Should you buy a used MacBook?

Computers aren't cars, their lifespan is a little shorter.

You want a MacBook, you're on a budget, and you're thinking about buying a used computer (used MacBook, used iMac, used Mac Pro, etc.) Speaking from our 15-years of computer repair experience, you may want to take a few things into consideration before buying a used MacBook.

The industry tells us that a computer lifecycle is approximately three years. In the real world of budget and performance, we see users maintaining their computers for longer durations for various reasons. We consider anything over five years old to be on "borrowed time". We also see some repairs for older computers (i.e. a logic board replacement for a MacBook Pro) where the total cost of the repair and data migration can approach the value of the computer itself. Your usage also plays an important role. It is not uncommon to see software force hardware upgrades. As new operating systems and software are released that is written for the latest and greatest, the hardware requirements increase. This upgrade cycle can obsolete a used computer very quickly, negating what you "saved" on the purchase.

Heat kills computers, and computers generate a tremendous amount of heat. You may not always be aware of it - due to case materials and intuitive fan and exhaust placement - but modern computers are packed with electronics and mechanical devices like hard drives. The conductive elements, drive bearings, drive spindles, fan motors, optical drives, etc generate constant heat. Hard drives themsleves typically fail on what is known as a bathtub curve, that looks like a cross section of a bathtub. Some fail quickly, while others fail within what the manufactures call "mean time between failures" or MTBF. A recent study by Backblaze found that only 73.5% of Seagate hard drives survived the first three years.

Battery lives matter too. Modern Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are amazing in that they are very light, can be made in nearly any shape, are environmentally friendly, and can store more power than the technologies they replaced. Conversely, they also have a shorter lifespan. LiPo batteries are resilient, but they only operate optimally when they are properly maintained. These modern batteries should be calibrated when they are brand new, and then on a recurring basis. That process is basically to fully charge, fully drain, and fully charge. If a battery is not properly maintained, it will not hold a charge as long as it should.

It may seem alluring to consider pre-owned Apple products (sometimes called refurbs), because they are thought to be infallible. Take our word for it, they are not infallible. Although computers look very different and use different operating systems, they are all built with very similar components. Those components will fail, it's just a matter of when.

So, what to do? There is only one best option: Apple's Certified Refurbished program (click here to read more). Apple offers special deals through their website on factory refurbished computers, some of which are returns that have never been opened. The most important factor is the warranty protection. Only Apple's Certified Refurbished program gives you a 14-day return policy, a one-year limited warranty, and (this is huge) the ability to purchase AppleCare. Discounted pricing and the lowest possible risk = Winning.

In summary:

  • • Be wary of used computers. Even if you could "take them to a mechanic", there are many things that simply cannot be seen.
  • • Heat kills computers. Over time - and constant exposure to heat - components start to fail more rapidly.
  • • Used computers often have poorly maintained batteries.
  • • Refurbished computers may seem like a bargain, but buying an Apple computer with anything less than a one-year warranty may be inviting unwanted future repair bills.
  • • If your budget allows, always get AppleCare.


For more information on Apple's Certified Refurbished program, follow the link below:


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