Since new Macbook Airs and Mac Pros were announced this week at WWDC, you may be thinking about an upgrade. Though Apple's prices are more reasonable than ever, there is still a premium on buying a Mac versus other brands. With a little savvy capitalism, though, you can ease the impact on your wallet. Read on to find out how.
There are a few ways to save money on your next Mac:
- Selling Your Current Mac
- Trading Your Current Mac
- Buying Your Next Mac Used or Refurbished.
I'll cover each of these to help identify the risks, rewards, and best practices so you can weigh your options.
1. Selling Your Current Mac
Selling a computer can be a burden. Since most current-generation Apple computers are valued at over a thousand dollars, the thought of selling something so valuable usually brings on a feeling of uneasiness. It doesn't have to be a painful experience, though, as long as you know the venues and their idiosyncrasies.
Listing your Mac in the free classifieds of Craigslist seems like a brilliant first act, but it opens you to a few inevitabilities. You could receive many low-ball offers from people looking for a steal, or you may have your computer pawed over by an overly meticulous weirdo. Or, worse yet, you could be given counterfeit money or a bad check.
On the other hand, it could go swimmingly: you meet at Starbucks, the buyer briefly checks the features of the computer and you get cold, hard cash with minimal trouble and no commissions. Craigslist is usually great; creating an ad is quick, easy, and free, but it also brings out some oddballs so be careful out there.
Bottomline: Meet in a public place, use discretion, and don't accept a check.
Starting as a kitschy online bazaar, eBay has morphed into a buying and selling monolith. Along the way, eBay made the wise decision of purchasing PayPal, thereby solidifying a secure, respectable online payment method and ensuring users at least a little piece of mind when transferring funds to complete strangers. For that security, eBay charges a hefty commission on sales that boils down to ten percent for using eBay, and 2.9% for using PayPal as the payment method. The protections offered require that you only ship to PayPal confirmed addresses, and that you provide tracking information with signature confirmation so the buyer can't claim the item was stolen from his/her porch.
Creating a sale listing on eBay is easy because its wizard with predefined item specifics for most Apple computers so a lot of the work is taken care of for you, with the exception of snapping and uploading pictures. Furthermore, since eBay has a good reputation, it attracts many potential buyers.
Tip: Use a lot of close-up pictures when selling on eBay. Uploading up to 12 images is free using the selling wizard.
Bottomline:The buyer and seller protection and high traffic of eBay aren't free. Be prepared to pay a 13 percent commission for using the most trusted online marketplace.
Like eBay, Amazon.com gets a large volume of shopping traffic, but many don't know that Amazon allows users to sell their used goods on the same listing pages where it sells new products. No brick-and-mortar business (or even a Web business) is necessary to sell on the Amazon Marketplace, where commission fees are often lower than eBay (six percent for the personal computers category, versus eBay's 12.9 percent).
One caveat, is that Amazon requires sellers to offer a similar return policy so even if you say "no returns", chances are that if a buyer escalates a return request using Amazon's A-to-Z guarantee, Amazon will side with the buyer, even up to 90 days later. This is important because a Mac can lose value instantly if a new revision is released, meaning something you sold a few months ago could be returned at a loss.
Listing with Amazon is as easy as finding the Mac you wish to sell in the product catalog and then clicking the "Sell on Amazon" button on the right side under the used listings. Most Amazon listings don't have pictures so be sure to describe everything accurately. Amazon does allow you to charge a restocking fee, within reason (ten to 15 percent), for returns, but if a claim is filed by the buyer, they may not allow you to charge the fee.
Bottomline:Amazon Marketplace is near eBay in terms of trustworthiness, but its dedication to the customer could end up costing you, if your Mac is returned.
Wherever you choose to sell your Mac, remember to be careful and read all terms and requirements that protect you as the seller. It's important to arm yourself with knowledge of the terms should an issue arise.
2. Trading Your Current Mac
Save yourself from the worries of selling your computer by simply trading it in. You'll be trading some of computer's value for the piece of mind of dealing with reputable gadget resellers like Gazelle, Amazon, or Best Buy, but there's much less chance of the unexpected. The typical process is outlined below:
- Accept a price quote from a trade-in site based on the condition and specifications of your computer.
- Wipe your hard drive and reinstall OS X from scratch
- Box up your computer safely with plenty of foam packing material and a copy of the quoted price.
- Affix prepaid shipping label from trade-in service to the box and drop it off at the appropriate service
- Await your check.
Tip: Shop around for the best trade-in values. Just because one site has the best price today doesn't mean it will tomorrow or a week from now.
In a quick run-through of the sites listed above, I found GoRoostr.com gave me the highest quote for my current Mac, followed by Gazelle, and then Amazon.
3. Buying Your Next Mac Used or Refurbished
Buying an Apple product used is actually a fairly painless process assuming you know what you are buying and buy within a protective area like eBay, Amazon, or another Web reseller. Since the one year of Applecare warranty that comes with new Macs is completely transferrable to a new buyer, there is a sort of double protection for the buyer should any trouble with the computer happen a month or two after purchase. There are still some things to be conscious of, though.
Know What You're Buying
Apple updates its computer line-up quite regularly, often just improving internal parts and not the chassis. If you're looking to buy the current model or last year's model, the information may still be on Apple.com but past a certain point, Apple takes that information down. Thankfully, Wikipedia is there to database the history of Apple hardware over the last decade. Also, don't be afraid to ask a seller for the serial number; there are a few utilities on the web that will provide you with system details based on that number.
Tip: Finding small differences in certain Macbook models can be difficult, but the 30 extra minutes you spend making sure you know what you're buying will save you more time if you have to return a purchase.
Buy From a Trusted Seller
I've detailed some of the protections that online markets use to make sure buyers don't get swindled, but buying from a reputable merchant always helps ensure that you won't be squeezed. For resellers, I recommend WarehouseDeals.com, a subsidiary of Amazon that sells customer returns at a discount. They carry the same return policy as Amazon and even ship via Amazon Prime (if you're a member). Amazon marketplace and eBay can also be good places to buy. At either, you'll want to look for a seller with a high feedback rating. In addition to high feedback, check the seller's sales history to make sure they've sold something recently. Occasionally
Tip: While you can buy locally on Craigslist, some find it too risky when purchasing a pricey gadget. You'll have minimal buyer protection after the sale, short of filing a police report, and it's hard to identify water damage or test every feature of a computer in ten minutes at a McDonalds.
Buy Refurbished From Apple
If all the friendly warnings have you rethinking your idea of buying a used Mac, then there is a safer option: buy refurbished directly from Apple. Refurbished Macs from Apple come with a full year of AppleCare and Apple often replaces the outer casings on the refurbished models so it's practically like getting a new one.
Wheeling and dealing is not for everyone, but if you understand your options, you can easily save some money on your next Mac upgrade. Just be informed on the selling terms for whatever site you use, and you'll be well on your way to getting a new Mac for only a couple hundred dollars difference after selling your old one. That means more money in your pocket for the important things.