I strongly recommend the AppleCare Protection Plan (APP) for all MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac and MacPro purchases under most circumstances. I know that extended warranties have a poor reputation in general, but I think AppleCare is a good value for most Mac models. For the rest of this article I’ll simply refer to the AppleCare Protection Plan as AppleCare.
[Update February 2017: Pricing on AppleCare has been updated to match what’s on Apple.com.]
Every Mac computer comes with 90 days of free telephone tech support and a 1 year hardware warranty. By purchasing AppleCare, both the telephone support and hardware warranty are extended to 3 years. AppleCare covers the cost of parts as well as labor in the event of a repair.
It’s very useful to know that you can buy AppleCare as long as the original 1 year hardware warranty is still in place. Additionally, AppleCare is transferrable. If you sell your Mac within 3 years of initial purchase, AppleCare coverage transfers with the computer. This can slightly increase your Mac’s resale value, but it also gives the buyer some reassurance should they detect a hardware issue after they purchase it. AppleCare is available for all new Macs or refurbished Macs bought from Apple. It does not cover accidental damage.
MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs
The price for AppleCare is currently $249 for MacBook Air and 13″ MacBook Pro. For all other MacBook Pros the price is $349. Apple has tiered flat-rate pricing for all laptop repairs. The last time I checked the lowest price was about $300. If your laptop is outside of it’s one-year hardware warranty and it breaks, one repair would have paid for the cost of AppleCare. Since laptops are typically carried around, they can sustain a lot of wear and tear. One repair within 3 years is not at all uncommon, thus I think it’s worthwhile to purchase AppleCare for MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. Over a dozen years, I have owned 4 Mac laptops. I know that I’ve bought AppleCare for at least the last 3 and used it on each of them. One had the CD/DVD drive and a fan replaced. On two of them the motherboard was replaced. All of these repairs were fully covered by AppleCare.
iMacs and MacPros
AppleCare for iMacs costs $169. AppleCare for MacPros costs $249. iMacs and MacPros repairs are not tied to tiered, flat-rate pricing. Each replacement part is priced individually. While fans and other small components may be inexpensive, Apple’s labor rate is around $90-100 per hour. So again, AppleCare quickly pays for itself. AppleCare covers the monitor built-into the iMac. In addition to the computer itself, AppleCare also covers an external monitor purchased at the same time as the Mac.
Since AppleCare can be purchased at any time within the first year of initial purchase, I have some clients who don’t purchase AppleCare initially for their iMacs or Mac Pros. Instead, they wait 6 to 9 months to see how the Mac performs and then make a decision. The first 6 months of a computer’s life is not necessarily a good indication of how it’ll perform after 2.5 years of use, but if the Mac has problems in the first 6 months then it seems prudent to buy the insurance of AppleCare in case other problems develop.
I typically don’t recommend AppleCare protection for Mac minis as strongly since AppleCare costs $99 but the price of the mini might be as little as $600. If a business were buying a Mac mini server or if a person were purchasing an Apple laptop at the same time as the Mac mini, then I would recommend it more strongly.
iPhones, iPods, iPads, and AppleTVs
I don’t recommend AppleCare for iPhones, iPods, iPads or AppleTV either due to the relatively low price or the fact that the devices are more likely to be dropped or stolen than require a repair due to a part defect.
[Update March 2013: AppleCare for iPhones and iPads is now AppleCare+. These plans now cover up to two incidents of accidental damage for a service fee of $49 for each incident. Coverage may be purchased within the first 60 days of ownership, but purchased at a different time than the device, the device will require a Genius Bar appointment prior to AppleCare purchase to verify that it is in undamaged condition before being covered. For more details you can visit the AppleCare page for iPhone or iPad.]
[Update October 2014: AppleCare+ for iPhone now has a $79 service fee for each incident.]
Another option for iPhone and iPad repair in the Seattle area is JCD Repair. They let you schedule an appointment and tell you the full repair price up front.
If you buy your Mac using a major credit card, the credit card company might double the manufacturer’s warranty. Please call your credit card company to verify and get the details. One client was able to get their iMac’s replacement motherboard covered by their credit card company due to this coverage. The client had to pay for the repair up front, then they were subsequently reimbursed after submitting the requisite paperwork. Utilizing this coverage is not as quick and easy as AppleCare, but this protection could help you if you didn’t buy AppleCare within the first year.
Some homeowners insurance policies or specific riders might be a reason to not buy AppleCare. Some insurance policies even cover accidental cover that is not covered by AppleCare.