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Is Apple Care worth the cost? Our data says no.

By Jason Powell in General IT Discussions over 2 years ago | 994 views Link:

After 3+ years of repair data, we can now quantify that buying the 3yr Apple Care does NOT make sense in our environment.  See the deets:

Very curious if anyone else has crunched numbers to arrive at the same conclusion?

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Chris Green

All “insurance” is about risk management.  You are paying someone to assume the risk.  In any quantity it is always cheaper to self-insure, however for most its a far safer/easier bet to just have the insurance.  We always advise customers to buy AppleCare on Apple products and the appropriate warranty on Dell/Lenovo/Etc.  I personally buy it on most of my own products, and we do it internally at BEMA as well.  It simplifies things greatly when things break, but then of course Apple doesn’t cover accidental damage with their warranty.

Derek Schwab

We’ve seen the same thing, not just with Apple Care, but with extended warranties in general. At one point we were buying the extended warranty/accidental protection on all laptops and we’ve realized about a 50% savings by simple self insuring.

Think about it this way: how are the vendors making money on these warranties? It’s simple, they’re making lots of money on them because you’re pre-paying for a repair that in most cases never actually happens.

Self insuring does mean more potential fluctuations in cash flow, especially if you have to replace a few machines in a short period. This might be an issue for a very small organization, but for most larger churches/organizations, a few thousand $ a year for repairs and replacement is no big deal.

Derek Schwab

Chris, I believe apple care does have an accidental damage option now, at least on some devices. My opinion is still the same as Jason’s though, you might was well be throwing that money in the trash if you have a sizable fleet of machines.

I think it’s one of those things that makes sense for personal devices or very small shops, but for an environment with hundreds of machines – no way!

Tony Dye

I remember that years back, North Point church did the same analysis and came to the same conclusion. They kept a couple extra machines on the shelf and dropped the insurance.

Chris Green

Derek – only on iPads/iPhones.. and I’m agreeing with you.  Most of our clients don’t have a fleet the size of the large churches.  You also need to be able to budget money that can truly be set aside for repairs and not be robbing it from elsewhere.  Be prepared for the times that its cheaper to throw the machine away and get a new one also.  A $1200 out of warranty repair when a brand new $1199 laptop can replace it is just silly.

And back to me as an example… My $2800 personal iMac was repaired three times then replaced under warranty.  Had I not purchased AppleCare I would have been in bad shape.

Tim Broad

We have 79 Macs on our campus and rarely use AppleCare for a claim on any of them. Most of our issues are because someone spills something and then it’s often not covered anyway. We have had a couple issues where logic boards need replaced and it comes in handy then but overall, it does not save money on repairs. To validate others’ points though, it does ease the pain of repairs, when they are necessary and for that reason, we often do purchase it on Macs but not on iPads. Especially on the high-end Retina models and the new Mac Pros with higher end configs, it does make sense. We certainly don’t do it for Macbook Air models though on the other end of the spectrum, because it does not make sense. I personally think their pricing tiers for AppleCare are a little off, especially when the Macbook Air plan is priced the way it is and then on the other end the Mac Pro plan is priced at a far lower percentage of replacement cost… That’s why we feel it makes sense for the high end models but not the low end. We just don’t want to replace the high end ones again out of pocket, if we don’t have to. :)

Jason Powell

Tim – I’m with ya for the high end really expensive stuff like the new Pros.  The bulk of our end user devices are lower end airs costing $1100-1400.

Chris – I too buy apple care on my personal devices :-)

Jason Powell

Oooo, I should go back and see how many of the repairs were for ‘new’ vs ‘refurb’ devices.

Travis Phipps

Just to add to the discussion, over the last 6 months or so we have seen a much higher number of apple hardware failures, ESPECIALLY on newer iMacs and Macbook Air devices. Not sure why the shift, but it’s been noticeable across our client base. Not really sure I can pinpoint a root cause other than premature hardware failures (bad quality control?!?).

FWIW, nearly all of these have been less than 1 year old so they are covered by standard warranty and haven’t required AppleCare extended warranties to cover repairs.


You mentioned in your article that you could have replaced an SSD yourself for less money than Apple charges for their repair services. However, I believe you may need to clarify that such self-repairs don’t apply to new Macs, since all components are now matched and fused onto the motherboard. Upgrades and repairs are only an option if you are buying older models or refurbished, such as your church is using.

At least, that’s what Apple told me this year, when I asked about the possibility of upgrades. Can anyone confirm or prove otherwise?

Austin Spooner

Jeff I believe you are right – I was unable to replace a hard drive in a MacBook pro recently and had to send it it for repair.

Scott Behrends
I thought the new MBPros still had a replaceable SSD. I haven’t cracked it open but this is what I had read about before ….
Mark Simmons

Question: Are you only measuring its value based on hardware repair, or did you also factor in help desk support?  And if so, did you have your staff use AppleCare as a first level of support or only an escalation path through your church IT?

Travis Phipps

I had another thought I wanted to add to the discussion:  I don’t really think this discussion of warranty/self-warranty is or should be limited to only Apple products. I believe based on our experiences the numbers Jason laid out would probably hold true to good business laptops from the likes of Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc. 

Again, that’s just based on our experiences. I don’t have hard numbers to back that up. And with all of that said, as a provider of services to multiple clients, I still resonate with Chris Green’s comments whole-heartedly.

Jason Powell

Mark – All repair issues pass through TechOps Dept 1st.  If we determined it was hardware related we’d have the end user take the device to the Genius Bar for further diagnostics.  I agree you have to weigh the labor cost to your IT staff.

Travis – agreed! We didn’t purchase complete care on our last round of Dell laptops cause we hadn’t used it in years to warrant the cost…we also dropped NBD service onsite service on many of them and just went with 3yr mail-in. 

Like all things Church IT … what plays well in our environment may not play so well in yours :-)

We only get AppleCare on Macs that are new technology like the new MacPro.

We’ve had success with a vendor on eBay who sells logic board repair for MacBooks that have encountered a liquid spill. A $1500 repair from Apple cost us $200 from a Wichita, KS vendor.

Mark Simmons

Jason has been very careful to emphasize that his analysis and conclusions are based on his environment.  In our environment, AppleCare appears to be paying off.  There is a critical difference between the church environment Jason is in and ours.  At Jason’s church, he has an IT department that provides everything, except for hardware repair on the Apple products.  In my church’s environment, we use AppleCare for most first and second level support as well as hardware repair.  I am the IT department at our church.  So high level network configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting I’ll do.  But most desktop support comes from peer collaboration or AppleCare.  Simple user questions I’ll answer or have them go to another staff member to show them how.  Undiagnosed system problems I have them contact AppleCare.

We’ve got 39 Macs, 15 PCs, 2 servers, 5 APs, 2 wireless and 1 intranet in a six building campus that runs 7 days 6 AM to 10 PM with over 100 ministries and about an equal number of activities on campus each week.  We have a separate crew that does AV.  But all other IT is provided by me and is about half my workload.

Derek Van Winkle

This is great info. I support 20 Macs and I’ve wondered about the need for AppleCare. So far, we haven’t had an issue. I have a part time guy that previously did a lot of iMac, iPad, and MBP repairs so I feel a little safer not buying it.

Derek Schwab

We don’t buy apple care on anything. There are only a couple of machines that either get damaged or have a failure in any give year and it’s considerably cheaper to repair/replace the one or two machines with issues than to buy apple care on everything.

Todd Lear

We’ve only bought AppleCare on one or two refurb machines and typically self support and insure devices including mobile devices. By the time you add up the costs, we typically come out better just fixing it ourselves. It really depends on your size but over the past two years I’ve not had a major repair I’ve had to do on an Apple device.

Eric Eskam

For me, it’s pretty simple – the harder a store pushes an extended warranty the less value I’ll probably get out of it.  

Stores are in business to make money.  If an extended warranty was a good deal for me it’s probably not that great for a store and thus they probably wouldn’t push them as hard.  My favorite is a warranty in places like Best Buy that’s almost the cost of the thing being warrantied – things like cables that absolutely should never need and extended warranty in particular make me ill.  

AppleCare is one of those where I tend to spring for it on laptops and mobile devices, and over the years have ended up using it half the time.  Mainly because two of the times I have taken a device in under AppleCare they ended up just swapping the broken thing out for a refurbished replacement.  I’ve had outstanding luck dealing with support at the Apple stores and find extending the warranty by two years to have significant value for portable devices.  And as others have pointed out, if you don’t have your own IT support but do have an Apple Store nearby, you do get a pretty good level of support with AppleCare.  I haven’t bothered to get it on desktops and so far haven’t ever needed it.  

With iPads it’s really nice since you also get accident protection with the default AppleCare+.  

And for those still not comfortable without some sort of a backup, 3rd party warranties like SquareTrade can be a viable alternative.  As an FYI Costco offers discounted Squartrade warranties, and they can be applied to things NOT bought at Costco.  The plasma hanging on my wall right now was bought at Sam’s (Costco was out of ’em) but is covered with a Costco purchased SquareTrade – and I think they offer Squaretrade warranties for other electronics if I remember right.  Just sharing that for those that may not realize.  

Mike Hazelwood

I add it to any of my main Mac Pro machines in our Adult Worship areas, but not on any staff or children worship room computers.  If it covered accidental coverage I would be more inclined to add to staff laptops.  Dell used to have a great accidental coverage for about $200 that was well worth it, but until Apple adds that or lowers costs I won’t be adding it to most computers.

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