Why Are MacBooks Cheaper On Amazon?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 02/12/20 •  15 min read

If you are going to purchase a MacBook, you want the highest quality and the best price. Amazon.com sells MacBooks on their site, but do MacBooks really cost less on Amazon.com than those offered directly by Apple? Why is there such discrepancy in price between MacBooks sold at the Apple Store, and the very same MacBooks sold on Amazon.com?

All MacBooks sold by Apple contain genuine Apple parts, with a flawless design free of defects, and offer a 1 year limited warranty.  Amazon Renewed Products differ, however, as they may contain used components in like-new condition. They claim to have no visible cosmetic imperfections, and offer a 90 day limited warranty. 

Given the condition of the laptop, the quality of the components, and the warranty offered, you may find that the price of a MacBook on Amazon.com is less expensive.  However, there is more to the picture than meets the eye.  What follows in this article is a clear and concise thorough explanation of the different ways one can purchase a MacBook from Amazon.com, and why they can be purchased for less money on Amazon.

Why are MacBooks Sold on Amazon?

Amazon.com is a fantastic place to purchase almost anything you want. It has become THE to go place to see if you can find the product you are looking for at a lower price.  When it comes to purchasing a MacBook, however, you have to ask yourself, how is it that Amazon can sell the very same MacBook for less money? Is it really the same MacBook that you can purchase at an Apple Store?  Before moving on, please note that any time I refer to the term, MacBook, I’m referring to the line of MacBooks, (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro), unless otherwise stated.

The MacBook Pro is arguably the best laptop computer on the market.  The hardware offered by Apple is second to none.  Don’t believe me?  Ask the average lifelong Mac fan when the last time they purchased a MacBook.  Then ask that same question to a lifelong Windows user.  Undoubtedly, you will find that the average MacBook user replaces their MacBook every 5-7 years, while the average Windows user will have replaced their computer about every 3-5 years. MacBooks last longer because the marriage between the operating system and the hardware is made by the same company, Apple, and the quality of the hardware in question is second to none.  That can’t be said of the PC.

Given the cost of a new MacBook Pro, (or even a MacBook Air), I can understand the temptation to purchase a MacBook from Amazon.com at a lower price.  But be careful.  There is a lot at stake, and choosing what you buy and who you buy it from can make all the difference when it comes to quality and the longevity of the device in question.

Before moving on, we must ask why a MacBook might be less expensive on Amazon.com.  In two words,“Refurbished” and “Support”.

What is a Refurbished MacBook?

Really, the question we should be asking is, “What is the difference between a refurbished MacBook offered by Apple, and a refurbished MacBook offered by a third-party vendor?” The answer to this question depends entirely on how the word “refurbished” is defined, and who you are purchasing the refurbished MacBook from. 

Let’s start out by defining the word “refurbished” as it is typically understood, and then we will define the term as Apple understands the meaning.   

Typically, when people hear the word “refurbished”, it means that it is pre-owned, and more likely than not, it has some sort of damage to the device, such as a ding, dent, or a cosmetic scratch on the case itself.  Additionally, it’s also not uncommon for a refurbished unit that is offered by a third-party vendor to have hardware components replaced with third party parts. Remember, the number one objective of a third-party vendor is to make money.

An Apple refurbished device has an entirely different meaning. A refurbished MacBook sold by Apple, means that it is sold directly from Apple, (not through a third party), and is certified to function as a new unit would, though it may have very minor cosmetic flaws, (scratches, but no dings or dents).  Most refurbished MacBooks sold directly by Apple are indistinguishable from a brand new unit.  Additionally, any and all parts within the refurbished unit sold by Apple are genuine Apple parts.

Why is it important for an Apple product to have all genuine Apple parts? The answer to this question is found in the quality that Apple employs in everything it does.  Apple does not take shortcuts, period.

As a quick example, it was not too long ago that Apple Had spent an enormous amount of money investing in a charging station where you could wirelessly charge your iPhone Apple Watch and AirPods. After a couple of years and a ton of speculation, Apple shut down the project, presumably because they could not deliver a product that was completely safe.  There are other products that do something similar that are on the market, but they do not meet Apple’s standards.

An Apple Refurbished MacBook Offers the Following

The MacBook is Pre-owned or Used

To some, this may be a show-stopper. Just keep in mind that a refubished MacBook has been certified by an Apple employee (an Apple Technician), which means that if anything needed to be repaired, it would be repaired with Apple parts and sold in “like-new” condition. You might find very minor flaws, (scratches on the case(?), but you won’t find dings or dents.

Apple Only Uses Genuine Apple Parts

Remanufactured MacBooks only use genuine Apple certified parts. They don’t use any parts from any other computer company. They only use parts manufactured by Apple for the device in question. In other words, they do not cut corners by using parts from one line of MacBooks in another line of MacBooks. For example, you won’t find a component that was designed for a 13″ MacBook Pro in a 16″ MacBook Pro.

A Flawless Design Free of Defects

When purchasing directly from Apple, you will never find dents, dings, scratches or any other cosmetic damage on your device.

A Minimum of a 1 Year Warranty

Every MacBook comes with a 1 year warranty. That means that if anything within the device itself fails for any reason, it is covered. For example, if the WiFi in your MacBook failed within 1 year of purchasing the device from Apple, it would be fixed free of charge. The same applies to all components within the MacBook, and is covered by the 1 year warranty, so long as the failure it not caused by external forces, such as accidental damage. That’s where AppleCare+ comes into play.

If you purchase AppleCare+ protection plan for your MacBook, you are protected from accidental damage for 3 years from the date of purchase. As mentioned, AppleCare+ covers accidental damage, which would include accidentally dropping your laptop or accidentally spilling coffee or any other liquid on it. 

You can obtain 3 years of coverage by purchasing AppleCare+ for your MacBook Pro ($269), and MacBook Air ($169) respectively. This may sound expensive, but as an example, a repair will cost a minimum of $600 – $800 to repair a MacBook. With AppleCare+, assuming the worse case scenario, your out-of-pocket deductible will be $300. So, if you mistakenly spill your beer on your laptop, your deductible will be $300. If for some reason, your MacBook were to be crushed by a car driving over it, your deductible would be $300. In my opinion, Purchasing AppleCare+ is a must.

A Third-Party Refurbished MacBook Offers the Following

The MacBook is Pre-owned or Used

When you purchase a refurbished MacBook from Amazon, you have no way of knowing who owned it before you, or how it was used and treated. Has it ever suffered extreme temperatures? Was it ever dropped? Only a certified Apple Technician would be able to determine if there is any damage to the internals of the MacBook after taking it apart and inspecting it for damage. A drop may not show any damage on the outside, but it may have cracked the logic board, which could cause intermittent issues.

Genuine Apple parts Are NOT Guaranteed

You have no way of knowing if the parts within the MacBook are genuine Apple parts. Remember, primary objective of the third-party vendor in selling a refurbished MacBook is to make as much money as possible in the sale of that MacBook. For example, they have an incentive to replace the Apple battery with a less expensive one, and then sell the genuine Apple battery elsewhere. The same applies for anything else they can swap out.

It May Have Cosmetic Damage

A MacBook offered by a third-party vendor may have dings, dents, scratches, or other cosmetic damage, and you won’t know until it arrives at your doorstep. Once you open it to find out, you may have to pay a “restocking fee” to return it for a replacement. Even if you don’t have to pay a restocking fee, it is a hassle to return it, and wait for the replacement, which may (or may not, in all fairness), have more cosmetic damage.

The Warranty Varies Depending on the Vendor

Depending on third-party vendor, the warranty may be anywhere from 30 days to 90 days. Rare is the exception, and once that warranty period has ended, you are on your own. 

Having now made the comparison between a third-party refurbished unit, and a refurbished unit offered directly from Apple’s website, to make a clear distinction moving forward, I will use the term, “remanufactured” when referencing a refurbished MacBook sold directly from Apple. The reason for this, is because the meaning of the word, “refurbished” means something completely different to Apple, than it does to other non-authorized resellers.

What Exactly Does Amazon Offer?

There are 4 ways one can purchase a MacBook from Amazon.com

1) You can Purchase a New MacBook from Apple through Amazon

Recognizing the popularity of Amazon.com, Apple now offers the ability for its customers to purchase their products through Amazon.com.  The reason for this is because people who buy online, trust Amazon.  People know that when they purchase something on Amazon.com, they can return it for a full refund if they are not happy with the product that they have purchased.  Understanding the trust-relationship that Amazon has built with its customers over the years, Apple has opened a “Store” on the Amazon.com website (just like any other company), and now offers its visitors the ability to purchase the MacBook line through the Apple store that resides within Amazon’s website.  You can visit that store here.

These products are brand new, have never been opened, and come in the same packaging you would find if you were to buy at an Apple Store or at Apple.com.  Additionally, the prices found in the Apple store on Amazon’s website are the same prices you would find at Apple.com or at the local Apple Store.  There is literall no difference whatsoever between purchasing a MacBook through the Apple store found on Amazon’s website and purchasing a MacBook on their own website at Apple.com.  The only difference to the customer is the familiarity factor.  

Because people are familiar with Amazon.com, they might be more comfortable purchasing a brand new Apple product from an Apple store on the Amazon.com website.  Finally, it is worth noting that if you purchase a MacBook through the Apple store on Amazon’s website, you can purchase AppleCare++ for that MacBook.

2) You can Purchase a Remanufactured MacBook from an Apple Certified Authorized Reseller

If the price is right, this just might not be a bad option. An Apple Certified Authorized Reseller *must* use genuine Apple Parts, and you can purchase AppleCare+ at the time of purchase. With AppleCare+, should you need to take advantage of AppleCare+, the Authorized Reseller can fix your MacBook or you can take it to an Apple Store for repair. Either way, you are covered.

To be clear, purchasing a new or remanufactured MacBook from a Certified Authorized Reseller is just like purchasing it directly from Apple.com.

3) You can Purchase an Amazon Renewed MacBook Directly from Amazon

According to Amazon, an Amazon Renewed MacBook is:

. . . a pre-owned and refurbished MacBook that is inspected and tested to work and look like new. A Renewed supplier who is Amazon-qualified and performance managed, but not Apple certified, performs a full diagnostic test, replaces any defective parts, and thoroughly cleans the product. Any repairs are made with Apple components that are new, or re-used and in like-new condition. The products will have minimal to no signs of wear, no visible cosmetic imperfections when held 12 inches away, and may arrive in a brown or white box with relevant accessories that may be generic. 

Note that the Amazon Renewed warranty is offered for only 90 days.

If the price is right, and you are looking for a used laptop no longer offered on Apple’s website, (that’s key), you may want to consider this option. However, keep in mind that purchasing AppleCare+ is NOT available when purchasing an Amazon Renewed MacBook.

4) You can Purchase a Remanufactured MacBook from an Non-Authorized Reseller

Of the four options, this is the The least desirable, as the third-party vendor does not be necessarily have to be an Apple Certified Reseller and can even sell it “as is”.  You would be wise to read the fine print, and take note of any “warranty” offered. Be sure to read their Return Policy as well.  I read one Return Policy where the third-party vendor would charge up to 50% of the total cost of the MacBook Pro for a restocking fee. That is just ridiculous.

Be very careful, and take time to read the fine print. I would only ever consider purchasing a laptop from a non-authorized reseller if they had a great reputation with a 97% or higher rating from thousands of users within the last year, with a 90 day limited warranty and no restocking fee.

Purchasing a MacBook from a third-party non-authorized reseller is barely better than purchasing it from someone you don’t know off of CraigsList.

Final Considerations

So, is it OK to purchase a remanufactured MacBook from Amazon?  If you are looking to purchase a new MacBook from Apple directly via their online store within the Amazon.com website, OR, if you purchase it from an Apple Certified Authorized Reseller, you’ll be just fine.

If you are looking to purchase an older model, understand that at best, you are limited to a 90 warranty, and that you can not purchase AppleCare+ on such a device. If anything, (and I mean, anything), happens to that MacBook unintentionally or otherwise, you are completely on your own and will have to pay to have it fixed or replaced.

I personally think the risk is too great, unless, of course, the price is so low, that you can afford to simply replace it on a whim if something does go wrong.

My 3 biggest reasons for not considering an “Amazon Renewed” MacBook, or a MacBook from a non-authorized reseller, are as follows:

You don’t really know what you are getting.

Your warranty is limited

You Can’t Purchase AppleCare+

Personally, I think it is foolish to purchase a MacBook (any model), without AppleCare+ attached to it.  To see my reasoning, take a look at the extensive article I wrote entitled, “Is AppleCare+ Worth It?

Why should you buy directly from Apple or from an Apple Certified Authorized Reseller?

When you purchase a MacBook directly from Apple, you will have the assurance that your MacBook contains genuine Apple parts and a 1 year limited warranty, unless of course, you purchase AppleCare+ (which provides 3 years of accidental coverage!). Additionally, you will receive An Incredible Experience.

When purchasing any product from Apple, you know that you are beginning a relationship with a company.  Their objective is not to take your money and run, but rather to cultivate a relationship with you. Can that be said of Amazon Renewed or a non-authorized reseller?

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.