The used Mac market… There's a sucker born every minute.

by alec on November 7, 2007

Salon's resident Mac fanboy Farhad Manjoo presents what has to be the weakest argument I've ever seen for buying a Mac.  They retain their value better than a PC.  That's right… According to Manjoo, there's a better aftermarket on eBay for Mac's than PC's. 

Buy a Mac.  Even though you pay a hefty premium for it, there's always going to be another sucker waiting to take your expensive used Mac off your hands for a hefty premium as well.

Yeesh!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew November 7, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Why is buying something with a better resale value a weak argument? People buy Honda's and Toyota's for the same reason – are they suckers too?

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SwitchingToMac November 7, 2007 at 5:58 pm

What Manjoo said about resale value of Macs is bang on! I have purchased and sold many a Mac and no matter how you look at it you are going to lose some money at the end of the day but it always astounds me what I can get for my used Macs! What he forgot to mention is that many people can actually use a Mac for 2-3 years before you need to get a new one. I even come across people with 5-10 year old Macs they are finally upgrading, now those Macs generally aren't worth too much!

Personally, I would rather be the "Used Mac Buying Sucker" over a "You get what you pay for PC follower" any day…

Mike – Founder – http://www.switchingtomac.com

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Alec November 7, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Andrew, I priced Mac's earlier this year. An equivalent MacBook to the very nice HP Pavilion I bougt was $2300 vs the $1000 I paid. Let's say in three years time I want to sell that Macbook, and I get $1000 for it instead of the $2300 they were asking. $1000 is what I PAID for the HP Pavilion PC. The resale value argument makes absolutely no sense when applied to computers.

Mike — One of the five PCs I am running Vista on is a Toshiba Tecra A2 — that's a 2002 Vintage laptop. No trouble. Earlier this year I finally retired my home server — a 400Mhz Pentium II that I purchased in 1997. It's nice that you can use your premium priced Mac for a long period of time, but my cheap PCs last just as long.

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Larry Borsato November 7, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Last year I bought a Sony Vaio for $1500, and a Macbook for $1500 – pretty much the same features for pretty much the same price. The Vaio's networking stopped working after a few months, and the screen is now dead. The Macbook, which I use much more, is still working wonderfully. I have two Dell laptops and two Thinkpads broken on the shelf, but my two powerbooks still work perfectly.

I've used PCs for twenty years, and Macs for about two. And I'll stick with the Macs thanks.

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Neil T November 7, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Alec, I enjoy your blog, but what is with the Mac hate-on? If you don't like them, don't use them. I can say that I use one and think it is fantastic…and have many friends who have recently switch, and all are very happy. Are they all suckers? Hardly. Part of me wonders if you post this stuff just to get more comments.

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SwitchingToMac November 7, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Alec, When comparing your HP Pavilion to a MacBook Pro did the HP come with FireWire 800, DVI out, backlit keyboard, sudden motion sensing hard drive, fiber optic audio in and out, Magsafe power adaptor, built in iSight camera, multi touch sensing tracked, gigabit ethernet and of yah a very sexy and super thin anodized aluminum exterior shell? Does it run OS X and Windows? What about iLife – I used to work for HP and their bundled multimedia software is nothing compared to iLife.

How much have you had to spend on Virus and spyware software each year, what about tech-support costs?

How much maintenance time have you spent trouble shooting software issues or even reinstalling Windows. I ran an OS X 10.1 machine and cloned it to 5 different machines upgrading OS X each time right up to 10.4 all without any problems what-so-ever and never having to worry about driver issues…

I doublet the HP Pavilion vs the MacBook Pro was really a fair one.

I am glad your PC Server has lasted you as long as it has but I would imagine it would be an unusable productivity machine. Can it run Vista, how about XP, how about 3.1?

I have an iMac 233MHz (Yup the first ever original 1997 model) and it is still running OS X in one of my kids rooms…

My final question to you Alec, have you ever owned a Mac?

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Andrew November 7, 2007 at 8:41 pm

Still doesn't make sense Alec, if I buy a new Merc. E320 today for 40K and you buy a Chevy Cobalt for 20K. and in 3 years my car is worth what you paid for yours and yours devalued 75% to 5K.. I still owned a Merc for 3 years and you didn't.

Your argument makes sense if you are saying that Mac's and PC's are of equal quality to begin with…

"My experience with Windows Vista has been a rank disaster. At this point, I believe it to be worse than Windows 98, which many consider to be the worst quality Windows product that Microsoft ever released"

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Tom Clarke November 8, 2007 at 2:49 am

First off, resale value is definitely relevant. It may not be the single biggest factor buyers should consider but it's definitely relevant.

Secondly, none of this addresses the fact that Macs actually aren't much more expensive than Windows PCs. When I was thinking about buying an iMac G5, I looked at competing bundles from Dell and HP (matching the processor, memory, 24" monitor, graphics card, accessories, operating system and bundled software). The Dell was cheapest, at just €50 cheaper than the Mac (I'm in Spain).

So for €50 you get award-winning design, much less desk clutter and what is, at least currently, a more stable and secure computing platform which even allows you to install Windows, if you really want to. There's no question what the better deal is. I still love my iMac dearly.

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 3:57 am

Guys you can't convince me on this one. There's no justification for the price differential.

Larry – you've made a good argument for selecting the vendor. I've never had a good experience with Dell, and won't ever buy from them. I either buy Toshiba or HP, or build the machines myself.

Mike – I'm sure I don't have all the features you have on your Mac, but most of what you've described I do have like the firewire, built in camera, DVI out and motion sensing hardware. And you don't have some of the stuff I've got — the lightscribe DVD writer, the integrated remote control for media playback, and ReadyBoost hard drive acceleration to name a few. Oh, my PC server ran Windows XP for the last 5 years.

And yes, Andrew, I acknowledge that Vista was a bad experience for me in the beginning. Since that time I have (a) diagnosed and replaced the bad hardware that were the root cause of several of the issues and (b) received multiple stabilizing updates from Microsoft. I dare say, now that it's a little more mature, that it's the best Windows I've ever used. It released too early… and judging by the reports I'm reading, so did Leopard.

Andrew – of course the value argument makes sense. If the Mercedes and the Cobalt were EQUIVALENT cars, then it wouldn't make sense to buy the Mercedes for a premium, based on the fact that it held it's value better.

It's an article of faith among the Mac faithful that the premium price they pay is justified. I think they're delusional.

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 4:13 am

Neil — thanks for the compliment. I don't actually have a hate on for Macs. I've looked at them several times over the years when I've bought new PCs. I've just never been able to see past the (to me) steep premium price. Moreover, I have a brother and a parent who are devoted Mac users. I think that there are some things they're definitely better at – media editing being a big one.

Use the PC you want, and if it's a Mac, enjoy. I am simply irritated by the continuous rah rah from people who seem to feel the need to justify, over and over again, their choice to pay extra.

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 4:19 am

Tom, your experience and mine are definitely not the same. I recently purchased a new laptop and seriously considered a Mac. You can read about it here: http://saunderslog.com/2007/09/09/3502/

The salient paragraph:

I did buy a new PC Saturday as well. I did not, however, buy a Mac. I bought the HP Pavilion DV6000, a dual core Turion 64 machine with 2G of memory, NVidia graphics, a 15.3 inch widescreen display and a 200G hard drive. At $999 it was a steal compared to the equivalent Macbook Pro at $2199.99. Add in the costs of obtaining Mac Office, and the headaches of integrating the Mac with my all Windows network, and it was a no-brainer.

And by the way… Windows Vista, and Office 2007… very very smooth on the dual core machine.

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stevex November 8, 2007 at 6:33 am

If you buy a Mac for $2300 and sell it after 3 years for $1000, then you paid $1300 for the time you used the computer. If you also want to replace the pavilion after 3 years, then you've paid $1000 for the PC and $1300 for the Mac for the usage of the computer for those 3 years. That's not that far apart.

I bought a MacBook Pro instead of a PC laptop, even given the price differential, for a lot of reasons. It's not about the raw specifications – most PCs these days have enough hardware to get the job done – it's about the experience of using the computer.

The Mac goes to sleep reliably and wakes up reliably. I've yet to use a Windows laptop that does that.

Little MacBook niceties: The button on the battery that shows you the remaining battery life without having to even connect it to a computer. The MagSafe power adapter. The slot-load DVD drive (seriously, why doesn't every laptop do this?). The magnetic latch that holds it shut.

There are a lot of little things about the Mac OS that just make it nicer to use, as well. Here's an example. Connect a 2nd monitor to your laptop and extend your desktop onto it. Move some stuff there. Now disconnect the 2nd monitor. What happens? With Windows, your windows are left in limbo and you have to work to get them back; the Mac notices the 2nd monitor is gone and moves the windows back to the main display.

It's kind of a Mustang vs BMW argument to me – the Mustang is cheaper and will probably get you there faster, but the BMW is a nicer ride.

The main reason I stick with the Mac: After 3 years of using my PowerBook, it's still fast. I've had to reformat two Vista machines that became significantly slower after a year of regular use (installing and uninstalling apps, etc). The Mac gets the same kind of use, but somehow, handles it better. This is a big deal for me, and I don't know why Microsoft has such a hard time figuring out why Windows gets slower over time, and fixing it.

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 7:22 am

Stevex — I am sure that Apple's industrial design is better. That's what they're known for. And the slot-load DVD is definitely a nice touch.

My HP Pavilion, running Vista, goes to sleep reliably (yes… finally), and handles monitor connect / disconnect properly as well. Many people I know simply couldn't believe that a PC did that the first time I showed them.

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stevex November 8, 2007 at 7:31 am

Is that a feature of the HP Pavilion? I don't think it's a Vista feature – I'm using a dual-monitor Vista setup right now and I just unplugged my 2nd monitor. Vista didn't seem to notice, just left me with windows I couldn't see. I know Thinkpad/Lenovo come with some software that helps manage external displays, maybe HP's done the same.

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Greg November 8, 2007 at 7:51 am

I think you are all mad. I've never owned a computer (be it desktop or laptop) that I've bothered to resell. The justification for even wanting to resell is "This thing is long in the tooth and I want something better/faster". Which is the same reason that by that point in time, the resale value is pretty much zero.

I sent a perfectly serviceable Barton Athlon 2600+ to a friend in the States for free (motherboard included) because I knew he'd get more value out of it than the $40 I might have been able to muster from eBay. Since it was a gift, but customs is always suspicious of technology, the customs declaration said, "obsolete and used computer parts with no resale value." We still chuckle about that label. ;-)

The fact that you CAN buy used computers (Macs in particular according to the person Alec reacted to) on eBay means that my argument isn't 100% concrete. But for most of us who are engaging in the debate here and today, I'm willing to bet that we're not on an obsolete-computer-reselling frenzy. We use them until they have no resale value whatsoever.

Which is why the initial outlay of cash is still a factor.

Nothing starts a discussion better than a good ol' Mac vs. PC debate. ;-)

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 8:04 am

Steve – it might be specific to the Pavilion, I don't know. The only dual monitor setup I use is with that PC.

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Alec November 8, 2007 at 8:05 am

Greg — I'm very much inclined to agree with you on that one. I, for one, have never sold a used PC. Have, on one or two occasions, bought them. One of them became an Asterisk PBX for a while, for example.

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Larry Borsato November 8, 2007 at 6:39 pm

I've never resold a computer either. I use them until they drop. But I pointed out that I did not pay a premium for my Macbook – I only buy laptops – but I would have because Macs are much better designed for users, and include all of the things that I really need.

That said, you should certainly stick to the products that work best for you. But if Macs actually help you work more effectively, as they do for me, then they are worth the price differential. A Chevy Cobalt and a Mercedes will both get you from point A to point B, but you pay more for the Mercedes for its design, comfort, and luxury. As I do for my Mac. PCs are functional; Macs are comfort and luxury.

It's funny though that there are two kinds of people; those who love and promote Macs, and those who tell you why they wouldn't buy one. But there are never any people who love and promote PCs. :)

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JLRoberson November 10, 2007 at 9:39 pm

"It’s funny though that there are two kinds of people; those who love and promote Macs, and those who tell you why they wouldn’t buy one. But there are never any people who love and promote PCs. :)"

There's no need to. PCs aren't a monolithic brand. They're something you can make, repair, and upgrade yourself without having to be an IT person. My computer was built with parts acquired cheap on Ebay and works beautifully(and I use it for graphic/art work). And if something gets screwed up, I can replace the part cheaply again. I don't have to think about resale. Oh, and I can be sure that just about every program I want will work on it.

I've worked with both. And Macs crash too. The difference is you don't have to call in a tech to fix a PC.

Oh, and on the monopoly issue: Steve Jobs is one hell of a PR guy. How else do you reconcile that he controls not only the software but the hardware on Macs and nobody ever calls that a monopoly? And a tight, vertical, and incredibly profitable one too.

Manjoo is a starry-eyed idiot speaking from a position of overprivilege–just look at his recent article about Alice Waters. And I think Jobs paid him to write this article–or I would if it wasn't the most feckless argument possible. A Mac's worth is in what you get when you get rid of it? Uh…okay…

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Webterractive December 17, 2007 at 10:08 am

Buying a Mac is the same as buying a PC. Except that when you can limit the hardware its not making things better or a better product its limiting the product. PCs of course are mass made and like American cars they loose their value. I would like to purchase a Mac, preferably used in order to recycle but some people think that you're going to pay $1000+ or more for a "Refurbished" computer then just buying a new one. It doesn't make sense to real world people but it does to Mac users.

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Webterractive December 17, 2007 at 10:09 am

I don't blame the Mac users either I am sure they would like to get their money back for the expensive hardware they dropped it on. Can you image if Windows only ran on Microsoft Hardware?

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macbigot July 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Judging by the number of whimpering mac fanboys rushing to the defense of the cheesy, hardware poor macs (few usb ports, no pc card of any kind, little ram), I think 1sucker/min is a little on low estimate.

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usedmacfanboy December 19, 2008 at 11:53 am

If you can afford one, you buy it. I'm amuzed by all of the cost justifications, but in the end most of us prefer something that works well and will pay more to to have it. It's design well, runs well, and is retains more value if you ever resell.

Win is slipping in the consumer markets (IE7 anyone?) but still dominates in business software, but I can run that on that on my mac as needed (quicken, etc) as well as running it way FASTER than on a pc.

I guess the real test would be how many people switch back to pc? or even better, see what happens when you try to sell your used pc.

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Used Macs? May 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm

@macbigot – would you be willing to make a wager? We could just ask Wolfram|Alpha…

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Tennis Raquets August 27, 2011 at 1:52 am

another sucker waiting to take your expensive used Mac off your hands for a hefty premium as well.

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nike Total 90 August 29, 2011 at 5:34 am

guess the real test would be how many people switch back to pc? or even better, see what happens when you try to sell your used pc.

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