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Summary:

Many Mac experts recommend purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan extended warranty — particularly for laptop users, arguing there are just too many things that can go wrong and that replacing notebooks and their parts can be very expensive. But is it really worth it? I’ve heard […]

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Many Mac experts recommend purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan extended warranty — particularly for laptop users, arguing there are just too many things that can go wrong and that replacing notebooks and their parts can be very expensive. But is it really worth it?

I’ve heard that same argument advocating the purchase of AppleCare for Mac portables since I bought my first PowerBook, a 5300, in 1996. I’ve never heeded the advice, and so far I’ve had exactly zero cause to regret it with the more than a half-dozen Apple laptops I’ve owned that could have qualified for AppleCare. I’ve never made a warranty claim under the basic 1 year warranties on my Apple notebooks, and I never seriously considered purchasing AppleCare with the Apple Certified Refurbished 2.0 GHz unibody MacBook I bought a couple of weeks ago.

I hasten to emphasize that my anecdotal experiences represent a statistically insignificant sampling, and many folks out there say they’re very thankful they did purchase AppleCare. I’m glad for them, but in general I remain unconvinced that extended warranties like AppleCare are a good investment.

Scientific Corroboration

Corroborating my deduction, in 1997, Consumer Reports surveyed readers who had purchased extended warranties on electronic equipment. On average, consumers paid about as much for the extended warranty, by the time the product needed service or repair, as the average repair cost for a product of that age. In most product categories, fewer than 25 percent of units surveyed required repairs within five years.

Something else to consider before purchasing an extended warranty is that many major credit cards will double the manufacturer’s warranty period (often capped at two years) on purchases made with their card. However, if you use your computer for work be sure to read the fine print, since most credit card warranty extensions don’t apply to machines used for business purposes.

Most Warranty Issues Happen in the First Year

The strongest likelihood of warranty issues manifesting is in the first year, in which case you’re covered anyway. The second two years of coverage you pay for with AppleCare are more of a dice-roll, although given the general reliability of Apple portables, if your Mac survives the initial 12 month warranty period with no repairs needed (as is most likely), or is repaired during the first year, probability of it needing repairs during the subsequent two years is relatively low (although it could of course still happen).

From my own experiential perspective, had I purchased AppleCare for each of the five PowerBooks, one iBook and one MacBook I’ve purchased over the past 13 years, I would’ve spent something like the price of a new MacBook Pro with no benefit to show for it, which is the philosophical equation that has dissuaded me from buying AppleCare.

Telephone Tech Support Also Extended

However I’m tech-savvy enough that I don’t have much interest in extended Apple tech support (Apple’s standard phone tech support on new machines expires after 90 days.). Over the years, I think I phoned them once or twice about the 5300, but I was a lot newer to Apple laptops then. On the other hand, for some users the tech support lifeline could be vital.

Purchasers of the AppleCare Protection Plan also receive a CD containing TechTool Deluxe software from Micromat — a full-featured computer diagnostic and repair utility, which adds some value to the package.

The AppleCare Protection Plan can only be purchased while your computer is still under its original one-year warranty. All covered systems and covered Apple peripherals must either be new or newly refurbished by Apple (Apple Certified Refurbished), or still under Apple’s limited warranty to qualify for Protection Plan coverage.

Don’t Buy Until the Deadline

Note that even if you are interested in the AppleCare Protection Plan, it’s in your best interest to wait until the 12th month of ownership before purchasing, rather than buying the coverage when you purchase your computer, unless you really need or want one of the enhanced services or the TechTool utility right away. Doing so will delay the extra expense, and thus delay the ding on your pocketbook.

Despite my skepticism about AppleCare’s value, if you buy an expensive machine like a 17″ MacBook Pro and the big screen or the logic board fails after the first year, you’ll thank yourself for having ponied up for AppleCare. However, with at $999 MacBook, AppleCare coverage costs $250, adding a whopping 25 percent to the cost of the computer. If you’ll sleep better under the AppleCare umbrella, don’t let me dissuade you. Risk tolerance is a personal decision, and with any mass-produced product there will always be a percentage of lemon units, so if you decide to roll the dice, be prepared to accept that once in a while they will turn up snake-eyes.

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  1. This is where being a student makes all the difference, you get an huge discount on apple care, around 75% i think, when i got my Unibody mac pro it was a simple decision to add apple care as well.

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    1. i am a student and i’m pricing out a new macbookpro – the discount on the icare isn’t 75% off. Not huge by any means. It totals $239.00, which is still quite expensive in my book. Did you have some other discount applied or did you subtract the $150.00 discount on the system from the cost of your icare?

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  2. do what a stack of other people do and buy the Applecare off ebay for a fraction of the price. i got mine for around 60% of the retail price, and haven’t regretted it for a second. have had a battery replaced, and while overseas went to an apple store and had the superdive swapped for a new one in under an hour.
    i’ll definitely buy Applecare again, but from ebay not Apple.

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  3. Couple things worth noting… You can get an AppleCare warranty from Amazon.com and save about $50 off the price. Other retailers discount them heavily too.

    We get Applecare on almost every computer in our studio because we plan to use them for the full 3 years. It’s just an insurance policy. Even though $250 is a lot of money, if one in three has a major problem (and probably will within the 3 years) then we’re covered.

    Also, laptops take a lot of abuse. Getting bumped and jostled all the time in a computer bag (even a good one) does a number on the internal components. In 10 years of owning Mac laptops, almost every one has needed repair at least once. I’ve replaced 3 LCD displasys (only one broken, the others just stopped working), a couple of controller boards, voltage inverter board, motherboard, and a superdrive.

    I haul my laptop everywhere, so it gets a good bit of abuse. I’m probably not the “norm” but think Applecare is still a good investment for anyone keeping their computers for around 3 years or more.

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    1. Your better off putting the money aside as a new computer/repair fund. A simple 100 a month would cover you and in 3 years if you have had no problems you take half of the 3600 and swap out one Mac for a new one each year. This way you get a new Mac every year and your repair fund keeps growing. This has worked for me. In the 7 Macs I have owned I have had no issues. Glad I did not buy extended warranties on all of my Macs.

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    2. Oh and let me piggy back on myself. The smart individual saves for his own repairs because user induced damage Apple is not going to pay for. If you have a small company or own multiple computers invest in your own care package called saving your money!

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  4. I work as a IT guy at a University that uses Apple computers, mostly laptops. Our bundle that the students buy include Applecare. I’ve seen way too many issues with apple laptops, including my own, to not recommend the purchase of Applecare. I actually just sent in my own laptop in for a faulty LCD which probably would have cost me around $300 to fix. I paid $180 for applecare on ebay for my macbook pro.

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  5. I purchased a 17″ MacBook Pro when they first came out. After a year, I decided to get AppleCare simply because of how much I was moving the thing around. Things that have gone wrong -after- the first year of owning it include: logic board failing, webcam stopped working, and I had to get the screen replaced because somehow dust or something got in and dark splotches were appearing on the screen.

    It’s definitely paid for itself.

    And now my webcam has stopped working again :/ C’mon Apple.

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  6. I think it’s worthwhile for iPhones – since my iPhone has basically replaced my laptop, it goes everywhere, all the time, and is at risk for things like lint shorting out the dock port. I would also concur that it’s a better value for laptops than desktops, although the university where I work considers AC a required part of buying a new Mac for business use.

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  7. As Brandon points out – laptops = yes and desktops = no. As for other extended care warranties on other consumer electronic items, the answer is no. For any young-uns out there, much has changed in the last 25-30 years. If you had to live through the 70s and early 80s before Japanese manufacturing quality standards were applied to all manufactured merchandise, you would think the current low rate of defects and lemons is a miracle.

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  8. AppleCare is also one of the only warranties that Consumer Reports recommends

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  9. When I first bought my MacBook Pro, I made the decision not to buy any AppleCare with it. It’s expensive, and I’d never needed to use any form of warranty on any other machine I’d bought.

    Then just as my initial years warranty was wearing off, I started travelling a lot more for work, so I decided I’d buy AppleCare in case anything happened during my travels up and down the country. A few things did come up that the AppleCare covered, and ended up paying for itself many times over.

    Basically, my AppleCare has a month left to run, and in the last three years I’ve had the screen replaced 3 times, (yep, you read that correctly), and had a new higher capacity hard drive installed. All for free under the terms of the AppleCare. Without it I would have had to buy a new laptop or pay a fortune in repairs.

    I highly recommend buying it if you a laptop that you intend to travel around with. Otherwise I don’t think it’s necessary.

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  10. [...] entering the general purpose microprocessor arena, where it would compete directly with Intel Is AppleCare Coverage Worth the Price? – theappleblog.com 03/05/2009 Many Mac experts recommend purchasing the AppleCare Protection Plan [...]

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