Apple tends to march to the beat of its own drum when it comes to new and updated product releases. You’ve come to expect a new iPhone every October, but what about the company’s less “popular” products, like the iMac or Mac mini?
Is there a best time to buy a new Mac? Well, yes and no.
When Can You Get the Most for Your Money?
The worst time to buy a new iPhone is (usually) late August or early September because Apple tends to release a new iPhone every year at the same price point. This means you can get a newer, more “future-proof” iPhone at no extra cost if you wait until October.
Apple’s other products don’t follow quite the same rigid release pattern, though. While the company tends to release major updates once every few years for product lines like MacBook and iMac, small, incremental hardware bumps are rarely announced with the same fanfare.
While these releases are less predictable, they do still follow a trend. Incremental updates tend to follow new iterations of CPUs from Intel or GPUs from AMD; however, these are also at the whim of Apple’s supply chain. Outside of educated guesses, leaks, and rumors, only Apple knows when the next release is on the way.
Fortunately, you can still make some educated purchasing decisions and get the most bang for your buck. You can do this by analyzing Apple’s existing hardware trends.
The MacRumors Buyer’s Guide
The MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is a comprehensive tool for gauging whether you should buy a new Apple product right now. The tool lists how far through the current product cycle we are, along with the average product cycle length (in days), and averages for past updates.
As if this wasn’t helpful enough, the tool even provides advice like “Don’t Buy” for products that are nearing the end of their current cycle, or “Buy Now” for recently refreshed hardware. Because the blog focuses on Apple rumors, they also play a role in deciding whether it’s a good time to buy.
There are also exceptions within existing product lines the Buyer’s Guide will identify. For example, when Apple released a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in November 2019, the 13-inch model wasn’t updated. So, the Buyer’s Guide listed a “Caution” notice next to the MacBook Pro, notifying consumers that only the 16-inch model had been updated recently.
Some product lines are more predictable than others. Apple has a habit of letting certain product lines stagnate, like the ill-fated “recycling bin” Mac Pro and the seemingly dormant Mac Mini. In these cases, though, you can likely make a decision based on your own perspective.
Don’t fancy paying for a machine that hasn’t been updated in over a year? That’s your call. Apple rarely discounts products without updating or replacing the line entirely. If you don’t want to pay Apple prices for already “outdated” hardware, a glance at the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is essential!
Do You Need a New Mac?
Not everyone has the luxury of putting off an upgrade. If you’re replacing a product that died or is exhibiting signs of hardware failure, you might not be able to wait six months for the next hardware refresh. If you need a functioning Mac to do your job, even a week is too long to wait.
In these cases, the Buyer’s Guide is less important. If you’re purchasing a core Mac product, like an iMac, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, you’re unlikely to purchase hardware that’s more than a year old. Apple updates these lines fairly regularly with new CPUs, bigger SSDs, and faster RAM.
You can still check the Buyer’s Guide to make a more informed decision, but, ultimately, your immediate needs and budget should take priority.
Refurbished Macs Are Another Reason to Wait
Some people only buy refurbished Macs from Apple’s program. You can generally save between 15 and 25 percent off the price of a brand-new product if you buy a refurbished one. They include the usual warranty, and they’re eligible for Apple Care and Apple-certified to be in as-new condition.
According to MacRumors, you can expect a three- or four-month wait before refurbished products start to appear after their initial release. However, a Reddit thread from 2016 suggests eight to 12 months is more accurate. We’ve noticed refurbished models tend to appear first in the U.S., but later in places like Australia and New Zealand.
If you’re keen on buying a refurbished product, the Buyer’s Guide is a useful resource. Models nearing the end of their product cycles might be available for discounted prices on Apple’s Refurbished Mac store. They might even be the same, up-to-date products Apple sells at full price.
It’s more likely you’ll see hardware that’s one- or two-years-old. Buying a refurbished model requires a bit more attention on your part because Apple lists recent models along with outdated ones. You can filter by model and year to make things easier, but don’t expect the most recent refurbs to hang around.
If you have your eyes on a particular model of Mac, Refurb Tracker allows you to set up alerts when new stock becomes available. Since refurbished Macs are usually in short supply, and demand for discounted Apple products is high, Refurb Tracker might give you an edge if you can afford to wait.
Refurbished Macs are sold “as is” with no options for CPU, SSD storage, or RAM. You’ll find all sorts of models with a variety of specifications, depending on the options the original owner chose. It’s a bit of a lottery, so, be prepared to compromise in some cases, or be pleasantly surprised in others.
The Bottom Line
If you need a Mac, you should buy a Mac. The presence of a newer, updated model doesn’t make your existing Mac any less capable. You might get more computer for your money if you buy at the beginning of a product cycle. However, you shouldn’t let this dominate your decision if you’re in desperate need of a new machine.
When you buy Apple, you already know you’re going to pay a premium. If you really want to save some money, though, it’s worth it to browse some refurbished models that include a full Apple warranty.