Refurb Store versus eBay

Despite the success of Apple's Refurb Store, when it comes to getting a Mac on the cheap, most turn to eBay - a goldmine for refurbished or 'used' - Macs. Picking up a machine here can be a bargain, but it's not without its pitfalls.

For some reason, Macs seem to be a popular target for scammers who will create copies of legitimate auctions in an attempt to snag eBayers into sending money via untraceable Western Union. Seasoned eBayers advise paying close attention to a buyer's feedback. If they don't have a history of selling electronics, or they haven't had a transaction in a while, be extra careful - their account may have been hijacked by a scammer.

Recently, a spate of listings for £500 MacBook Pro machines worried buyers. "Some people look at their 10 feedback and think that these sellers are OK," says Roba on the MacRumors.com forum. "These sellers' feedback is usually very suspect. A good majority of the people who have left them feedback aren't even registered members any more."

Resale value

It's widely known that Macs hold their resale value better than PCs, with used models changing hands for a good chunk of change long after they've disappeared from the Apple Store website. James Stoup of AppleMatters.com recently ran some numbers to calculate just how better they fare.

"A new machine currently costs $2,000, while a year-old machine sells on eBay for around $1,500, and a two-year one for about $1,000. At this point, one would expect things to go downhill from there fairly rapidly (like with PCs). But instead, prices seem to level off a bit, which means you can - and in fact, I just did - sell a six-year-old laptop for close to $400. This is even more impressive when you realise that you can buy a brand new laptop from Dell, Acer, Toshiba and the like starting at around $600."

Stoup thinks it's because Apple's hardware stays relevant longer than the equivalent in the PC world. "With Windows Vista, all the reviews I have read seem to recommend you run the operating system on either a new machine or at least a fairly recent one. How many Mac users bought a new machine to run Tiger? Quite a few, no doubt, but it should be noted that I ran Tiger just fine on a six-year-old 667MHz laptop. Go get a six-year-old Dell and let me know how well it runs Vista."

Apple isn't the only company offering official refurbs, either; Cancom is also an Apple-authorised refurbished seller, so if you can't find the Mac or iPod you want through Apple's store go to www.cancomuk.com/home/clearance/refurbished-products. Don't give up hope; your next Mac is out there, waiting to be bought. And it's going to cost you less that you thought.