There’s a reason Apple products boast such an outspoken and devoted following: they’re pretty, they’re user-friendly, and they’ve topped the American Consumer Satisfaction Index’s annual consumer satisfaction survey for the past 13 years and counting. So why doesn’t everyone have one? Blame the price tag, because quality doesn’t come cheap.

We’ve written before about How to Save on Apple Products, and just because the brick-and-mortar store doesn’t offer many discounts on its gadgets, doesn’t mean you can’t find a deal on an iPhone, MacBook, or iPad directly from Apple. How? One word: Refurbished.

If you want to learn absolutely everything there is to know about refurbished Apple products, as well as a few hacks that will save you some serious cash, keep reading. We promise it’s worth the ride.

What does “refurbished” mean in this context?

We get a lot of reader questions like: “Are refurbished Apple products worth it?” or “Can I trust refurbished Apple devices?” The answer to these questions is, in a word, yes. BUT — it depends on where you buy them. Refurbished electronics have a reputation for being buggy, broken, or without any kind of meaningful warranty. But when you buy an Apple Certified refurbished item, it’s guaranteed to be just as good as something brand new — as long as you buy it directly from the Apple Certified Refurbished section of Apple’s website. Apple Certified Refurb items aren’t going to be drastically cheaper than buying new (discounts hover around the 15 percent mark) but it still pays to go straight to the source for a few big reasons.

Whereas most companies that refurbish Macs (think Mac Connection, B&H, Best Buy, and Abt Electronics) offer only a 90-day warranty and charge you for a longer one, Apple offers a one-year warranty that is the same as the warranty offered on its regular products, and gives refurb customers the option to purchase Apple Care as well. So if you purchase your refurbished Apple product somewhere other than the Apple Store, you’re not going to be able to take it back to Apple for free repairs — your warranty will be tied with the store where you bought it, and that’s where you’ll have to take it if anything goes wrong.

And then there’s the messy issue of open-box sales. If you buy an open-box Apple product from another retailer, you could be stuck with no warranty at all, because some resellers will only provide a warranty that’s based on when the item was originally purchased. So if you’re buying an open-box MacBook at Best Buy on August 1, 2023, and the previous owner of that MacBook bought it at Best Buy with a year-long warranty on August 4, 2022, you’re now the proud owner of a laptop with a warranty that is set to expire in three days. Lucky you!


So what’s the difference between “open-box” and “refurbished?”

A refurbished item was returned to the retailer because there was something wrong with it. When this happens, the retailer (or a third-party refurbishing outfit) takes it apart, fixes the problem, and returns it to operational status before selling it again under a refurbished banner. Apple runs its refurbished items through pretty extensive testing. And since they are the ones that are making these products in the first place, that testing is going to be a lot better than the testing done by a resale company.

An open-box item is something that was returned to the retailer after the original buyer changed his or her mind. Often the store in question will inspect the item to determine whether or not it has anything mechanically wrong with it. If they deem it safe for resale, they call it an open-box sale. It’s worth noting that this “inspection” isn’t an official test, meaning the retailer usually doesn’t take the item apart to make sure it’s in pristine condition. Apple doesn’t offer open-box items, although many of the items it sells under the refurbished banner are likely open-box returns, it still has to call them refurbished because they’ve been previously owned.

For serious discounts on Apple products, utilize trade-in programs.

Have an old iPad, MacBook, iPhone, or iPod laying around gathering dust? If you’re looking to buy a new Apple product at a significant discount, look into the Apple Reuse and Recycling Program. Apple will buy your unused smartphones, laptops, and tablets (and they don’t have to be Apple products!) and issue you an Apple Store gift card as payment.

Even if the device you want to trade in for a discount isn’t eligible for a trade-in at the Apple store, there are still a lot of places that will buy it from you.

6 Tips to Save on Apple Products in 2023

How do I buy a refurbished Apple product like an expert?

We’re going to break down the best refurb deals we could find on all your favorite Apple products in a minute, but before we do that, we thought we’d let you in on a couple of insider tips and tricks for refurb shopping:

  1. If you’re going to buy an Apple Certified refurbished item, make sure you check the prices against the brand-new models at other retailers. New products are never discounted at the Apple Store, so while the price on an Apple Certified refurb will be lower than the Apple Store price on a new model, it might be selling for more than a discounted new item at another store. For example, this past holiday season, Walmart was selling the iPad Mini 2 – brand new — for $199, but the Apple Certified refurbished model was going for $229.

  2. Once you’ve done your homework and are sure that the refurbished price is the best out there, don’t wait too long to buy. Apple refurbs sell out quickly and often take weeks to restock. This is especially true for laptops, iPads, and the Mac Mini.

With this expert knowledge under our belts, let’s dive into the deals…

Refurbished Laptops

Apple offers a variety of different kinds of laptops, but because they don’t update their styles very often, it can be tricky for the average consumer to tell the difference between a brand new model and something that’s a few years old. We have a special trick that can help you make sure the refurb you’re buying has the same specs as a brand new model: check the part number.

We added two 12-inch, ‘Space Gray’ MacBooks to our Apple Store cart. The top MacBook is new, and the bottom is Apple Certified refurbished. We circled their model numbers in red, and as you can see, they match exactly except for the first letter.

As a rule, Apple Certified refurbished items will have model numbers that start with “F” but will otherwise match their new counterparts, so this is a good way to double-check the specs before you spring for a refurb.

Apple Refurbished Products ARE Worth It

Bottom line, Apple refurbished products are an excellent way to save money on rarely-discounted items. Just make sure you double-check that the warranty information is available and that you know all the details before you press submit on your deeply discounted Apple order.