In this article we explore the best places to shop for an Apple Mac. This includes Apple's MacBook range of laptops, the iMac all-in-one PC, the Mac mini, and the powerful Mac Pro.
We presume that you know what you want, and that you are decided on an Apple Mac. And here we will focus on the best places from which you can buy. It's not easy to grab a bargain with a Mac, and Apple's products are never cheap. You can get a decent deal, and we have advice on that in our article: How to buy a cheap Mac.
But price isn't the only important consideration when purchasing an expensive product such as an Apple Mac. You should also think about the aftersales service you will enjoy or endure. What happens if something goes wrong? We consider the options of buying from Apple, from another retailer, and buying second hand or refurbished. There is a right way to buy a Mac for everyone. You'll find it below.
Best place to buy Mac, iMac and MacBook: Direct from Apple
If you are looking to buy a Mac the Apple Store should be your first port of call - online if not instore. The price will be fair but not cheap. But you will get all the support that comes with buying direct from the manufacturer. Go into a physical Apple Store and you will get good advice, and if the device goes wrong within warranty you know exactly where to take it. Apple has the capability to fix Macs in store, and oftentimes it will simply replace like-for-like.
We recommend that you visit the Apple online store even if it is only to find out the price, and the specification, of the latest Macs, MacBooks and iMacs, this way you will not fall for any suggestion that you are buying a discounted current generation Mac only to find that it was last year's model. See also: Retina 5K iMac review.
With the exception of its shorter-than-average one-year warranties, the Apple Store is comfortably the best place to buy a Mac.
Best place to buy Mac, iMac and MacBook: Other retailers
When you have seen what is on offer direct from Apple, it is always worth checking what is on offer from third-party retailers. Simply doing a Google shopping search for 'iMac' or 'MacBook' will often throw up what look like very cheap offers. It's unlikely that everything is what it seems. Some third-party retailers sell older-model, end-of-line Macs. Nothing wrong with that if that is what you want, but you should make sure that you are buying just what you want. Other tricks of less well-known etailers include lumping on fees for delivery, or adding to your cart unwanted software or warranties.
This is not to say that third-party retailers are to be ignored. It's just that because Apple is strict with its own pricing and the margin third-party retailers can make, it is rare that you will find a genuine bargain when buying a new model Mac from someone other than Apple. (See also How to sell your iPad.)
But you can get a good deal if you know where to look, and what to look for. First check out what is on offer from respected retailers you know such as John Lewis and PC World, or Apple premium resellers including the likes of iStore, Stormfront, Solutions Inc, Western Computers and KRCS. They have to compete with Apple, and it may be that you can benefit from a better warranty, or a marginally cheaper price. And if there is no Apple Store in your area you will at least be able to go in and try before you buy.
These companise do have sales, too. So although Apple bargains are rare, they do come along occasionally. Indeed, if timing is not critical wait until just after Apple refreshes its line of your chosen Mac. Sometimes PC World, John Lewis and the rest will have unsold stock that they need to discount to shift. And if you know what to look for and when you could grab a bargain. But it isn't easy when buying new.
Best place to buy Mac, iMac and MacBook: Reconditioned
Previously used Macs can be a treasure-trove of value, however. And if you don't need the latest specification this is a good way to go.
Indeed, you can buy and sell second-hand Macs right here on the Macworld UK website. With our partner Mresell we run a service via which you can sell your unwanted Macs, iPhones and iPads. Once a price is agreed we either pick up your Mac, or you can take it to a certified Apple reseller after which payment is made. Either way the Mac, iMac or MacBook is then thoroughly checked, refurbished and reconditioned, and listed for sale on the Buy/Sell section of this website. (For more on buying Macs second hand, see also Should I buy a second-hand Mac?)
We would always recommend checking what we have for sale in the Buy/Sell area of Macworld UK, not least because we know it is a risk-free way of buying second hand. We buy the device and check it, and then you buy from us, so there is no risk of getting stiffed by someone dodgy. Everything is thoroughly checked out with the Mac, MacBook or iMac, and if anything goes wrong it is on us to rectify the issue. (It's also a great, simple way of selling your old Apple kit, by the way.)
If you can't find what you want in the Macworld UK Buy/Sell listings, your next step should be a trip back to Apple's online store. But this time go past the main store and head for Apple's 'Special Deals' section, in which it sells refurbished Macs, iMacs and MacBooks.
Apple's own special deals have the added advantage of including a year's warranty, as would any Apple sale. You can be sure that Apple will have thoroughly inspected the Mac to make sure it is fit for sale. But Apple's second-hand pricing is not likely to be the best deal you can get on a Mac.
You get all the benefits of buying from Apple, with some decent discounts. It will be typically a little more expensive than other second hand and refurbished sales, but as with buying from Macworld's Buy/Sell listings, you are paying for peace of mind.
Here are some current refurbished deals from Apple:
- Refurbished 11.6-inch MacBook Air 1.4GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5, £749
- Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.0GHz Quad-core Intel i7 with Retina Display, £1,189
- Refurbished 15.4-inch MacBook Pro 2.2GHz Quad-core Intel i7 with Retina Display, £1,359
Here are some current deals from Macworld:
- Mac mini 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo (4GB/320GB) Late 2009, £199
- Mac mini Server 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (4GB/2x500GB) Mid 2010, £295
- Mac mini 2.7Ghz Intel Core i7 (8GB/750GB) Mid 2011, £330
- iMac 27″ 3.2Ghz Intel Core i5 (8GB/1TB) Late 2012, £1,130
Best place to buy Mac, iMac and MacBook: Second hand
We will now delve into the marginally murkier world of buying second hand, direct from an actual human. The risks are greater without the protection of Apple or Macworld UK, but so are the potential rewards in the shape of a bigger discount. Just remember that if it breaks after purchase, you are on your own.
If you don't find what you want in either Apple's nor Macworld's second hand stores, you should check out your local independent computer store - should such a thing exist. The benefit being that you will be able to look in the eyes of the person who is selling you the Mac, and head back there if anything goes wrong.
Beyond that we definitely recommend looking at eBay, Gumtree and the rest. You will find Macs at all prices, of all ages, and in all conditions. The key thing is - as always - to know exactly what you want, and exactly what you are getting. Get it all in writing, and if at all possible view the device you are buying, and use it, before you purchase.
Always use a credit card to make expensive purchases, or a secure payment service such as PayPal. This will make it much easier to chase up if there is a problem. And remember, if it looks too good to be true it probably is: you really want to see proof of purchase before you buy a second hand Mac, to ensure it isn't stolen. (See also: How to get an education discount from Apple.)