Should You Get AppleCare+ With Your iPad?

The extended warranty can protect your device, but at a cost

Apple Store Genius bar

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AppleCare+ is an extended warranty for the iPad and iPhone. Apple gives you a bit of time to decide whether you need it. You can buy it at the same time you buy your device or within 60 days afterward. Every iPad comes standard with a one-year warranty and 90 days of technical support. AppleCare+ extends this warranty by a year—so it's covered a total of two years from the date you purchase your iPad—and covers both hardware and technical support. Best of all, it covers up to two incidents of accidental damage. Each claim is subject to a $49 service fee (plus tax), but this is still far less than the full price of a typical repair. AppleCare+ also gives you round-the-clock support by chat and phone. But is it actually worth the extra cost?

Extended Warranties Are a Bit Like Gambling

There's a simple reason companies offer extended warranties: it makes them money. This isn't a profit-free service that Apple offers simply because they really, really like us. Extended warranties are additional revenue streams for companies.

For consumers, they're gambles on whether or not we'll use them. When things go wrong (and they do), extended warranties are certainly worth it—but when the vaunted reliability of solid brands such as Apple holds (as it often does), these plans look a lot less valuable. Plus, if we extended the warranties for all of our electronic devices, most of us would spend far, far more money on warranties than on repairs. This is true even if we extended the warranties only on our most expensive items, such as computers, tablets, and television sets.

What's the True Cost (Yours and Theirs)?

Extended warranties often cost 10% or more of a device's cost and are good for only one or two years. As of 2018, the $99 AppleCare+ package is almost 20% of the cost of an entry-level iPad Pro.

So, how much do warranty claims cost companies? A consumer electronics company will pay out around 2.5% of total sales in claims in a year, according to Warranty Week, 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 you buying with an extended warranty? The biggest benefit of AppleCare+ is coverage for accidental damage. It's very unlikely you'll have a hardware failure that just so happens to occur in year two. Most hardware failures happen in the first year due to a defect, or they occur after several years of use. But you can certainly drop your iPad and crack the screen at any time. If you're particularly accident-prone, or you use your iPad in a particularly challenging environment, $99 can buy you some peace of mind.

An Extended Warranty or an iPad Case?

An alternative to the extended warranty is a good case for your iPad. For example, the Smart Case sold by Apple is cheaper than the warranty and can protect the iPad if you drop it. It's also slim and form-fitting, and it wakes the iPad up when you open the cover. You won't notice any added bulk in terms of either size or inconvenience.

Companies such as Otterbox and Trident also offer a wide variety of well-reviewed cases. These provide protection that ranges from the everyday, around-the-house type to I-like-extreme-sports armor. And they're cheaper than the one-year warranty.

An Extended Warranty or a Jar of Money?

One benefit of an extended warranty is resting assured you won't have a huge payout if you do happen to have a hardware failure or drop your iPad. That service charge and the $99 AppleCare+ fee is much less than the cost to repair a cracked 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which is currently inching up on $400.

But there's another way to get "insurance." Note the price of the warranty extension offered on any device you buy and put half that money in a jar. After a few purchases, you should have enough to pay for a repair on any one of those devices—and after a few years, you'll have the same peace of mind at half the price.

The Kid Factor

The one situation in which extended warranties may be worth their cost is when small kids are 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 a table.

If the iPad in question is more of an entry-level device, AppleCare+ is still a bad deal. The iPad currently starts at $329, so the $99 AppleCare+ is nearly one-third of that price, but a $99 warranty for a $799 12.9-inch iPad Pro makes a little more sense. This is still an expensive warranty, but it might protect the iPad Pro until the kids are old enough not to subject it to the kinds of abuse kids typically dish out.

The Other Options

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

And the AppleCare+ Verdict Is...

Skip it. Most of us have tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices, such as gaming consoles and laptop computers. Instead of buying expensive extended warranties for each of them, 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 likely, you'll save money in the long run.