It’s almost Christmas and the special Apple fans in your life have their fingers crossed for some new gadgets to unwrap. But you’ve got a problem: The bank account isn’t quite robust enough to pay full price for the latest Mac. What to do?
Here are a few options, which could save you money
How to get cheap Apple products from the Refurb store
You can actually buy used Macs and iOS devices directly from Apple - and in a condition that’s almost as good as new. The “refurb” found at store.apple.com/uk category includes both preowned devices and those returned for defects, although Apple says that only “some units” have been returned for technical issues.
Before resale, Apple cleans the machine, replaces any defective or substandard parts, reinstalls software that originally shipped with the unit, tests the Mac for quality-control issues, then repackages it with fresh cables and a user’s manual. The company even stamps the machine with a new serial number.
Availability varies sometimes on a daily basis - the best deals today include a twenty seven percent saving on a Mac Pro originally released August 2010 and twenty percent off a MacBook Air from July 2011 and most Macs are eligible for OS X Mountain Lion Up-to-Date Program.
Also currently available are refurbished iPads - with savings up to twenty five percent on the second generation model originally released in March 2011. If your not bothered by the lack of a decent quality camera you can save twenty three percent by buying an iPod touch originally released September 2010.
Apple also has a 'Clearance - Discount prices on new products from Apple' section on the website although we've yet to spot any stock listed never mind reduced in price. If your still worried about buying refurbished products Apple provides a detailed 'See Terms & Conditions' online.
Pros: You get Apple-certified quality machines at a reduced price. (Prices are usually at least ten percent off what you’d pay for a brand-new device.) You even get the free year of AppleCare that you’d get from purchasing a new device.
Cons: You’re not going to get the most recent generation of products. For example, there are currently no iPad minis or fourth-generation iPads listed for sale.
Buy from an Apple Premium Reseller
If you’re going to buy from used or independent shops, your best bet is to seek out a certified Apple Premium Reseller. These are dealers and service providers certified by Apple for their expertise and quality. These can be found up and down the UK and Republic of Ireland. (You can find your nearest Apple Premium Reseller here and in the Republic of Ireland here.)
Pros: These guys are proud of their certification; often they’ll try to meet or exceed the service you’d get at an Apple Store—and prices may be cheaper then buying from Apple. We've often spotted Apple Premium Reseller stores having special events and discounts, normally when stores open for the first time in a new location. Apple Premium Reseller Stormfront recently offered customers ten percent off of any Mac purchased or ordered from the new stores in Luton and Epson on opening day. You can also receive invaluable advice if you shop locally, which could save you money by choosing the right Apple product for your needs not the most desired. As Apple notes: "(Apple Premium Reseller) They’re also the place to get expert advice if you’re a business or professional user wanting to get more out of your Apple products."
Cons: With smaller independent stores you may find items occasionally out of stock so think ahead and either check for availability or order goods as early as possible.
Get a bargain on eBay/Amazon
Every time a new iPhone or iPad comes out, we tell you about all the companies looking to buy your old iPhone or iPad. Well, this is why those companies buy those products: To turn around and sell them in the used market. There’s no reason this can’t turn out as a successful option for you—especially if you stick to brand-name companies such as eBay or Amazon, that already have a reputation to uphold and systems for keeping it that way.
When you’re looking at the product you want to buy, be sure to carefully examine the seller information in the upper right-hand corner of the page so you know you’re dealing with someone you can trust. Similarly, seller ratings are also available for third parties who sell Apple products through Amazon. One recent report even claims Apple is reportedly selling refurbished iPads, MacBooks and iPods on eBay in the US, although we haven't seen any similar reports suggesting Apple has an eBay outlet in the UK.
Pros: There are enough independent sellers competing against each other—instead of, as is often the case, Apple competing against itself—that you can sometimes find the best-possible combination of price and device quality. Hooray for market competition!
Cons: You bear more of the responsibility to ensure you're dealing with a reputable seller. It shouldn't be a problem if you do your research—just make sure you do your research.
Frankly, if you were buying for Christmas, this is an option you probably should’ve considered several weeks or even months ago, so consider this more of a heads-up for next year.
Pros: You don’t need all the money now for your device, and you won’t have to go into debt to get it.
Other options for getting cheap iPads, iPhones, and Macs
There are other ways to buy that iPad for cheap this Christmas. There are independent retailers of used devices—both online and off—that don’t have Apple certification or affiliation with a name brand such as eBay. If all else fails, Google the exact product you want: You might be surprised what deals turn up. Money Saving Expert and HotUKDeals do often uncover good deals, with cheap, or cheaper, iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs or spotted by contributors. Gumtree also so list bargain iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs although you need to be careful when parting with your money as we've found to our cost that many of the deals listed are suspect.
If none of these options appeal to you, there’s always buying new from Apple itself and spread the costs. Apple and other retailers offer a variety of financing deals. The Mac maker offers customers payment plans over several years, typically 24, 36 or 48 monthly payments; currently at 14.9 per cent APR. As of writing, the 13.3in entry-level MacBook Pro at £999 would set you back around £1,151. Like all financing deals read the small print carefully. Apple provides a 'Terms and conditions' PDF online, and offers a freephone number – 0800 048 0408 – so you can clarify your credit plan. That won’t make your new Apple product any cheaper, but spreading out the payment over months instead of in one lump sum might make it more affordable.
(Nick Spence contributed to this article - read more advice on buying a new Mac here)