Should You Get AppleCare+ With Your iPad?

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AppleCare+ is the extended warranty Apple offers for the iPad and iPhone. You don't need to purchase AppleCare+ when you buy your iPad, but you'll need to make a decision within thirty days of your purchase. The iPad comes with a one-year warranty and ninety days of technical support. AppleCare+ extends this warranty by a year and covers both hardware and technical support. Best of all, it covers accidental damage, so if you drop your iPad and crack the screen, you can get it repaired for a service charge rather than paying full price.   Read more about AppleCare+ on Apple's website.

But is AppleCare+ actually worth it?

Extended Warranties Are a Bit Like Gambling

There's a simple reason why companies offer extended warranties: it makes them money. This isn't a profit-free service that Apple is offering because they really, really like us. Extended warranties have become another revenue stream for companies.

For consumers, they become a gamble on whether or not we'll use them. When we do use them, they are certainly worth it, but if we tried to extend the warranty for every electronic device in our house, most of us would spend far, far more money on warranties than on repairs. This is true even if we only extended the warranties on more expensive electronics like computers, tablets, and television sets.

Extended warranties often cost 10% or more of the cost of the device and only last one or two years. The $99 AppleCare+ is almost 20% of the cost of an entry-level iPad Pro and only extends the warranty by one year.

So how much do warranty claims cost companies? According to Warranty Week, a consumer electronics company will pay out around 2.5% of total sales in claims in a year, which makes that 10% one-year extension quite expensive by comparison. And that 18% paid for the entry-level iPad Pro is very, very expensive when you consider Apple's products are much more reliable than the average electronics company, even dipping below 1% in claims in 2012.

So what are we buying with an extended warranty? What's the X-factor? The biggest benefit of AppleCare+ is accidental damage. It's very unlikely that we'll have a hardware failure that just so happens to occur in year two. Most hardware failures will happen in the first year due to a defect or happen after several years of use. But we can certainly drop our iPad and crack the screen at any time.

An Extended Warranty or an iPad Case?

An alternative to an extended warranty is simply buying a case for your iPad. The Smart Case sold by Apple is cheaper than the warranty and will help protect the iPad if it is dropped on the floor. It is also slim, form fitting and wakes the iPad up when you open the cover, so it won't feel like you are adding a bunch of bulk to your iPad. 

Even better protection is offered by companies like Otterbox and Trident. They have a wide variety of cases that offer everyday around-the-house protection to I-like-extreme-sports protection. And they are cheaper than the one-year warranty.

An Extended Warranty or a Jar of Money?

Part of that piece of mind an extended warranty offers is the fact that you won't have a huge payout if you do happen to be hit with a hardware failure or drop your iPad. It will still cost you a $79 service charge to repair that cracked iPad screen, but even that service charge and the $99 AppleCare+ fee is much less than the $379 it costs to repair a cracked 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

But there's another way to get that piece of mind. Instead of buying extended warranties, every time you buy an electronic device that you normally would have considered the warranty, write down the price of the extension and put half that money in a jar. After a few purchases, you should have enough to pay for a repair, and after a few years, you'll have the same piece of mind at half the price.

The Kid Factor

The one time when extended warranties may be worth it is when there are small kids involved. Especially if the iPad is intended for those kids. Even a heavy-duty case won't protect a cracked screen if the iPad is slammed against the corner of the table.

If the iPad in question is more of an entry-level device like an iPad Mini 2, the AppleCare+ is still a bad deal. The iPad Mini 2 is only $269, so the $99 AppleCare+ is over one-third of the price. But when considering a $99 warranty for a $799 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it becomes a little more reasonable. This is still an expensive warranty, but it might protect the iPad Pro until the kids are old enough not to slam it on the table.

The Other Options

AppleCare+ isn't the only game in town when it comes to extended warranties. SquareTrade also offers an iPad warranty. The SquareTrade warranty is slightly more expensive at $109 for that extra year of coverage, but where it might become a bargain is the 3-year plan for $129. If you have small kids and you really want to go with a warranty, this one might be the best deal.

And the AppleCare+ Verdict Is...

Skip it.   Most of us have a tablet, a smartphone and other electronics like a gaming console or a laptop computer.   Instead of buying expensive extended warranties for each of these devices, set aside some money for the eventual repair that probability and statistics will bring your way and pocket the rest.  Unless you have special circumstances where accidental damage is a higher probability, you'll save money in the long run.