Do You Know About Apple's Flat Rate Repair Pricing?
I service and repair computers on a regular basis. However, when it comes to my Apple products, like my 17" MacBook Pro, I often purchase Apple Care. Apple Care extends my warranty for a few more years and allows me to drop off my machine at a local Apple store and have it repaired for free—most of the time, at least. However, when that particular computer turned almost five years old, all warranties have long gone away, and I'm on my own dime to get it repaired.
I knew this was the case when my faithful sidekick wouldn't boot up earlier this week. I was at least two years out of warranty, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Apple had a recall in effect for my particular model—even after all these years, from a faulty video chip that was causing issues with the display. I had experienced these same issues, so I was extremely optimistic as I headed up the freeway 40 minutes, to the closest Apple store. However, all hopes were dashed once the Genius Bar technician pointed out that it was most likely my logic board that was the culprit, and not the video on the board. I half suspected this but held out hope nonetheless.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. I knew from previous repairs that a logic board replacement was a $500-1000 repair, easily. Sure enough, as he selected the Logic Board replacement part, the item rang in at $486. Tack on a $98 labor charge, and I was just under $600 for the repair, on a five-year-old laptop. Granted, this machine was probably pushing $3000 when it was new. However, chances are good that its value would maybe only rival the cost of the repair, and I'd still be in 5-year-old technology. Not only that, but my display had been getting wonky, and some of the keys were acting a little weird. It was getting hard to justify the repair when none of those other items were even on the table yet.
The tech guy must have seen my hesitation because he then said, "Do you know about our flat repair rate option?" I didn't. Years and years of owning Apple products until they run into the ground, and I'd never heard about this. I know now I probably hadn't heard about them because I usually didn't need repairs after warranty—they just went to the end of the life cycle.
He then went on, "Do you have any other issues with the MacBook, anything at all worth pointing out?" I told him I did, and he then proceeded to tell me some shocking, yet fantastic news.
Apparently, my vintage of a machine, out of warranty as it was, qualified for a flat repair rate of $310. For that price, they would go through the machine, and fix anything that was clearly an issue. I mentioned the display, and how it had a 2-3 pixel wide vertical blue stripe, and often got amazingly pixelated for no apparent reason. Covered. Of course, we had just discussed the dead $486 logic board. Covered. I mentioned that some keys were wearing off and acting weird. Covered. He also pointed out that they would check things I hadn't mentioned, just to be certain and to top it off, the entire machine would have a 90 day warranty, not just the parts I would have repaired in the ala carte option. (Did I mention that option was almost $600?)
I thought about it for a second and figured that in the very worst case scenario, I'd get my $600 repair done for $310. But, in the best case scenario, my trusty sidekick would have some new life breathed back into it. Also, it would be covered under a fancy little warranty again, if only for just a few months. I signed off on this, and had them ship it off.
So why does Apple do this? I have a couple thoughts, and they all revolve around squeezing out every last penny from customers that they possibly can. I'm not complaining because, in this case, it also helps me out. I figure Apple must have thousands of logic boards in their warehouses, and many people, when faced with a $500-1000 repair bill on a five-year-old machine, will probably walk away. The longer those parts go unused, the better chance they have of staying that way. But put a price that isn't too hard to swallow, like $310, and I think most people will jump on it. At least they recoup some of the cost. I also figure that those $486 logic boards probably only cost Apple about $100 real dollars anyway.
If you find yourself with an older Apple computer product in need of a repair when it has exceeded its warranty period, ask about the flat rate repair option. Especially if your bill gets more than a few hundred dollars big. Your mileage may vary, but as I look around on the Internet, I see many people have saved hundreds of dollars by using this same option. Best of luck, and here's to hoping you never have to use this to begin with!