Perhaps unsurprisingly, in many cases buying direct from Apple – either through the online store or its retail chain — provides the widest selection of options and the chances for discounts. Some third-party retailers do offer modest discounts on Apple gear but in many cases the discounts that the company offers to direct purchasers will be superior.
1. Education and government discounts
Through its U.S. online store, Apple offers discounts to students and faculty at higher education institutions, faculty and staff at K-12 schools, as well as federal, state, and local government employees including firefighters and police officers. Apple also offers discounts to employees of many large companies through its employee purchase program.
The discounts to educational and government employees are identical, but limited to Macs and their accompanying AppleCare plans. Discounts range from $50 off the entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air, to $300 off the top of the line Mac Pro. Apple also includes discounts of 10% off build-to-order accessories like RAM and CPU upgrades and discounts as large as 30% off AppleCare.
Even better, Apple offers the same discounts in its retail stores as it does online, with modest restrictions. Users can "only" purchase one desktop, one notebook, one Mac mini, and two displays per year. Apple is very flexible when verifying eligibility for discounts. Online, users simply go to the relevant Education or Government sections of the Apple Online Store to get discounted pricing. The company does occasionally audit purchases, so don't try and get discounts to which you aren't eligible.
In Apple Retail Stores, students, faculty and government employees need only bring a work ID, pay stub, business card or tuition bill along with photo ID to get the discounts.
Educational and governmental institutions are eligible for similar pricing, though the purchase process is considerably different. Institutions must register with Apple in order to get special terms and contracts established.
2. Apple Retail Business Team
Apple Retail Stores have a dedicated business team that can offer discounts to customers once they reach a certain spend level each year. According to a recent report, the Apple Business Team begins offering discounts at $5,000 per year, with larger discounts available when spending $35,000 or $200,000 in a given year. Like the EPP corporate discounts, savings vary depending on the machine. They typically range from 2-10% depending on the item and quantity purchased.
The business team can also set up custom training and business support, additional business-focused purchasing, financing and leasing options, custom asset tagging, preloaded content, and more. Companies can engage with the business team at any Apple Retail Store worldwide, with spend accumulating regardless of which store they choose to conduct business with.
3. Corporate employees get generous discounts as well
For employees of many large companies, Apple offers discounts on a variety of products including iPads, Macs and third-party accessories. Discounts vary depending on which product is being purchased, with more expensive computers receiving heavier discounts. Companies eligible for discounts will likely have a customized web link to the Apple Online Store listed on their HR webpages somewhere. All Apple Retail Stores also have a book listing all companies eligible for discounts. Employees need only bring a business card, pay stub or work ID to get the discount.
Employees are restricted to three Mac system bundles, three iPads or up to 10 iPods per calendar year. They may place orders for family or friends, but those orders will be counted against their yearly restriction. As with the Apple Business Team discounts, company discounts range from 2-10% depending on which machine is purchased.
4. Refurbished and clearance
For customers who don't qualify for any of the above discounts, Apple offers discounted refurbished and clearance products as well. The machines come with full warranties and have had their external covers replaced. There is no indication on the box or the device itself that it is not brand-new.
Availability of Macs and iPads in the refurbished section of the Apple Online Store can vary from day to day. Some machines will be from prior generations or may not have the exact build-to-order specifications desired. Unlike new devices on the Apple Online Store, refurbished products cannot be customized, but with discounts as high as 30% off the original price (though usually on slightly outdated models), users looking for maximum flexibility on price will nonetheless get full warranty coverage and Apple's backing.
Refurbished products are eligible for AppleCare, giving 3 years of warranty and support coverage.
5. Maximize your warranty coverage
Buying your Apple products with a credit card that offers extended warranty protection can be a great way to maximize your warranty coverage. For example, American Express cardholders who buy a Mac and AppleCare on their AMEX card get four years of total warranty coverage—three years from AppleCare plus one year from AMEX.
6. Used machines
Finally, Apple is very flexible with transferring warranties from one user to another. Apple's 1-year manufacturer warranty, and it's three-year AppleCare service plans, are assigned to the serial number of the product — if a computer is sold, the warranty follows, no matter who the owner is. Apple makes it easy for users to check the warranty status of its products with just a serial number.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.