Should I Buy A Refurbished Macbook Pro, iPad Mini, iPad Air, or Apple Product?

You’re about to buy an Apple product, and you’re wondering if it’s really a good idea to buy a refurbished MacBook Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, or MacBook Air. Just the word “refurbished” makes people uneasy, and understandably so: To one company, the refurbishing process might involve some spit and a wet rag, but to Apple, refurbished means a whole lot more.

In this article, I’ll explain the real differences between buying a new and refurbished MacBook Pro, iPad Mini, iPad Air, MacBook Air, or other Apple product, what Apple’s refurbishing process actually looks like, and share some personal experience with refurbished Apple products from my time as an Apple employee and a customer.

What’s The Difference Between Buying A Refurbished And New MacBook Pro, iPad Mini, iPad Air, MacBook Air, Or Other Apple Product?

When deciding whether to buy refurbished, it’s important to have as much information as possible. To make things easy, I’ve included answers to the most frequently asked questions I’d receive with links to official Apple documentation if you’d like to learn more.

Warranty

Both new and refurbished Apple products come with the same One-Year Limited Warranty.

Return Policy

Just like the warranty process, both new and refurbished Apple products have the same 14 day return policy.

The Fine Print

If you’d like to read Apple’s official explanation about Apple Certified Refurbished Products, their website has a detailed explanation about all the steps they take to make sure refurbished products are as good as new.

The One Difference Between New And Refurbished MacBook Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, MacBook Air, and Other Apple Products

There is one difference between new and refurbished Apple products. (Drumroll, please.) The box!

The Truth About Refurbished Apple Products

When I used to work for Apple, a common question I used to get was about how Apple refurbishes their products. In truth, it’s a process shrouded in mystery. When a Genius pulls a part from behind the Genius Bar, nobody knows whether that part is new or refurbished.

As an aside, one of the most common complaints I used to receive from people whose devices I was fixing went something like this:

“I just bought a brand new iPhone and it broke due to no fault of my own. It’s under warranty. Why are you giving me a refurbished part?”

While I completely sympathize with this line of thinking, when you go through AppleCare or the Genius Bar, Apple techs never know whether a part they are giving to a customer is new or refurbished. Truthfully, they should never be able to tell, because the part should always be indistinguishable from a brand new component. Apple sets a high standard and in my experience, almost always lives up to it.

How Do I Know If An Apple Part Is Refurbished?

The truth is, you don’t. A close look at the warranty reveals that whenever anything breaks on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, Apple reserves the right to “repair the Apple Product using new or previously used parts that are equivalent to new in performance and reliability.”

Apple sets the standard for quality in personal electronics, and iPad, Mac, and iPhone owners have understandably come to expect near-perfection for the premium price they pay. If I was replacing a part for a customer and it displayed even the smallest imperfection, I’d send it back to inventory and request another.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Ugly Box: A Thank You To Apple Marketers

I remember the horrified looks I’d receive from customers when a happy inventory specialist would bring me a replacement iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device from the back of the store. Instead of the shiny box Apple customers are used to, Apple used to use these ugly, beat up black boxes to ship replacement parts back and forth to and from the factory. Even though the part inside would be new (or refurbished – we wouldn’t know…), the fact that a “new” product would come in such a box left a bad taste in the mouths of certain customers. Eventually Apple switched back to using plain white cardboard boxes for shipping back and forth, and that made my life as a tech a lot easier.

The “Unofficial” Truth About Apple’s Refurbishing Process

I’m going to share a little inside information with you about Apple’s refurbishing process. I was never “officially” told any of this, but I’ll present it to you so you can decide whether it sounds like the truth.

Like any computer, an iPhone, iPad, or iPod is simply a collection of a whole bunch of tiny little electronic components. Since most of the parts cost Apple pennies to produce, when a defective iPhone is returned to the factory, the majority of the the parts are thrown away immediately. There are very few parts that are actually salvaged and put through the refurbishing process, and these are the parts that cost the most to produce in the first place.

According to my unofficial source, two components that Apple does refurbish on iPad Airs, iPad Minis, iPhones, and iPods are the LCD and the logic board. In other words, everything you can touch on iPad Airs, iPad Minis, and iPods is always brand new. Only certain internal components can be refurbished.

Wrapping It Up: To Buy, Or Not To Buy?

You’ve given it a lot of thought and you’re ready to purchase that Macbook, iMac, iPad, or any other Apple product you’ve been drooling over. When it comes to deciding whether or not to buy a refurbished MacBook Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, or Macbook Air, there’s really only one difference: The box.

To share some recent personal experience, in the last year a good friend purchased a refurbished MacBook Pro and I purchased a refurbished iPad. Aside from the plain white box they come in, refurbished Apple products appear exactly the same as brand new products. If you’re in the market for an iPad Air, iPad Mini, MacBook, or other Apple product, I wholeheartedly recommend buying a refurbished Apple product if the opportunity presents itself.

Best of luck, and I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below,
David P.

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About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.