AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini protection plan should you get?

AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini protection plan should you get?

2013 iPad buyers guide: How to decide between AppleCare+, third party insurance, or no insurance at all on your new iPad Air or Retina iPad mini

If you plan on picking up a new iPad Air, a Retina iPad mini, or one of the cheaper, previous generation iPads, one of the last - but most important - things you have to decide is whether or not you'd like to get some kind of insurance to protect your investment, whether it be AppleCare+, third party, or something else. There are lots of factors that can play a part in your decision, such as how long you plan on keeping your iPad before upgrading, and how careful you are with it. Here's what you need to know!

AppleCare+ vs. third party insurance

AppleCare+ costs an additional $99 and must be purchased either at the same time, or within 30 days of purchasing your new iPad. If you don't choose it at the time or purchase, you'll need to take your iPad back into an Apple Store for them to inspect it for damage within the first 30 days before they'll apply it.

AppleCare+ extends the standard one year warranty to two years and gives you phone support for those full two years (as opposed to the 90 days after purchase that comes standard). That means if you ever run into an issue with your iPad, you can dial 1-800-MY-APPLE and get help instantly at no extra cost to you.

Also, while the standard one year warranty does not cover accidental damage, AppleCare+ does. That means if you break your iPad or it sustains liquid damage, you're covered. AppleCare+ gives you two incidents where, for a $49 deductible, you can exchange your broken iPad for a new or refurbished one at any Apple Store or through the mail by calling AppleCare.

There are two other types of insurance you can get for your iPad, the type offered by carriers or retailers, and the type offered through a third-party service like SquareTrade.

I typically don't recommend carrier insurance as it typically involves monthly fees, a high deductible that changes based on weird formulas, and refurbished devices that are not certified through Apple. Likewise, big box retailer product plans involve you having to deal with big box companies and staff, and the service just doesn't ever seem to be as good.

Companies like SquareTrade offer warranties similar to what Apple offers but again, are not licensed by Apple. However, SquareTrade specifically offers a three year plan and up to four accidental replacements per warranty type, which is more than what AppleCare+ gives you. If you don't have an Apple Store near you and are especially accident prone, SquareTrade has a stellar reputation and may be a better option for you personally.

Your upgrade cycle

All iPads come with a one year manufacturer's warranty against defects at no additional cost to you. If you have to have the latest and greatest each and every year, you may be wasting some money on purchasing AppleCare+ since you most likely won't utilize the second year.

Just keep in mind that the one year warranty that comes with your iPad does not cover accidental damage, only defects due to no fault of your own. If you think you may break your iPad in that first year, it's still worth the purchase since a replacement iPad out of warranty due to accidental damage will cost you a minimum of $249.

Care and craftiness

Some of us take very good care of our iPads. Some of us don't. While using a protective case can't completely guarantee you won't break your iPad if you drop it, it can definitely help minimize the chances. Using heavy duty cases like OtterBox are a good idea for users that are accident prone or want to be extra careful as to not break their new iPad.

There are lots of people that hate cases since they add bulk and take away from the joy of using it the way Apple intended you to. It may feel better in the hand without a case on it, but it also greatly increases the chances of it breaking if it falls out of your hand with no protection. So think about how often you use a case with your iPad and that should weigh into your decision.

DIY iPad repairs are possible but typically require a lot more skill and care than iPhone repairs. Unless you feel completely comfortable cracking open your iPad, don't. If you're confident in your repair skills however, a cracked screen replacement typically costs far less if you do it on your own.

Who should get AppleCare+?

You know yourself and your iPad usage habits better than anyone. For $99, you get quite a bit of coverage and peace of mind. If you're accident prone, unlucky, and especially if you plan on keeping your iPad for more than one year, get AppleCare+.

Who should get third party insurance?

As far as carriers are concerned, you'll only be able to opt for this option if you're buying the WiFi + cellular model. Even then, I'd still recommend AppleCare+ or SquareTrade over carrier insurance any day of the week since the deductibles are always lower and there are no monthly fees to pay. As far as insurance through a retailer, just make sure you look very closely at the terms and conditions before deciding. A lot of times they too can come with high deductibles.

Unless AppleCare+ or a service like SquareTrade just aren't options for you for some reason, I'd stay away from carrier and third party retailer insurance.

Who should stick to the standard warranty?

If you take incredibly good care of your iPad, never drop or otherwise damage it, and are handy enough to DIY fix it if and when you need to, then you might be just fine with the standard warranty that comes at no additional cost. This is especially true if you upgrade once a year or more.

Still not sure?

If you still aren't sure whether or not you should pick up AppleCare+ for your new iPad, a great place to get some advice is the iMore forums. Several of our members have debated and made decisions on a lot of the same issues you're currently facing. Once you've made the best decision for you, let us know - did you go for AppleCare+, something else, nothing at all? And why?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPad Air or Retina iPad mini protection plan should you get?


I know that this is not ethical, but when I purchased the Best Buy Protection Plan, the sales clerk told me that they don't repair iPads. They just give you store credit of the purchased price to purchase another one. So the sales clerk said.. "You could come in and say it's not connecting to wifi at home. They won't try to troubleshoot it, they will just have you go get another iPad... even if that means it's a newer model." Is the $200 protection plan worth a free upgrade to the latest version iPad?

I got AppleCare+ for my iPhone 5 and iPad mini, just for the peace of mind. I've barely even scratched any of my smartphones (Treo 180, Treo 600, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5). I don't exactly baby them, but I don't mistreat them either.

You just never know when you'll get bumped or fall down stairs or whatever. So I think of AppleCare+ as insurance. And as with any other insurance policy, you kind of feel like a sucker sometimes if you never make any claims. Just remember that there's only a small chance of destroying or losing your iPad, but the downside is very steep if it ever happens.

Don't forget that some of the insurance from a carrier also covers lost or theft. It is a hefty price to pay bit if u lose your phone constantly or work for the C.I.A it may be worth the extra money.

State Farm has a personal article policy for expensive items like electronics, jewelry, etc. so that any claims don't impact your homeowners or renters insurance. Unfortunately, they've really clamped down on the devices that are covered so now tablets and smartphones aren't eligible anymore. I guess $5/year and $0 deductible wasn't sustainable.

Is Applecare+ really still worth it for an iPad or an iPhone? I've struggled with this quite a bit lately. I don't really need the phone support - I have handled everything for quite a while technically. It is really for warranty extension and breakage protection.

So lets take an iPhone for example:

1. Buy AppleCare + and break it once over the two years. - Cost $99+79 = $178.
2. Cost if broken - Usually Apple does in-store replacements for $249 right? I have done that in the past.

So basically you are betting $100 so if something happens you won't need to spend $71? ($71 is the difference between getting it fixed if it breaks with or without Applecare+)

That just doesn't seem like a good deal to me anymore. Maybe it makes more sense if Applecare+'s deductible is on $49 still on iPads and the exchange is $299. It also will work out in your favor if you break it twice. But my family of 4 has only killed one phone in 5 years. It just doesn't seem like a good investment.

I do not like rebates, or any care plans. Give me the deal up front. I have a different solution. Every time I get paid, I put money aside for repairs, or whatever. It adds up quick, and if I break a screen, I can pay cash for it, or just buy a new device. As far as a deductible, you already paid 99 bucks, it does not seem fair to pay more. Just start saving money. Even if it is just a couple of bucks, it will add up sooner than you think, and you have your own care plan. Just keep your hands off it until you need it.

AppleCare and always.

I never had to use their service. iPad, iPhone, iMac, MacBook ... OMG .... so many to remember!

But ... But ... it helps a lot when it's time to find your iBabies a new home ;)

What about home insurance? For just over the price of Applecare + on my iPad, I can get my entire house including my iPhone and Mac, plus my partners gadgets insured with just a £50 excess for any Accidental claims. All I will say if that you have to read the fine print when buy the insurance to make sure your completely covered!

Everyone here hates carriers, and for good reason, but their insurance policies provide phones for lost and stolen iPhones, albeit at a high deductible. If you throw T-Mobile into the equation, the insurance is part of the JUMP program that allows upgrades every 6 months. Realistically you only need to use it yearly if you're an iPhone user on T-Mobile. Sprint's insurance isn't half bad either because there's lots of cases where their in-store repair centers can fix iPhones same day. is your best option for iPad, iPhone, cell phone and all other mobile device insurance. Loss, theft, cracked screens, water damage and everything else is covered. Lowest prices, high coverage limits, the most claims per year allowed and lowest deductibles. Coverage starts the day you purchase a policy, not 30 days later like the rest. Also the devices are replaced with new devices. Not refurbished one's like the other companies.

I chose AppleCare on my iPad 3 when I purchased it. When I sold it on ebay, it helped my sale because I still had 5 months on the plan left. The buyer was particulary happy because you can transfer ownership of the plan to the buyer.

I know this article has been out awhile, but I just recently got a new iPad mini w/Retina display and was struggling with this same decision. I got mine from a Best Buy and my closest Apple store is over an hour away. I was going to opt for something else since I did not want to make the drive to get my new iPad "inspected"... Then I read the fine print, basically saying you can order it over the phone and they will run a "diagnostic" on your iPad to confirm no pre-existing damage: "AppleCare+ must be purchased within 30 days of the date you bought your new iPad. If you did not purchase AppleCare+ with your iPad, you may purchase it at an Apple Retail Store or by calling the AppleCare Contact Center. To buy AppleCare+ at an Apple Retail Store, a Specialist will first need to verify your iPad purchase date and confirm that your iPad has no pre-existing damage. Find an Apple Retail Store. To buy AppleCare+ from the AppleCare Contact Center, you will be required to verify your purchase date and run a diagnostic to confirm that your iPad has no pre-existing damage."

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