Blog Post

Is AppleCare Coverage Worth the Price?


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 (s aapl) 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.

55 Responses to “Is AppleCare Coverage Worth the Price?”

  1. I got the AppleCare plan for my wife’s iPhone a few months back. It’s about a third of the cost of the phone itself, but I figured it’d be worth it (especially knowing my wife).
    So, when I dropped her phone on our tile floor, I figured that the AppleCare plan, like every other warranty I’ve ever purchased in my life, would cover the replacement of the phone.
    The only thing AppleCare plans cover are defects in the products themselves. I dunno, but I thought a defect in a product is understood to be something I shouldn’t have to pay to warranty myself against.
    Before I get heckled as a middle aged guy who doesn’t ‘get’ Apple, know this: I’m 29, I’m a LAMP developer, and I _love_ my 24″ iMac.
    I’m just glad I didn’t buy an AppleCare protection plan for it. ;)

  2. Have used Macs professionally for publishing from a IIVX in 1993 to MBPs today and ONLY ONCE experienced ANY glitch… a Logic Board failure two weeks after the 12-month purchasing warranty expired on my current 15″ MBP. Living in France I dealt with “Argus Info” in Tours (albeit in my second language to complicate matters) and actually expected no result as the repair estimate – including service charge and taxes – was close to 1,200 euros (or $1,500 across the pond). After 2/3 days of telephone calls Argus got Apple to waive the repair bill. You can imagine my relief.

    There are two morals to this tale… 1) yes, purchase extended warranty after around 50 weeks of use with a MBP… and 2) always purchase legal software… I’m sure 15 years of legal software purchasing records, which must have been on file, came to my eventual help!

  3. Howie Isaacks

    I usually wait until the last month before buying AppleCare. I’m an Apple certified tech so, I don’t need the phone support. The only reason why I buy AppleCare is for the hardware coverage. I don’t care about my hard drive. I can buy a new one if the one in my MacBook Pro fails. What I care about is the possibility of my logic board or display failing — something that is very expensive to replace. If you’re someone who feels that you will need the phone support beyond the first 90 days, go ahead and buy the Apple Care. I do think that Apple needs to re-evaluate their prices though. There is no reason why APP for a MacBook Pro should be more expensive than for a MacBook or an iMac. The excuse that we gave at the Apple Store was that the MacBook Pro is more expensive to repair. That’s horse sh*t. They’re not more expensive to repair. I also think that Apple needs to extend the coverage to 4 years instead of 3. Other OEMs have 4 year warranties. I recently bought an Asus widescreen display for my mom. It has a 3 year warranty right out of the box — without extending it.

  4. Here’s a good reason to get AppleCare: my first Mac laptop, an iBook, needed its hard drive replaced twice and its keyboard replaced four times. Needless to say, when my AppleCare was one week from expiring, I brought the iBook into the local Apple Store and told them to fix anything that was still wrong with it. They obliged, discovering a problem with some part I didn’t even recognize and ordering a replacement.

    Two weeks later—one week after the AppleCare expired—I got a call from the Apple Store. The part, they explained, was still backordered and wouldn’t be in for over a month. Rather than wait for it, would I like to have a new MacBook, instead?

    Now that’s customer service. :-)

  5. Mettur

    Interesting such a big support for Apple Care.

    I do agree for laptops (especially mac book – the plastic one), I strongly recommend it. We had to take our 13″ plastic mac book to Apple store couple of times, for cracks (by normal use). They replaced the casing.

    But for iPhones and iPods its useless. The Apple care extends the warranty from 1-year to 2-years. If you buy with a credit card that extends the warranty, the warranty is extended by one year anyway, so the Apple care is useless.

  6. maccmann

    I basically replaced everything in my Macbook Pro (including the AC adapter…twice) except the bottom case, memory, hard drive and the DVD burner, all with Applecare. I got a new screen (top-case included), keyboard, and mainboard because all of those parts had problems.

    The total cost of all of the parts and labor that the repairs would have cost me without it was almost $400 more than I originally paid for the unit when purchased new. I would have been screwed if I hadn’t added Applecare.

    I am already planning on how I am going to upgrade to the new Macbook Pro because my Applecare expires in August. I refuse to have a Mac without it! I tell everyone to get it. It’s just smart.

  7. I used to scoff at paying for extended warranties, but am so glad I did for my laptop (which is my freelance workhorse.) The logic board in my MacBookPro has been replaced >TWICE< so far in the past 2 years (waiting to see how long #3 lasts.) Apple is starting to have some serious quality control issues so it makes sense to buy AppleCare.

    Not only that – but since everyone is now buying Macs I had to upgrade to ProCare to get my MBP repaired in a reasonable amount of time at the NYC Apple stores. Again, this is my livelihood, so its very much worth the extra cost.

    My 2 cents.

  8. Charles Moore

    I’m in Canada, where AppleCare at discount prices is not a flushly available as it seems to be south of the border.

    Best price I found so far is Can$239.00 at CanDirect (it’s Can$299 from Apple for the MacBook.

    Better deals may well be available on eBay Canada, but didn’t show any.

    I have several major credit cards (Royal Bank, MBNA Canada, etc.) and that all offer a doubling of the manufacturer’s warranty up to a maximum of two years for non-commerical users. Maybe that’s a Canadian thing.


  9. Carolyn

    As a mother of 3 college students with apple laptops over 9 years – applecare has been worth its weight in gold! They call in the problem – apple sends them a box and label and it is back within the week. We have had 2 power supplies, 2 mother boards, dvd components and a lcd replaced. Because my daughter’s computer had been in 4 times in 9 months we were able to upgrade for next to nothing.

    One thing to be aware of – you can’t send desktops back. They have to go to an Apple store. If you live in rural areas this might be an issue. I love Blacksburg – but no Apple store!

    Apple care still rocks!

  10. I am the workshop manager for a British AASP who repair many Macs a day both in and out of warranty. It’s quite simple: AppleCare can save your life. People around here can’t afford a new machine just like that, because their machine has a problem. People around here are saved every day by AppleCare.

    Notebooks take bumps and knocks which can reduce the life of the parts. Desktops use massive LCD panels which are very expensive. The two most likely parts to require replacement in any system are the optical drive and the main logic board. Optical drive repairs can cost over half the value of the machine, main logic board repairs can be far worse. A single repair in years 2 or 3 can cost you more than 3 times the cost of AppleCare, assuming only one part requires replacement.

    I do this for a living and I buy it. I wouldn’t allow my family to own Macs without it. Especially for students (who all use their APP to the maximum in my experience), it’s an absolute no-brainer must and if you don’t have it you will eventually regret it while you sit there computer-less one day.

  11. Sheldon McGee

    I agree that buying the warranty is probably not necessary but I guess it depends on critical the device is to your day, what you do with your device, how often you upgrade, etc. If your laptop breaks after a year and a half and you have a old spare you could use to get by until the 2 years later when you would by a new laptop anyway then why buy insurance?

    I wonder where I can get one of these magic credit cards that double the warranty or whatever. I’ve never read about than in the description of my American Express Gold card (that I PAY for) and I certainly haven’t seen anything about it for no annual fee cards.

  12. AppleCare rules. Years ago my beige Mac desktop fried its motherboard after two years of use. Cost to replace: $1,500+ My cost: zero — AppleCare paid off big time.

    My purchase on the first day of availability, the Mac mini with AppleCare, paid off when the hard disk died just two and a half weeks before the three year coverage expired.

    In addition, AppleCare includes free phone support for the full three years.

    What’s not to like?

  13. Brandon

    Apple also offers flat rate repairs for notebooks meaning you can get an off-warranty repair for only marginally more than the cost of the warranty. You pay the same amount regardless of the fix, so a new logic board or a new fan end up costing the same amount, which sometimes means overpaying, but often will result in a very good deal. The only thing to be sure of is that the computer is in good shape physically – no dings or dents or cracks in the casing – so there is no basis for blaming the damage on your own rough treatment.

    Warranty still good for the phone support for some. Additionally, flat rate repairs are not available on desktops, so the (cheaper) warranty is potentially a better purchase in that context.

  14. Anonymous

    “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.”

    I see that as the case with PCs more than Macs. The average Mac laptop repair starts at $300 USD for Macbooks. AppleCare for Macbooks is $249 USD. Yes, it’s only a $50 difference. But $50 in this economy? A penny saved is a penny earned. Not only that, but if the problem is recurring, you’re talking more like $900 or more, like say if the Logic Board needs to be replaced.

    “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.”

    Yes, we are all looking to save money any way we can right now. Fair Enough. However, in my experience with Mac customers, a lot of people who don’t buy it when they buy the computer say they’ll buy it later, but ultimately forget and if they come in for a repair that’s not covered under AppleCare’s protection plan, they’re up a creek without a paddle. It’s an argument of short-term vs. long-term savings. AppleCare is a long-term investment. A customer should be prepared to pay for that investment when they’re buying the computer.

    If you’re going to wait on buying AppleCare, buy it sooner rather than later.

    I once asked a Mac Genius, “is AppleCare really worth it?” His response was, “Well, I have it on my computer…and I’m a Genius.” If someone who makes a living repairing these things, and knows how to repair them himself, but is willing to purchase the protection plan, why wouldn’t the average customer?

  15. herrbutzie

    However if you are in Florida and because to arcane laws passed to protect the old bluehair crowd from insurance fraud, you can only buy AppleCare from Apple’s online store. You can not buy it at Apple’s own retail locations within Florida or from any independent Apple resellers within the USA including Amazon.

    Buyer in Florida beware

    • Herrbutzie- I too found out about FL restrictions when I tried to buy applecare from Amazon.

      Have you heard of anyone getting around those restrictions?

      I wonder if apple has any way of keeping the product from being registered once it’s been purchased.

  16. Richard Till

    Applecare is a must!!

    I bought my 20″ imac in 2007, student discount = cheaper Applecare but don’t be fooled into thinking that a non-discounted Applecare isnt worth it…

    I have had 2 repairs this year:

    1. Replacing the power-supply
    2. Replacing a faulty airport card

    In total to have the work done without Applecare £350 (around $500).

    Also unlike some back-street repair shops apple take care of your beloved machine cause if u are “unlucky” enough to break it they replace it with a new one – which am sad didnt happen to mine the new imacs are really cool!

  17. All it takes is for your laptop to go wrong once and the $250 is well worth it. By the way it’s more like $83/year, or roughly $7/month. That’s pretty cheap peace of mind if something goes wrong. And $500 is the minimum for any kind of service work. Since most laptops have almost everything running off the motherboard, motherboard repairs/replacements are closer to $1000.

  18. One important thing, if you don’t live near an apple store, and some people don’t, you lose the ability to call apple after the first 90 days. That sucks.

    “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.”

    So for every 3 computers you buy, if one breaks down, you’ve spent 500 in applecare? You’d have to almost ‘hope’ a few broke down to make it any kind of value.

  19. I’ve owned numerous desktop Macs over the past 25 years (yes, since 1984) and never bought AppleCare. I had need for it once. However, I recently bought my daughter a unibody MacBook (the first Apple laptop I’ve purchased) and I did get AppleCare for that.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Couple things worth noting… You can get an AppleCare warranty from 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

  26. oliver

    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.

  27. 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.

    • 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?