Should you get AppleCare+ or insurance for your iPad?

AppleCare+, insurance, or something else — how to pick the perfect protection plan for your iPad!

If you're getting a new iPad Pro, iPad, or iPad mini, you may also be thinking about getting a protection plan for it. Apple, of course, offers AppleCare+, but there are also third-party services, credit card benefits, and other programs that might be of interest. Here they are!

AppleCare vs. AppleCare+

Every iPad you purchase, whether it's sold by Apple or another retailer, comes with a one-year limited warranty called AppleCare. This coverage costs nothing and is automatically activated the day you purchase your iPad. Here's what it offers:

  • One-year limited warranty against defects
  • 90 days complimentary phone support

So that covers you if your iPad suddenly won't turn on, can't hold a charge, or a button breaks. But the basic version of AppleCare does not protect against any kind of accidental damage, so if you drop your iPad or get it wet, you're not covered. That's where AppleCare+ comes into play.

AppleCare+ costs an additional $99 and must be purchased within 60 days of purchasing your iPad — usually people buy them at the same time. It extends the standard one-year warranty to two years and gives you phone support for those full two years. (Remember, 90 days of phone support comes standard.) That means if you ever run into an issue with your iPad, you can dial 1-800-MY-APPLE and ask for AppleCare, or you can call 1-800-APL-CARE directly.

What's more, if you break your iPad or drop it in water, you've got options: AppleCare+ includes two accidental damage incidents where, for a $49 deductible, you can exchange your broken iPad for a replacement on the spot.

The only thing AppleCare+ does not protect you against is theft or loss.

Of course, to get the most value out of AppleCare+, it helps if you live close to an Apple Retail Store. If not, you'll need to mail your iPad out to get it serviced. Unless you have a backup tablet laying around, going without for a prolonged period could be problematic for many.

Best Buy will also let you add AppleCare+ to your purchase at the same rate as Apple Retail. To buy AppleCare+ after buying an iPad (remember, you have 60 days), you can visit checkcoverage.apple.com, where you'll have to verify your serial number and run a remote diagnostic, by bringing the iPad and proof of purchase to an Apple Store, or by calling 800-275-2273, where you'll also need a proof of purchase and to run a remote diagnostic.

See more at Apple.

Credit card benefits

Some credit cards offer warranty extensions as well as programs that protect against breakage and even theft. Different credit card providers have different requirements, but typically you need to have an account in good standing and to have paid for your iPad completely on the card in question. Premium cards, like gold or platinum, often have additional benefits that go with their higher fees.

If you're on the fence about buying AppleCare+, it's worthwhile to see what benefits your credit card company offers first. Some automatically extend the manufacturer's warranty (in this case, stock AppleCare) for a year, which would cover you for defects longer but wouldn't include the extra AppleCare+ benefits, like accident coverage and phone support. Check the materials that came with your credit card, visit your providers' website, or call the toll-free number on the back of your card and ask.

SquareTrade insurance

SquareTrade offers warranties that are similar to AppleCare but not affiliated with or licensed by Apple. SquareTrade covers drops, liquid damage, and malfunctions, and while the company doesn't have retail outlets for in-store fixes, it does offer free two-way shipping.

If you're willing to pay a $49 deductible, you can get a two-year plan for $109, or a three-year plan for $129. (Bonus: Costco members can get that same two-year plan for $74.99.) You can also ditch the deductible but pay more up front: $169 for two years or $199 for three. And while AppleCare+ covers two incidents of accidental damage (for $49 each), SquareTrade covers as many incidents as you have.

SquareTrade will reimburse you for Genius Bar repairs and even cover same-day repairs through local service shops, if you'd rather get your iPad fixed in person instead of sending it to SquareTrade. This flexibility could be appealing to people who don't live near an Apple Store but may travel near them on occasion.

See more at SquareTrade.

Why carrier insurance and big box retailer plans are almost never a good idea

Carrier insurance offerings vary greatly based on what carrier you have, what kind of contract you have, and many other factors. We're hesitant to recommend them over AppleCare+ and other options simply because there are typically exorbitant monthly fees plus ever-changing deductibles involved, often on the high side.

Unlike AppleCare+ and SquareTrade, some carrier insurance plans do offer protection from theft and loss. However, those are both rare occurrences, statistically speaking, and they may already be covered under your homeowners or renters' insurance, or another personal or work policy.

While Best Buy does offer actual AppleCare+ plans for iPads, most big-box retailers' extended warranties aren't worth buying either. The fine print is usually packed with restrictions, and the store employees push these warranties so hard at the registers because the profit margins are huge compared to the repair costs they actually pay out. It's OK to read the fine print, but don't be pressured — you might be better off just stashing the money in a savings account and paying for repairs yourself.

Who should buy AppleCare+?

AppleCare+ is great for anyone who isn't terribly accident-prone and plans to keep their iPad Pro, iPad Air, or iPad mini for more than one year.

For $99, you get peace of mind in knowing that if you're covered against defects for three times as long, and if you do break your iPad, you only have to pay $49 for an Apple-certified replacement.

See at Apple.

Who should purchase insurance from SquareTrade?

If you're worried about accidents (kids love iPads, after all, and aren't always careful with them) or you don't live near an Apple Store, SquareTrade may be your best option, and its three-year plan is only $30 more than two-year AppleCare+.

We recommend SquareTrade's deductible plan over the no-deductible plan to keep your costs lower in the event you don't wind up needing the coverage.

See at SquareTrade.

Who should buy carrier or retail insurance?

If you're extremely unlucky and accident-prone, don't live close to an Apple Store, can't use SquareTrade, and don't have any kind of protection through credit cards or your homeowners' insurance, then maybe it's worth considering retail insurance. Still, probably not.

Still not sure?

If you still aren't sure what insurance plan, if any, is right for you, jump into our iPad forums and ask any additional questions you might have.

Made your choice? Let us know what you went with!