Is AppleCare worth it for your MacBook?

Is AppleCare worth it for your MacBook?

Wondering if the extra $249 - $349 for AppleCare is worth it for your MacBook? Here's my take

I've had my 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro for about a year and three months; three months longer than the standard Apple warranty. So when it started to develop problems with the trackpad recently, I was doubly grateful that AppleCare was part of the original purchase.

MacBooks are great, but at least in my house, they get used and moved around a lot. I take them outside constantly — with me to appointments, to meetings, to Starbucks. And things wear down, just in general. And as long as it's not user-inflicted damage or what Apple considers a "wearable" part (like a battery, for example), AppleCare can be very useful to get stuff fixed.

Well loved

A few weeks ago my MacBook Pro developed a problem: The trackpad stopped working correctly. Sometimes I couldn't press the trackpad button. Other times if I held the MacBook Pro by the right side, it would cause the button to depress. There were no obvious signs of damage — the case was straight, I hadn't dumped a soda on the keyboard or anything.

But I use my MacBook Pro. I use it a lot. Enough that I'd etched straight through the lettering of the A and the S keys on the keyboard (some other keys showed signs of wear, too, but none as bad as those).

Fortunately, that's exactly the sort of thing that AppleCare covers. And cover it did. In order to fix the trackpad, the entire top case had to be replaced. Coincidentally, that took care of my etched keys and gave me a new battery to boot (they're all part of one integrated part).

Apple's design of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros has gotten slimmer and lighter over the years. Their design has also gotten markedly more complex over the years, making it harder and harder for even experienced Mac owners like me to get inside and actually do anything to them.

While I lament a little the reduced DIY access for these machines, I'd argue that the same phenomenon is another reason to consider getting AppleCare for a new Mac laptop. Between parts and labor, you'll make your money back on the first repair.

That is, assuming you have a first repair. I'll be the first to admit that my experience is purely anecdotal. Not everyone who buys AppleCare ends up using it (that's the risk you run buying any sort of insurance — that you're paying for something you may never actually need).

Not for everyone

I don't always get AppleCare on my new Apple gear. I didn't get it for most of the desktop Macs I've purchased over the years (a Mac Pro, an iMac, a couple of Mac minis), and I haven't really regretted skipping it on those systems. Though I did for one system — my older son's — and I'm glad I did, because we had to use it (not through any fault of his — it had a bum hard drive). I've been an iPhone owner since 2007 but I never got AppleCare Plus for one until I got my iPhone 5S last fall. And I haven't needed to use it. Just figured better safe than sorry.

But for laptops I consider AppleCare an essential purchase. That's partly because of how I use my Macs. My laptops are daily drivers — they're the machines I use for work, all the time. I can't afford to be without one for very long, so having a bit of extra insurance guarantees me that if my laptop breaks, I can get it fixed without too much headache or without having to shell out too much cash.

Of course, I'm an American, which factors into my decision too. I'm aware that consumer protection laws vary widely from country to country, and at least some of the benefit of AppleCare may be superfluous if the consumer protection laws in your country are stronger than mine. You may also be able to use other insurance coverage like some credit card companies offer to extend coverage on your Mac.

Support from Apple

There's another, often overlooked aspect to AppleCare that's tremendously helpful: Apple's toll-free tech support. AppleCare doesn't just extend out the warranty of your Mac from 12 to 36 months. It also extends out the amount of toll-free tech support you get from Apple from 90 days from the original purchase date to three years.

I've used Macs since 1985; I've written about the professionally for 15 years. I still have reason to call AppleCare for help every so often. I did just a month ago because I started running into a software problem that I couldn't make sense of.

AppleCare's support staff are really smart and on the ball, and they're not afraid to escalate calls to senior staff when they don't know the answers or can't help. They did finally sort the problem I was having. But if I hadn't had AppleCare, I would have had to pay an incident fee for the privilege.

The Bottom Line

You should decide for yourself whether AppleCare is worth it to you or not, and you certainly aren't in any rush — Apple gives you until the one-year anniversary of your purchase to get it.

But that first year can lull you into a false sense of security about how well your Mac is working, and it's easy to let the date slip by, only to find out you really could have used it a few months down the road. That's why I almost always get AppleCare when I get my Mac — that way, I don't have to thin about it after the fact.

What about you? Do you factor AppleCare into the purchase of a new Mac? Or do you think it's a waste of money?

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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Reader comments

Is AppleCare worth it for your MacBook?

30 Comments

I myself have a 2012 macbook pro and I'm a college student who rides the bus and a long board so I'm pretty hard on my computer, however the few times that I've needed to take it in they always repaired
5 times for the hdd which resulted in a logic board replacement (600) free with apple care
so i say its totally worth it !

We just replaced an old Mac Mini and MacBook Pro with a pair of MacBook Pro Retinas - a 15 and a 13 - and invested a lot of money. So, for the first time ever, we decided to get Applecare. Seemed silly not to take that extra step for such an investment, since we could afford to do so. I hope I never have to use it, but I'm glad to have the peace of mind.

I wish they still supported warranty for my 2000 powerbook g3 which I am currently typing this on running tiger

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Don't forget that AppleCare also covers the "other" parts of the computer, like the power adapter. For some reason, I tend to go through adapters like Kleenex, usually by wearing a hole through the insulation where the cord comes out of the brick. All I have to do is go in and they hand me a brand new adapter.

when I bought my iMac I purchased Applecare, the same for all my devices. It's what I think of as a 'safety net' and I am happy to pay for that little bit of peace of mind. I am happy that I have never had to claim for an issue except for a warranty failure of an iPhones speaker for which they replaced the phone immediately without any arguments. Especially since, as Peter Cohen has pointed out, Apple devices are becoming less 'user serviceable' and I dare not try a repair myself on the iMac, the opposite of what I do with the PC's in my office. I will happily dig in and fix them myself.

Will I purchase applecare for my next Apple purchases, YOU BET!

I factor the Applecare into the purchase price, it is far better than the fight with Dell I had over a failed hard drive which they then replaced with a refurbished drive that failed a few weeks later. That extended warranty cost me far more and I got far less and spent much more repairing failed components at my cost because Dell battled every claim and no device should need to be repaired on a more than bi-monthly basis from the date of purchase. The $2500 I spent on that machine plus the $500 for the extended warranty and the fortune I spent keeping it going until I got so tired of fixing makes the Apple Care warranty and the higher cost of the Apple hardware a better deal than.

If anyone asks me whether an Applecare warranty is worth it, I just tell them that it is "Peace of Mind" and that is priceless!

Apple Care is apart of the purchase for me on every device. The technical support and courtesy that is routinely offered by their staff is second to none. It is part of the Apple experience and well worth the additional expense.

I prefer geeks quad black tie to apple care for a few reasons:

1. If you have a non system repair such hdd replacement or logic board problems your device gets sent out to be repaired by the same Apple trained techs that Apple uses.

2. Black tie protection is cheaper I paid 250$ for 2 yrs of what the AppleCare offers with BestBuy GSP. 249-349 for one year of service? That's ridiculous and while I'm an apple guy through an through this is a slap in the face to apple customers that invest tons of money into buying these not so cheap premium products that are supposed to be so high standard that they begin to wear down from just being moved around and used within a years time? Laptops are suppose to be portable that's the reason they are called LAP-TOPS so the whole "they get worn from being moved around" doesn't fly with me.

3.The main reason I prefer GeekSquad black tie protection, is because it's renewable if you are satisfied with your current Mac and don't want to shell out another couple of thousand to buy a new one just renew your black tie protection and your good for another 1-2 years depending on which one you choose.

Also if your device can't be fixed you get your money back on a BestBuy gift card or you get the latest model of said device and this is at any point of your GSP whether it be 1,2,3,4 or even 5 years down the line

You're right mispoke there however it's still not renewable which is a deal killer compared to black tie protection

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

I had a 2011 MacBook Pro that had a logic board GPU failure a month before AppleCare was up. Apple replaced the Logic board while messing up the display, the unibody, and the ports. I took it back to AppleCare and the replaced the display, unibody, keyboard and logic board again.

Two weeks later the logic board GPU failed again. Apple gave me a new 15" retina MacBook Pro 750M for free

Hi Peter
Great article.
I was wondering, do you have any data in usefulness of AppleCare in countries with no Apple Stores?
I live in Chile and the shop I bought my MacBook does support, they say they won't acknowledge AppleCare (that was said by a salespeople pushing me to buy one of their extended warranties).
Thanks for your research

AppleCare is supported at Apple retail stores and it's also required of any Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) within Apple's network.

I think you pointed out one of the best features of Apple Care the telephone support. It's often over looked but a great resource. I usually get Apple Care for all my lap tops. You never know when something is going to happen, whether it be your fault or something while traveling that is out of control. I too have had the issues os the keyboard with letters wearing off, luckily the Genius found the keys to replace rather than have it for 3-5 days. It also helped when a hard drive died and they always go above and beyond when they fix things and if they notice something else like a battery they go ahead and fix it.

The best was when I tried to move my iTunes library to an external hard drive. Instead of having to make an appt to the Genius Bar I called them and in 10 mins had my issue solved!

Thanks for a great article Peter!

I used to never get it or any insurance on anything. When I started buying smartphones that changed. My iPhone 5 got drowned last summer thanks to a Lifeproof case failure. I had Verizon's insurance and had a new phone the next day but it didn't take me long to realize that I had paid them $10 a month for 10 months and still had a deductible of $200 (i think). Applecare would have been much simpler and less expensive. Bought a well loaded Macbook Pro last fall and it was a no brainer. My laptop goes between 2 offices, home, and work in the field. Not taking any chances. Same went for my iPhone 5s.

Apple Care is a great investment for your MacBook. I was turned onto it over ten years ago with my eMac. The best part is the repairs are covered by an authorized repair facility if there is not an Apple Store near by. I was hooked after a power surge fried my old eMac's internals. It was replaced and it went out again, the total for both repairs was over $1,600 bucks. I paid $149 for my Apple Care and did not have to pay a penny over that for the repairs. It has saved me a few times with my MacBook as well and saved me hundreds, I will never purchase a MacBook or Apple Desktop machine with out it.

Is it not 2 years that the warranty is extended to after the purchase date? I mean yes you get three years total warranty protection if you purchase it when you buy the device, but thats with the 1 year original and then 2 years with the Apple care. But with that said yes totally worth getting and I will continue to.

If you are like 99% of the world and don't upgrade your mac every year, then you should totally get it if you can afford it

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Your statement is why I prefer geeksquad plans to AppleCare if you don't upgrade your device every cycle with geeksquad you can renew your warranty instead

My Visa debit card doubled the 1-year warranty on my mid 2012 non-retina Macbook Pro, so I chose to skip paying for the AppleCare warranty which would have added about 25% to the purchase price. Not worth it to me.

1.5 years later, so far so good. I've upgraded the RAM and swapped the hard drive for an SSD (the benefit of the larger non-retina model), so this laptop has been very economical for what I have vs. what I paid.

Compared to the cost of parts, and other fees to fix the device, it is a good deal. When you need your computer, and do not have 500-1000 bucks to fix it, Apple Care is worth it.

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It doesn't seem worth it to me. The first year is worthless as you're covered by warranty anyway. The right credit card can double that. It seems to me if you took the Applecare purchase price and put it aside you'd go a long way toward repairing or replacing anything beyond that. Tech support? I'd consider it a personal failing on my part if I ever called any computer or software company for help. No thanks

I never get any type of insurance on purchases. In my opinion, fixing your 1 year old computer for 349 dollars (that is what you paid. You just prepaid for it) isn't worth it. The value of the computer is half of what it was and chances are that your 1300 computer is worth 650 and you paid 400 to fix it.

On top of that some warranties have a deductible and thats even worse!

I never, ever buy Apple anything without Apple Care. I replaced my iPhone 3GS 3 times (buying a "new" refurbished model for $180 each time) I have an iPhone 5 now that's been replaced for free once. Nothing bad has happened with my MacBook Pro but have had to call Apple a few times to sort things out. Totally worth it, no question.

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My 2010 MacBook Pro had to get the logic board replaced one of the USB ports went bad that was 500+ repair then before my Apple care warranty I took it in for a diagnostic and my screen had a small blemish as well as my power cord had burned out all replaced at no additional cost to me. All except the battery. They replaced the top half of the MacBook couldn't be happier I had bought Apple care when I did. I don't usually buy extended warranties for any electronic products but glad I did this time.

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Just want to throw this out there: If you buy from a retailer that isn't located in your state, AppleCare almost pays for itself with the sales tax you avoid.

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I don't think AppleCare is worth it, when for just a little bit more you can get something like Squaretrade. That not only covers regular failures, but it will also cover me if I drop my laptop, or spill my pop on it, or any other accidental happening. AppleCare doesn't cover accidental damage at all.

I get Squaretrade for my mobile devices, and when I get a new MacBook Pro this month I will be getting Squaretrade on that, too.

It is a gamble, just like everything. If something goes wrong, totally worth it. If not, you feel like you flushed $250 down the toilet,

Applecare for me has been a blessing... I have used it on multiple occasions for multiple devices... most of which were NOT hardware related. See below:

2005 iMac (White plastic model) - had an issue with some DVD's not being accepted by the internal drive (remember those on the iMacs?). I had purchased Applecare at the same time of original purchase. Called Apple - arranged for an appointment and dropped it off. A day or so later I get a call from the local Apple store and they tell me they wanted to replace the WHOLE iMac! They said the internal drive was defective but the also noticed that my screen had some issue and they suggested to replace the whole machine to an NEW - Aluminum version. to my AWE i said absolutely! a few days later I picked up a NEW iMac with all my data transferred over! AMAZING!

2010 - iPod touch - accidentally fell into the ocean - this had to be prior to the liquid sensor now on ALL portables - 4 days from the expiration of the Applecare policy, i took it into the store - Full, Free replacement to an updated model!

2012 - iPad - Problem with the home button, past original 1 year warranty - took it in, while I waited they replaced it with a brand new model! all data transferred and out I walked.

2012 - Another issue I had was with my Airport extreme, it failed or had low output (WiFi), I called Applecare and this is one device I did NOT have covered on Applecare, BUT because my iMac was covered they INCLUDED that device and replaced it free of charge! ANOTHER AMAZING MOMENT when it comes to Applecare!

Aug 2014 - just purchased an Macbook Pro 13" Retina - and guess what - yes an Applecare policy as well! waiting delivery as i type this!

Overall, my experience with ALL that comes with APPLECARE - tech support, the free repairs, the comfort level one has knowing they are there is worth the few hundred bucks it costs! Hands down go for Applecare!

it is a NO BRAINER!