If you're considering buying a Mac, especially if you are on a budget, we would recommend buying from the Apple Refurbished Store or another seller of reconditioned Macs, rather than pay full price. Here, we explain what the Apple Refurbished Store is, what price you can expect to pay for a refurbished Mac or MacBook, and other ways to buy a cheap Mac.

Apple makes great computers, but they're not cheap. Even if you are happy to pay the entry-price for a new iMac or MacBook Pro, you may be painfully aware that for just a few hundred pounds (or dollars) more you could get a much more powerful model. But can you justify the extra spend? Luckily you don't have to, because often you can find a previous generation model still on sale with better specs than the cheapest new model, and you might even be able to pick it up for less.

So, if you want to buy a new Mac, check to see if you can get a better deal by buying a refurbished Mac from the Apple Refurbished Store or another official Apple reseller. But, before we tell you how to do that, we'll just discuss whether it is wise to buy a refurbished or reconditioned Mac.

Should you buy a refurbished Mac?

Apple sells refurbished Macs and more on the Apple Refurbished Store here. This is a section on Apple's website where you can buy refurbished Macs and MacBooks, as well as other Apple products including the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, HomePod, and Apple TV.

These refurbished Macs could be models from a previous year, or they could be current models. You might be wondering where these Macs have come from. A reconditioned Mac could be an ex-demonstration model used during Apple teaching programmes, or it could be a unit sold to a customer who decided to return it under the standard sale-and-returns procedure. (Apple allows any customer to return a Mac bought from the Apple Store within 14 days for a refund - see Standard Returns Policy).

It's also possible the customer returned the Mac due to a fault, but that fault would have been rectified by Apple before the Mac could be resold. In fact, Apple states that: "Every Apple Certified Refurbished product completes a rigorous refurbishment process that includes full testing that meets the same functional standards as new Apple products. Your refurbished device is truly 'like new'".

In addition, each Mac:

  • Will be thoroughly cleaned and inspected
  • Includes Apple's standard one-year limited warranty
  • And up to 90 days of complimentary technical support
  • Comes with all accessories, cables and operating systems
  • Is packaged in a brand-new white box
  • Is dispatched with free shipping and returns
  • Can be purchased via financing options
  • And can be delivered next day

The important thing to note is that Macs bought from the Apple Refurbished Store are not discernibly different from new ones bought direct from the Apple Store. All Macs bought from the Apple Refurbished Store are cleaned, checked, tested, and visually indistinguishable from brand-new models.

As you can see there are plenty of good reasons to buy a refurbished Mac from Apple. Are there any disadvantages?

We'd say that the main disadvantage is that the discounts aren't always as good as you would get if you bought the same model from someone else. Amazon, for example, often discounts previous generation Mac models, so you could buy last year's model at a discount. The difference being that while Apple could be selling a model that had been returned due to a fault (which has been repaired), the other reseller could be selling an identical Mac that's never been used.

If Amazon, Currys, John Lewis, or anyone else, is selling an older model for less than the same older model in the refurbished store, then the third-party probably has the better deal. Assuming they are also offering the one-year warranty (they should be). Check out our article about the best Mac desktop deals, and this one about the best MacBook deals to look for the best discounts on new Macs and MacBooks.

How much cheaper are refurbished Macs and MacBooks?

The price for reconditioned Macs on Apple's Refurbished Store changes frequently but is typically 15 percent less than the original price. With Macs commanding a high retail price this can be quite a significant difference.

A 13in, 2.3GHz dual-core (2017) MacBook Pro can be found on the Apple UK Refurbished Store for £1,019. That's a £180 saving on the price that model was originally sold for.

You could pick up a refurbished 21.5in 3.6GHz quad-core (2019) iMac for £1,059 from the Apple UK Refurbished Store, a saving of £190 on the usual price of £1,249.

You can't buy a new MacBook any more, as Apple discontinued the 12in model, but can still pick up a MacBook from the UK Refurbished Store. There is a 1.3GHz dual-core (2017) MacBook for £1,319. That's a saving of £230 on the original price: £1,549.

Or, how about a saving of £270 on a 13in, 2.4GHz quad-core (2019) MacBook Pro? You can pick one up from the Apple UK Refurbished Store for £1,529, down from £1,799.

MacBook Pro

If you really want to take advantage of these discounts, then aim high. You could get an amazing £740 off a Refurbished 27in 3.2Ghz 8-core iMac Pro. The pro iMac would normally set you back £4,899 but you can get it from the Apple Refurbished Store for £4,159.

Other reconditioned Mac resellers (such as those listed above) might offer even lower prices than the Apple Refurbished Store, so it's worth shopping around. 

Also, look out for deals during sales events like Boxing Day or Black Friday, when prices drop even lower everywhere but Apple.

What if I have a problem with a refurbished Mac?

Apple states: "All Refurbished Mac models include full functional testing, genuine Apple part replacements (if necessary), a thorough cleaning, the original Operating System or a more recent version, a brand new box with all accessories and cables."

More importantly, a reconditioned Mac or MacBook comes with a one-year warranty (extendable to three years with AppleCare protection). You also get the same sales and return procedure with Apple as you would with any new model, so you can return a Mac bought from the Refurbished Store within 14 days if you're not happy with it. (But note you'll have to post it back, as Apple will not accept returns to a physical Apple Store on refurbished products).

Not that we think you will need to return your Mac. We have plenty of experience buying from Apple's Refurbished Store and have yet to pick up a Mac from the Refurbished Store and find it wanting.

Buying a refurbished Mac from the Apple Refurb Store

Where to buy refurbished Macs

You should also note that Apple isn't the only company to resell second-hand, refurbished Macs. You could also pick up a refurbished and reconditioned Mac from resellers, including Amazon, Laptops Direct and various Mac resellers listed below:

Buying refurbished should mean that the Mac has been inspected by an authorised Apple technician and, if necessary, faulty parts replaced. Buying the same Mac secondhand for less might look attractive but it's not guaranteed to work. It's worth paying a little extra for peace of mind.

mResell is worth checking out. The Sweden-based company buys second-hand Macs and sells them as well. mResell works with Apple certified technicians to refurbish its Apple devices. You can find products across the whole Apple range on its site, or use the tool below to see its current rates for Mac computers.

mResell iMac range

mResell MacBook range

Buying a new Mac at a discount

As we said above, you may be able to get a good discount on a new Mac that's not been returned due to a fault, and we'd always recommend thatas the best option.

We advise that you 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 all over the world. UK readers can find their nearest Apple Premium Reseller here and in the Republic of Ireland here.

These resellers will 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.

Some resellers may offer discounts on older Mac models shortly after a new one launches, so look out for bargains! KRCS, for example, always has offers on Macs that you can order online, even configure-to-order models.

Other online resellers include Laptops Direct, which offers iMacs as well as MacBooks, despite the name; and even big high street retailers like Currys PC World, which occasionally stocks refurbished Macs.

If you prefer shopping with a retailer that you're familiar with, then John Lewis offers a two-year warranty on all Apple products as standard, which is twice as long as the standard one year offered by Apple, and occasionally stocks refurbished models too.

Visit our one-stop guide to the best place to buy any Mac, either refurbished or new. You'll also like our round-ups of MacBook deals and Mac deals.

Buying a second-hand Mac

Second-hand sites like eBay are also worth considering, although where possible we'd recommend you opt for new, discounted Macs. Buying a second-hand Mac on eBay is a riskier business.

Buying and selling anything on sites like eBay can be fraught with problems, but this is particularly true with high-value products such as computers. The old adage runs 'buyer beware', but sellers need to take precautions as well.

eBay requires a little caution and care, then, but you may find some bargains. For example, take a look at eBay's dedicated Refurbished MacBook and Refurbished iMac sections to see if there are any deals to be had.