Refurbished Macs a smart choice for smart businesses

Erik Eckel recommends refurbished Macs as a smart move when you need to replace a few systems and save money at the same time.

Recommending Macs is easy. Apple boasts outstanding customer satisfaction ratings, excellent failure and repair rates, and a broad product lineup, so when a business needs a new desktop and display, an iMac is an easy call. Have an organization with road warriors constantly working on the go requiring incredibly light and portable laptops? The MacBook Air is a solid bet. Demanding desktop applications, meanwhile, match well with a properly configured Mac Pro. Or, for businesses needing a compromise, a MacBook Pro fits the bill.

But what about refurbished Macs? That's a common question. Fortunately, the answer's easy. Do it.

Here's why

My office works with hundreds of commercial businesses. We frequently purchase refurbished workstations, particularly for cost-savvy clients needing replacement machines in a hurry. Because refurbished machines are already built, and sitting in a warehouse ready to ship, they can be received and deployed quickly.

Another advantage, in my office's informal but thorough real-world experiences, is lower dead-on-arrival rates. I don't know that we've ever had a refurbished machine fail out of the box. My suspicion is the lower failure rate occurs for several reasons: often machines manufacturers resell as refurbished suffer a blemish, the customer changed its mind, a hardware failure occurred, or software corruption occurred and spurred a return. Subsequently, refurbished machines are often repaired and tested by humans before being resold and don't just ship off the end of an automated production line.

Price, however, is potentially the greatest advantage. Here's a recent example. Apple's refurbished Mac store recently listed a 13.3" MacBook Pro powered by an Intel Core i5 2.3GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard disk for $1,019. Essentially, the same system (13.3" MacBook Pro with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive) new cost $1,199. That's a $180 difference, not insignificant, especially when needing multiple units.

Warranty concerns shouldn't exist. Apple includes its standard one-year limited warranty with refurbished computers. Typically, my office recommends Mac customers purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends the limited warranty to three years. Customers purchasing refurbished Apple computers can add the same AppleCare Protection Plan to their systems, too.

Refurbished systems also include all original documentation. Plus, refurbished systems receive new serial numbers.

Exceptions to every rule

There are always exceptions to every rule. Refurbished Macs, while certified to meet Apple's finished goods testing specifications, aren't perfect for every organization. Available inventory changes rapidly. Systems tailored to meet an organization's specific requirements aren't always available, nor is purchasing dozens of refurbished systems typically an option. But smart organizations needing a handful of reliable Macs quickly will do well checking Apple's refurbished inventory prior to purchase.