness, refurbed Apple items aren’t the best choice to impress someone on your gift lift.

But if you’re buying for yourself, once you’ve got the box open, you’d be very hard-pressed to tell the difference. Apple does a really good job prepping these things for resale. I’ve never once found a refurbished Apple product that had even so much as a fingerprint blemish on it. And while I’ve heard horror stories of other vendors simply sticking a used item in a box and selling at as new, complete with someone else’s data still on it, I’ve never heard or seen that problem with Apple’s Certified Refurbished products. They’re wiped and returned to factory fresh condition.

How to buy refurbished products from Apple

Apple replenishes its stock of Certified Refurbished products constantly. Just be aware that it’s catch as catch can. You won’t find all the latest models or the widest selection this way. And you can’t configure these devices to order with customized storage or RAM configurations or other options, as you can when you’re buying new from the web site.

Point your web browser to Apple’s Certified Refurbished products home page then apply the filters you want to use to find the products you’re looking for. If Apple doesn’t have any stock of those particular devices available, the selection will be grayed out. Each product description will tell you the cost savings compared to full retail price, so you can decide whether the savings are worthwhile for you.

You’ll also find Certified Refurbished products in the Apple Store app for iPhone and iPad.

How to find refurbished products on the Apple Store app

1) Tap the Apple Store app.

2) Tap Shop.

3) Tap the product category you want.

4) Scroll down and tap Certified Refurbished.

Apple Store refurbished items

The savings vary from device to device, but Apple routinely chops up to 15%. Given what new Apple products go for, the savings add up fast.

Every refurbished product Apple sells comes with the same 14-day money back guarantee as its new products, with free return shipping. So if you get something and don’t like it, or it doesn’t come to you as you expected it, you can return it and walk away from the transaction without any penalty.

What’s more, all refurbished products sold by Apple include the same 90 days of free tech support and the full standard 12-month warranty as a new item. Crucially, they’re also all eligible for AppleCare+, as well.

I strongly encourage my friends and clients to get AppleCare+ especially on mobile products like phones and laptops. I admit I’m tough on my gear, but I almost always end up using mine before the expiration date. When that happens, AppleCare+ more than pays for itself, because the out-of-warranty costs of parts and a technician’s time is always more than the cost of AppleCare+.

Be wary of other vendor’s Apple refurbs

Apple isn’t the only one selling refurbished or “refreshed” Apple products – you can routinely find them online at Amazon and through other vendors. And some of the deals look, at least superficially, like spectacular bargains, especially compared to Apple’s prices.

Just remember that buying Apple Certified Refurbished is a bit different than buying refurbished elsewhere. The devices you’re going to find on Apple’s web site have been put through Apple’s own process for refurbishment. What’s more, they the only ones that are covered by Apple’s return policy and full Apple warranty coverage and AppleCare+ eligibility. So while you might save money, if you run into any issues, you may find yourself in a much more difficult situation than you would if you had bought from Apple directly.

Wrapping up

Buying Apple refurbished is a convenient, safe, and effective way to save yourself some money on essential Apple gear, at least compared to buying full retail. Buying refurbished isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for folks on a strict budget, or people looking for the best deal, sometimes Apple refurbished gives you just what you need at a price that’s much easier to take.

Have you bought Apple refurbished devices before? What’s your verdict? Sound off in the comments.