How to Buy a Cheap iPad

A portable Netflix machine, a second screen for the road, a gaming device, or even a till for your small business, there are a ton of reasons to buy an iPad. Apple's tablet has long-dominated the tablet market, and they continue to sell millions every year, but they aren't the most accessible devices when it comes to price. They can be pretty hard to afford if money is tight and if you're a penny pincher, paying full price can be hard to justify.

If you're in the market to buy an iPad, but hate the idea of spending an arm and a leg for one, here are some things to consider that will help you find one for cheaper.

Consider a cheaper model

iPads screen size hero

iPads screen size hero (Image credit: iMore)

This may seem like a simple solution — sometimes the best ones are — but it's especially important to consider when talking about an iPad. The price difference between the most expensive iPad ($1279) and the cheapest ($329) is astronomical. That's why it's important to think about what you want to use your iPad for and which model is going to give you the best performance for those tasks.

Read: Which iPad should you get?

Take the time to think about what your needs are and compare all the models currently available. While you may want the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you may realize that 9.7-inch iPad (5th generation) can do everything you need, and a decision like that can save you about $470 — not too shabby.

Refurbished iPads


iPads (Image credit: iMore)

While Apple doesn't often offer sales on its products, they do sell iPads that have been damaged or malfunctioned in the past and then fixed.

While that can sound scary, Apple guarantees all their refurbished products and even changes out some of its components regardless of what the original issue was.

"We test and certify all Apple refurbished products and include a 1-year warranty. All refurbished iPad models also include a brand new battery, new outer shell, and a new white box."

The drawbacks of getting a refurbished iPad are you're limited by the selection that Apple has, which means you may not be able to find the exact model you want. The plus side, Apple consistently puts out more refurbished iPads all the time, so you can always keep an eye on their selection and jump on a good deal if and when it comes along.

See Refurbished iPads at Apple

Buying a used iPad

AppleCare on iPad

AppleCare on iPad (Image credit: iMore)

Buying a used iPad can be a great way to save a lot of money; however, it can be a little risky especially if you buy online.

When buying used — regardless of the product — I always suggest that you do it in a way that allows you to examine the product. Whether it's a family member, friend, acquaintance or a local listing on a site like Craigslist, actually seeing the iPad before you buy it can allow you to check for physical damage and look for software performance issues.

If you turn to eBay or any other peer-to-peer selling service, you do run the risk of getting ripped off. The horror stories I have heard range from small things like not including all the cables in the box to more serious offenses like completely broken iPads. Now, those are probably a small minority of people who have had to deal with this problem, but it's worth knowing the risks.

Regardless, if you buy in person or online, you should inquire about transferring AppleCare or AppleCare+ from the old owner to yourself. Apple even tells its customers to do this if they plan on selling.

"If you sell or give away your Apple device, you can also transfer the ownership of your AppleCare Protection Plan or AppleCare+ in regions that allow it."

Ask the seller if they have AppleCare or AppleCare+ on their device, if they are unsure you can check with Apple to see if there is any time left on their plan. Warranty, even if it's only a few months worth, is a great investment.

Transfer your AppleCare Plan

Older Generations

Whether you buy a used or refurbished iPad, there's a high chance it will be an older generation. Typically, the older the generation, the cheaper you should be able to snag the iPad; however, there is such a thing as too old.

Current models of iPad include the second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, the lower-cost 9.7-inch iPad (5th Generation), and the smaller, more compact iPad mini 4 and they all support iOS 11 and will receive the latest updates. Older iPads may not receive updates, or even if they do, they may suffer performance-wise.

iOS 11 takes up more space and takes more computing power than its predecessor meaning it could slow down older devices. For example, I have been running the iOS 11 software on my iPad Mini 2 (which is one of the oldest devices that's compatible), and it has made my iPad very slow, and it has made using it for ordinary tasks challenging.

Of course, you could always buy an older iPad and choose not to upgrade to iOS 11 (even if you can) but running a device that won't update will eventually cause problems. Developers will often update their apps beyond the capabilities of older devices, making it difficult or even impossible to run essential apps on your iPad.

When you use a device that is no longer supported with software updates, you are on a ticking clock; however, the savings can be significant and if you don't plan on using the iPad for long, or for more complicated tasks, it can be a great way to save hundreds of dollars.

iPad deals

Stacked iPads

Stacked iPads (Image credit: iMore)

Although sales on iPads are rare, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Our very own deal guru Jared DiPane keeps an eye-out for iPad deals every month and will let you know when a good deal is happening.

Make sure to check out our Best iPad Deals page regularly to see if you can snag an iPad at a reduced price.

Do you have any tips for buying cheap iPads?

Let us know in the comments below.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.