Over the years, we’ve developed a good strategy that should help any Mac user understand when it’s best to repair, upgrade or replace. While the majority of this article will cover the economics of repairing your Mac, we’re also going to discuss upgrades for your Mac. This article will dive into the world of economics and be a pretty long read. Be warned. 🙂

We’re sure you’ve been to the mechanic and found that a simple problem became an expensive list that “must be fixed now.” With a car, it’s easy to justify the cost of those repairs because you paid a lot for it when you bought it. With a computer, there’s a delicate dance around the terms repair, upgrade or replace. Hopefully this will help all of you understand the differences of each scenario.

The Rule of Maximums

This equation determines the maximum amount of money you should (theoretically) put into a Mac that is a few years old. There are always exceptions to this equation, but we’ll get into those later. We used the average of the economic difference and the actual difference to figure out what the maximum economic cost for repair should be for any Mac.

Original Cost – Current Value = Economic Difference
Replacement Cost – Current Value = Actual Difference
(Economic + Actual) / 2 = Average Difference
Average Difference / (1 + Years Outside of APP) =
Maximum Economic Cost for Repair

Let’s dive into the terminology so you can better understand the origins of the equation.

  • Original Cost – this is the retail value of your Mac when Apple introduced it to the market. You can easily find this number by using a tool like Mactracker and looking up the “Initial Price.” Make sure you choose the right processor speed, as it will affect the final total.
  • Current Value – this is determined by averaging the sale prices of your machine in the current market. We typically look at eBay and Craigslist to determine this average.
  • Replacement Cost – if you were to walk into the Apple Store and buy the same type of machine today, this is the price you’d pay. Apple typically has three levels of machines: good, better and best. You’d need to know which tier you initially purchased to get the most accurate replacement cost.
  • Economic Difference – the difference between the original cost and the current market value of your Mac.
  • Actual Difference – the difference between the replacement cost and the current market value of your Mac.
  • Average Difference – the average between economic and actual difference allows us to create an average difference that more accurately reflects the true differential value of your Mac. It accounts for the economic investment you made and the real-world value of your machine.
  • Years Outside of APP – this is incredibly important for the overall reparability of your Mac. APP is the AppleCare Protection Plan that everyone needs to purchase with a new Mac. It covers your Mac from any failure for three years. It doesn’t matter if you purchased APP or not… we’re factoring those three years into this equation. Anything beyond those three years determines this value. One day past three years from purchase makes this value 1. One day past four years makes this value 2. And so on. If you’re still under warranty the value is zero because your machine is worth more while it’s under warranty.
  • Maximum Economic Cost for Repair – the final answer. This is the most we believe you could economically spend on a repair for your Mac. Is it 100% accurate? That depends on a lot of exceptions we’ll dive into below. This number should be weighed heavily for any out of warranty repair.

You could argue that the Actual Difference is the only thing that matters… and you’d be correct. We, like most people, value our money. We’re taking the Average Difference to account for the money we’ve already spent on the Mac and give it some weight. Without the average, we wouldn’t be accounting for price fluctuation. For example, Apple has decreased the cost of the iMac and MacBook Pro in the last few years, while the base model Mac Mini went up in price.

Exceptions to the Rule

The biggest exception to our rule of maximums is how you use the machine. The number will change — higher or lower — depending on your daily Mac activity.

If you use your Mac to make money and rely on it everyday for your livelihood, the economic cost for repair will probably be lower because having a newer, faster machine will make you more productive. More productivity makes more money.

What if you browse the internet and check your email? If that’s it, your current computer will probably suffice for a while. Take a look at our rule of maximums and base your decision to fix or replace on that number. Most common repairs will cost less than the maximum if the machine is within the 5-year mark.

The rule of maximums also assumes that the machine is in good physical condition. If your Mac has severe damage (i.e. run over by a truck) it may be difficult to find a repair shop willing to take on the repair… even if it falls under the theoretical maximum.

The Depot Repair Option

Most companies won’t even mention this option. They want you to fix it through them because it makes them money. At Rocky Mountain Mac Repair, we think a little differently.

Apple offers a Depot Repair option for laptops that will often beat the small guys like us. Typically between $250 and $350, Apple will repair a computer with failed components as long as it’s in good condition. If there is a small ding or dent in the machine, they’ll probably disqualify this option. Most of the time, it’s worth the trip to the Genius Bar if you think your Mac will qualify.

The Rule of Upgrades

This is a much simpler equation: if you’re looking for more performance from your Mac, consider upgrading the RAM or installing a solid-state drive to improve its computing power. If your Mac’s value is higher than the cost of the upgrades… they’re probably worth it. Adding a solid-state drive and maxing out the RAM will give an older Mac new life. If you’re buying a new Mac without a solid-state drive, you’re not maximizing its true potential. See our Upgrades page for more information.

If You’re Still Not Sure

We’ll help you. Give us a call or fill out the Online Repair Form. At RMMR, we make sure that our customers make the right decision… even if it doesn’t lead to a repair.