Is AppleCare+ worth it for Mac?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2021
In theory, Apple offers the same AppleCare+ insurance for Macs that it does for iPhones, yet the details are so different that it's harder to determine the value to you.

AppleCare+ does add between $99 and $379 to the cost of a Mac
AppleCare+ does add between $99 and $379 to the cost of a Mac


Once you understand just what AppleCare+ actually offers, and what it costs, then in principle the decision is straightforward. Just as it is with the iPhone, your choice over whether to buy AppleCare+ or not depends on you and what you need.

On the one hand, if your Mac is a desktop one that never leaves a high-security office which happens to be manned by IT experts, your need for AppleCare+ is slim. On the other, if you keep taking your MacBook Pro outside and dropping it on carpark concrete, you know what to do.

In practice, everyone is going to be somewhere in the range between these, and no one is able to say for certain whether their Mac will or won't be damaged. So it's a question of assessing the likelihood, and balancing that against the costs of fixing damage if you do or don't have AppleCare+.

Except there are several key differences between AppleCare+ for the Mac and for the iPhone, which makes it tricker to calculate whether it's worth buying or not.

The differences between AppleCare+ for Mac and iPhone


  • AppleCare+ for Mac is for three years from date of hardware purchase, not two

  • There's no option to pay monthly

  • Apple doesn't typically quote repair costs without AppleCare+

Just as with the iPhone, though, you can still buy AppleCare+ after you've bought your Mac. Officially, you have up to 60 days after purchase to add on AppleCare+ but Apple has extended this period at least temporarily, because of the coronavirus.

If you don't buy at time of purchase, though, you've got to have Apple approve that the Mac is still in as-new condition. That can mean taking it to an Apple Store to be inspected, or at least running diagnostics that online Apple Store staff tell you to.

Plus, whether you buy it 60 or more days after your Mac or not, AppleCare+ is effective from the date you got the Mac.

What AppleCare+ costs for Mac

Once you've paid this AppleCare+ fee, then for the three years that are covered you need only think of two different possible repair costs. The first is for any "screen damage or external enclosure damage," and the second is for the very broad-ranging "other damage."

If your problem is with the screen or the casing, then regardless of which Mac you've got, AppleCare+ means you pay a flat fee of $99. When it's this more nebulous "other damage," the flat fee is $269.

Would you even know how to put this back together? (Source: iFixit)
Would you even know how to put this back together? (Source: iFixit)

What repairs cost you outside AppleCare+

Apple does publish comparative figures for how much it costs to replace a battery with or without AppleCare+. Without this insurance, it will typically cost you $199 on the MacBook Pro, or $129 for the MacBook Air.

Otherwise, Apple's preference is for you to describe the problem first, then for them to examine the device. And finally for them to quote you a price that is far higher than you'd hoped yet not quite high enough that it's impossible to pay.

Fortunately, though, Apple is not the sole option when you need a repair. Prices for independent repair vary over the whole of the US, but there some broad averages that can help you estimate the value of AppleCare+.

For instance, the Thumbtack service which aims to match you up with a local firm doing the work you need, has published typical prices for most Mac repairs. It's still necessarily broad, though, simply because the range of repairs is, too.

So for instance, if your Mac's drive fails then repairing or replacing it can cost between $159 and $459 for a depot-level repair. It depends on whether the drive is in, say, the Mac Pro, where it's easily accessible -- or the iMac or a MacBook Pro, where it definitely is not.

That means you're likely to spend more than the cost of AppleCare+ before you even factor in the price of the drive itself. Then there is the fact that, under AppleCare+, you are covered for two incidents of accidental damage each year.

Consequently, the AppleCare+ fee covers you for a total of up to six repairs. On that basis, AppleCare+ for Macs definitely seems worth it -- except for one thing.

It's a gamble

Given what we know about per capita failures, even including the keyboard repair programs, the vast majority of Macs have no problems over the first four years of use. If they did, Apple would not offer this insurance for three years.

Just as Apple is gambling that it's worthwhile offering cheaper repairs because few people will need them, so you are gambling whether you'll be one of the unlucky ones. Except Apple has cold, hard statistics to work from. While we can only extrapolate based on our collated data from service departments, Apple knows precisely how many repairs it makes in and out of AppleCare+.

If you're buying a desktop Mac that will only be used for an hour every fifth Tuesday, and won't ever be moved from the same spot, that's one thing. If you're sick of desktop Macs and have now bought a 16-inch MacBook Pro that you intend to take on fishing trips, that's another.

Adding
There's a lot of truth in that line about peace of mind.
There's a lot of truth in that line about peace of mind.
up what you can

That Thumbtack estimate includes how the average price to replace a fan in a Mac is between $89 and $199. That could mean it actually costs more to have the repair done under AppleCare+ than not.

But overall if you have one incident of damage of any sort, then it is far more likely that you will save money on a Mac repair by buying AppleCare+. If you have more than one, it is certain you will.

You're still not very likely to have a problem, but maybe the real value in AppleCare+ is in reassurance. Just as it is with the iPhone version, knowing that you've got AppleCare+ is perhaps a relief.

AppleCare+ for all your devices

The principle is the same -- pay for AppleCare+ and you'll save on repair costs, if you ever need any repairs. Yet for all of the devices that can have AppleCare+, it seems as if every one has significant differences to consider.

Whatever device you're thinking about getting AppleCare+ for, read our guide:
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    Why does it cost so much more for the 16” MBP? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 20
    Why does it cost so much more for the 16” MBP? 
    I imagine because a) the machine is much more expensive to begin with, and b) the display, which is the most likely thing to get damaged, is much nicer and more expensive to replace as well.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Never buy insurance for something you can afford. The house always wins in the end. 
  • Reply 4 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,606member
    tokyojimu said:
    Never buy insurance for something you can afford. The house always wins in the end. 
    Not necessarily - the house wins on average. Sometimes you come out ahead.

    We bought a MBP for our daughter when she went to college and purchased Apple Care for it. a month ago she spilled coffee all over the keyboard. Apple care replaced the keyboard and motherboard for $350. We were definitely better off with Apple Care.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 20
    Another option is a personal items policy from your insurance provider. I have one on my MBP from State Farm and it covers everything from theft to me spilling wine all over it without a deductible. Of course you pay every year, but depending on the value you're covering it may be cheaper than AppleCare+ in the long run and cover more.
    roundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member
    tokyojimu said:
    Never buy insurance for something you can afford. The house always wins in the end. 
    I disagree.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member
    I get it for every mobile device I buy. I just got it for the M1 13” MacBook Pro. I’ve had to use it a few times over the years. It’s like homeowner’s insurance. If you don’t get it, and you need it, you’re screwed. Same thing for your car, or anything else. My daughter had to use it for here 15” Macbook Pro when she’s was in the university. The repair would have been about $1,000, but cost here nothing. Recently the screen itself in her 2.5 year’s old iMac went. A $750 repair, but cost nothing.

    one thing about insurance is that a small cost (relatively) over time can save you from a horrendous cost all at once.
    MplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 20
    The article above doesn't reflect my experience at all with AppleCare, and definitely don't drop it on concrete as AppleCare doesn't cover accidental damage
    as is stated in the Apple communication below. 

    My MacBook was still covered under the AppleCare warranty and I sent it into Apple to sort out the exact same issue this guy below had been having with screen discolouration and spots. 
    https://gregsamborski.com/macbook-pro-led-screen-discoloration-spots-15-2017-touch-bar/

    The case had some cosmetic damage that wasn't affecting anything and I was completely happy to live with but see below the reply from AppleCare and judge for yourself.


    edited January 2021 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 20
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,424administrator
    Eamonn said:
    The article above doesn't reflect my experience at all with AppleCare, and definitely don't drop it on concrete as AppleCare doesn't cover accidental damage
    as is stated in the Apple communication below. 

    My MacBook was still covered under the AppleCare warranty and I sent it into Apple to sort out the exact same issue this guy below had been having with screen discolouration and spots. 
    https://gregsamborski.com/macbook-pro-led-screen-discoloration-spots-15-2017-touch-bar/

    The case had some cosmetic damage that wasn't affecting anything and I was completely happy to live with but see below the reply from AppleCare and judge for yourself.


    The basic one-year warranty does NOT cover accidental damage. 

    AppleCare+ does. 
  • Reply 10 of 20
    Eamonn said:
    The article above doesn't reflect my experience at all with AppleCare, and definitely don't drop it on concrete as AppleCare doesn't cover accidental damage
    as is stated in the Apple communication below. 

    My MacBook was still covered under the AppleCare warranty and I sent it into Apple to sort out the exact same issue this guy below had been having with screen discolouration and spots. 
    https://gregsamborski.com/macbook-pro-led-screen-discoloration-spots-15-2017-touch-bar/

    The case had some cosmetic damage that wasn't affecting anything and I was completely happy to live with but see below the reply from AppleCare and judge for yourself.


    The basic one-year warranty does NOT cover accidental damage. 

    AppleCare+ does. 

    To clarify the above, I do have the 3 year AppleCare in place. The terms and conditions must vary by country.
    What's crazy is that the technicians will not overlook the cosmetic case issue and just deal with the screen.
    They say they work from the outside in and have to first deal with the case "accidental damage" that's not covered. Cost c. $1,700

  • Reply 11 of 20
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,424administrator
    Eamonn said:
    Eamonn said:
    The article above doesn't reflect my experience at all with AppleCare, and definitely don't drop it on concrete as AppleCare doesn't cover accidental damage
    as is stated in the Apple communication below. 

    My MacBook was still covered under the AppleCare warranty and I sent it into Apple to sort out the exact same issue this guy below had been having with screen discolouration and spots. 
    https://gregsamborski.com/macbook-pro-led-screen-discoloration-spots-15-2017-touch-bar/

    The case had some cosmetic damage that wasn't affecting anything and I was completely happy to live with but see below the reply from AppleCare and judge for yourself.


    The basic one-year warranty does NOT cover accidental damage. 

    AppleCare+ does. 

    To clarify the above, I do have the 3 year AppleCare in place. The terms and conditions must vary by country.
    What's crazy is that the technicians will not overlook the cosmetic case issue and just deal with the screen.
    They say they work from the outside in and have to first deal with the case "accidental damage" that's not covered. Cost c. $1,700

    It looks like you have AppleCare - which doesn't cover accidental damage - and not AppleCare+, which does.
  • Reply 12 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member
    I had an experience here in NYC a few years ago with my iPad. I had AppleCare, before the + version came out. A lot of this depends on who you speak to when you have a problem. I’ve related this before.

    my iPad, a 9.7” model before the larger models came out, was on a few magazines on my computer desk. The binding side of the top magazine faced the edge of the table. I put my iPad on that. A while later, out of the corner of my eye, I see the cover of the magazine moving, and suddenly, before I could grab it, the iPad slides off the edge, flips over, screen down, and lands on the edge of the rubber coated weight I keep there to use when I’m waiting for something to finish. I pick it up, and there’s a diagonal crack across the screen from corner to corner.

    next day I bring it to the Apple store, I forget which one, here in NYC. When I give it to the young guy to look at, thinking it would have to be repaired, at my expense, and having explained the above to him, he looks at it, and since he can’t find a spot where the crack may have been initiated, he says he’s going to call it a factory defect, and gives me a new one.

    i’m not saying that everyone will have that experience, but it was unexpected, and refreshing. A daughter’s friend, back when the Macbook was made from white polycarbonate, had some problem, I don’t remember what. When they gave it back to her, not under warrantee, or AppleCare, which had run out, they had also replaced the top plate around the keyboard, because it was discolored, as would happen to that model, and that and the repair were free.

    apple can, at times, be very liberal with its policies.
    edited January 2021
  • Reply 13 of 20
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,586member
    MplsP said:
    tokyojimu said:
    Never buy insurance for something you can afford. The house always wins in the end. 
    Not necessarily - the house wins on average. Sometimes you come out ahead.

    We bought a MBP for our daughter when she went to college and purchased Apple Care for it. a month ago she spilled coffee all over the keyboard. Apple care replaced the keyboard and motherboard for $350. We were definitely better off with Apple Care.
    They charged you $350 to replace the keyboard and motherboard despite having AppleCare? Third party insurance would be better then than AppleCare+. Dunno about in the US but house contents insurance in the UK often covers laptops and desktops.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,586member

    melgross said:
    I get it for every mobile device I buy. I just got it for the M1 13” MacBook Pro. I’ve had to use it a few times over the years. It’s like homeowner’s insurance. If you don’t get it, and you need it, you’re screwed. Same thing for your car, or anything else. My daughter had to use it for here 15” Macbook Pro when she’s was in the university. The repair would have been about $1,000, but cost here nothing. Recently the screen itself in her 2.5 year’s old iMac went. A $750 repair, but cost nothing.

    one thing about insurance is that a small cost (relatively) over time can save you from a horrendous cost all at once.
    But all those small costs add up. It's obvious that the insurance companies win on average otherwise they wouldn't exist. Apple also falls under that statement.

    Apple generally accepts it has to fix issues with their products for two years from the purchase date in the EU (and UK), and in fact in the UK the Consumer Rights Act effectively protects you for 5 years, though that depends on the perceived value of the product. So Apple who positions themselves as premium would be liable for 5 years, but Amazon's cheap Eco devices would be only a couple of years for example. The CPU in my 2019 iMac died, and Apple replaced it after 1.5 years, without AppleCare. So the UK/EU law makes AppleCare a much less attractive proposition here, it only really covers you for accidental damage. And it's a lot to pay for nothing more than accidental damage cover.
  • Reply 15 of 20
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,586member

    melgross said:
    I had an experience here in NYC a few years ago with my iPad. I had AppleCare, before the + version came out. A lot of this depends on who you speak to when you have a problem. I’ve related this before.

    my iPad, a 9.7” model before the larger models came out, was on a few magazines on my computer desk. The binding side of the top magazine faced the edge of the table. I put my iPad on that. A while later, out of the corner of my eye, I see the cover of the magazine moving, and suddenly, before I could grab it, the iPad slides off the edge, flips over, screen down, and lands on the edge of the rubber coated weight I keep there to use when I’m waiting for something to finish. I pick it up, and there’s a diagonal crack across the screen from corner to corner.

    next day I bring it to the Apple store, I forget which one, here in NYC. When I give it to the young guy to look at, thinking it would have to be repaired, at my expense, and having explained the above to him, he looks at it, and since he can’t find a spot where the crack may have been initiated, he says he’s going to call it a factory defect, and gives me a new one.

    i’m not saying that everyone will have that experience, but it was unexpected, and refreshing. A daughter’s friend, back when the Macbook was made from white polycarbonate, had some problem, I don’t remember what. When they gave it back to her, not under warrantee, or AppleCare, which had run out, they had also replaced the top plate around the keyboard, because it was discolored, as would happen to that model, and that and the repair were free.

    apple can, at times, be very liberal with its policies.
    I've had similar with my iPhone. It is actually Apple's policy to repair single hairline cracks with no impact marks. But it does depend on how you speak to them, and who you speak to, for sure. People treat retail workers like crap sometimes, so its likely almost a reward for the customer not being a tw*t.
  • Reply 16 of 20
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,586member

    Eamonn said:
    The case had some cosmetic damage that wasn't affecting anything and I was completely happy to live with but see below the reply from AppleCare and judge for yourself.
    Wasn't affecting anything... except the screen? I'm all for consumer rights, but that's a fairly hard impact and has obviously bent the display housing, and the bottom chassis now has a burr that is interfering with the display. There is no way really of telling if that has impacted the display's integrity and caused the issue, rather than it being a factory defect. Secondly, the damage to the bottom case could easily damage the new display when it's closed and sent back to you. Apple could have been nice and replaced it anyway, but that is probably why they didn't want to touch it.
  • Reply 17 of 20
    The best $169 I ever spent was for AppleCare+ for my late 2010 27" iMac. This was the first time I'd ever picked up ANY type of warranty add-on for a purchase, period.

    Less than two years later, I had an issue that required going to the Genius Bar, also a first for me. I generally self-debug, so I knew it was a hardware issue. I ended up with both a new graphics card and logic board.

    A few months after that, another trip to the Genius Bar resulted in another new graphics card.

    Less than a week before my three years were up, another hardware failure had me lugging the iMac back in again (by this time, I'd acquired a wheelable case for this purpose - we have several 27" iMacs/displays). After running diagnostics in the back, it was determined that the best recourse was to give me a new 2013 model with equivalent specs.

    I picked up AppleCare+ again for the 2013 iMac, for the total cost of $169. To date, the only repair has been to replace a bad hinge, common with this model.

    I've yet to pay the Genius Bar a penny for work or parts over the years.

    It's fair to say the late 2010 iMac 27" was a dud quality-wise though.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member
    elijahg said:

    melgross said:
    I get it for every mobile device I buy. I just got it for the M1 13” MacBook Pro. I’ve had to use it a few times over the years. It’s like homeowner’s insurance. If you don’t get it, and you need it, you’re screwed. Same thing for your car, or anything else. My daughter had to use it for here 15” Macbook Pro when she’s was in the university. The repair would have been about $1,000, but cost here nothing. Recently the screen itself in her 2.5 year’s old iMac went. A $750 repair, but cost nothing.

    one thing about insurance is that a small cost (relatively) over time can save you from a horrendous cost all at once.
    But all those small costs add up. It's obvious that the insurance companies win on average otherwise they wouldn't exist. Apple also falls under that statement.

    Apple generally accepts it has to fix issues with their products for two years from the purchase date in the EU (and UK), and in fact in the UK the Consumer Rights Act effectively protects you for 5 years, though that depends on the perceived value of the product. So Apple who positions themselves as premium would be liable for 5 years, but Amazon's cheap Eco devices would be only a couple of years for example. The CPU in my 2019 iMac died, and Apple replaced it after 1.5 years, without AppleCare. So the UK/EU law makes AppleCare a much less attractive proposition here, it only really covers you for accidental damage. And it's a lot to pay for nothing more than accidental damage cover.
    The accidental damage is why I buy it for mobile devices where is far more likely that that will occur, rather than for something that sits on a desk. Most credit cards also give an extra year for warrantee, and that includes for Apple care. So it’s really four years of coverage. The fact that the EU requires two years of a regular warrantee has nothing to do with Apple itself, because over most of the world that’s not in effect. Would I like to see two years? Sure, generally their products are reliable enough that it wouldn’t cost them much more, and would engender good publicity.
  • Reply 19 of 20
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,232member

    elijahg said:

    melgross said:
    I had an experience here in NYC a few years ago with my iPad. I had AppleCare, before the + version came out. A lot of this depends on who you speak to when you have a problem. I’ve related this before.

    my iPad, a 9.7” model before the larger models came out, was on a few magazines on my computer desk. The binding side of the top magazine faced the edge of the table. I put my iPad on that. A while later, out of the corner of my eye, I see the cover of the magazine moving, and suddenly, before I could grab it, the iPad slides off the edge, flips over, screen down, and lands on the edge of the rubber coated weight I keep there to use when I’m waiting for something to finish. I pick it up, and there’s a diagonal crack across the screen from corner to corner.

    next day I bring it to the Apple store, I forget which one, here in NYC. When I give it to the young guy to look at, thinking it would have to be repaired, at my expense, and having explained the above to him, he looks at it, and since he can’t find a spot where the crack may have been initiated, he says he’s going to call it a factory defect, and gives me a new one.

    i’m not saying that everyone will have that experience, but it was unexpected, and refreshing. A daughter’s friend, back when the Macbook was made from white polycarbonate, had some problem, I don’t remember what. When they gave it back to her, not under warrantee, or AppleCare, which had run out, they had also replaced the top plate around the keyboard, because it was discolored, as would happen to that model, and that and the repair were free.

    apple can, at times, be very liberal with its policies.
    I've had similar with my iPhone. It is actually Apple's policy to repair single hairline cracks with no impact marks. But it does depend on how you speak to them, and who you speak to, for sure. People treat retail workers like crap sometimes, so its likely almost a reward for the customer not being a tw*t.
    While it may be hard to believe, I’m always very nice to people in service. I get that much of what we’re not happy about isn’t their fault. I sometimes kid them by saying that I’m not ticked at them because they didn’t make the policy, but that if they did, then I am ticked at them. They laugh at that, and it sets a good tone. I also always admit when I screwed up. The fact is that they can almost always tell when we screwed up and broke it. So lying about it doesn’t make them feel good about someone, and they’re less likely to be positive towards that person.

    I always told my customer service people that people aren’t really angry at them, and to not let it upset them when they yelled, which happened rarely. To bend over backwards to help them, and if it cost us something, to accept it as marketing.
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