Getting AppleCare for my new MacBook Pro 2021 was surprisingly confusing

An AppleCare+ logo is overlaid on top of an image of the 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

I just spent $2,799 on a new MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), so you might not be surprised to hear that I wasn't going to just let that investment go unprotected. This means I was also going to buy some AppleCare, the warranty coverage that guarantees you repairs and support (including against incidents of accidental damage). 

Unfortunately, I was slightly confused by the options presented. Apple gives you not one, but two, ways to buy AppleCare Plus For Mac, and both left me asking questions. Your options, as presented at checkout, are "Annual coverage until cancelled" for $99.99 per year and "three years of coverage" for $279. 

Instead of just thinking about the short-term protection, and moving on, I started wondering about how it all works. This is probably because I think of a laptop (especially one this expensive) as a long-term project. And so I dove in to the complexities of it all to figure out the ins and outs of AppleCare Plus for the Mac.

Annual AppleCare Plus for Mac explained

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Annual AppleCare Plus for Mac3-year AppleCare Plus For Mac
Price$99 per year$279
Option to renewAnnuallyYou can switch to annual plan after three years
What's included?24/7 support, Apple-certified repairs (including mail-in for MacBooks)24/7 support, Apple-certified repairs (including mail-in for MacBooks)
Accidental damage protectionUp to two incidents every 12 monthsUp to two incidents every 12 months

The proverbial sirens started flashing in my brain once I'd read "Annual coverage until cancelled," because of the lack of explanation of two things. "Who is doing the canceling?" I wondered, before thinking "how long can this coverage last?"

When I first tried to get help from Apple support via text and phone representatives, I talked with some people who were a bit unsure. One seemed to think it could go on indefinitely, and another started talking about monthly payments. I started to wonder if there was a new Apple One subscription bundle tier that I hadn't heard of (AppleCare Plus for the iPhone has a $9.99 per month option).

AppleCare Plus for Mac options at checkout

(Image credit: Apple)

When I started poking around Apple's own site, I found the following language on this page about Extend your AppleCare Plus coverage:

If you paid upfront for an AppleCare+ plan for your Mac, you might be able to purchase new coverage that renews annually.

So, I went out to my local Apple store, set an appointment up and expected answers, which I actually got. The knowledgable Alison explained that Apple devices can stay in AppleCare, as long as Apple's still got the parts necessary. 

Once a device's repair parts are no longer around, a piece of Apple hardware becomes "vintage," (Alison's word) the timing can vary greatly, but California law requires Apple to allow for "service and parts may be obtained for longer, as required by law or for up to 7 years." subject to parts availability. The window for a extended battery-only repair is wider, as Apple claims "up to 10 years."

The three-year AppleCare Plus for Mac explained

This is simpler. Apple gives you $30 off for buying three years of AppleCare Plus for Mac up front. 

And while the checkout page at Apple didn't explain this, you will be able to move to the annual AppleCare Plus for Mac plan once you're out of this three-year window.

For what it's worth, I went with this plan. My last MacBook Pro lasted 9 years, but required some maintenance along the way, so I know I will to have support for at least the next three years.

How Annual AppleCare Plus for Mac ends

All that said, there's the matter of how your AppleCare Plus for Mac plan ends. If you have the three-year plan, it will just end at the end of that time (though you could reach out to Apple to switch to annual). 

If you choose to cancel your plan, it will end when you terminate service.

But if your AppleCare must end because of the parts issues mentioned above, you will be informed about it within 60 days. Then, you will be given a prorated refund based on the amount of time left in your plan. 

This is understandable and all, but I just wish this was all a little more clearly inked out on Apple's website. 

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Catalina314
    Thanks for this! I found the new AppleCare very confusing as well. To me, it depends on the timeframe. The traditional "3-year" plan is actually a 2-year plan that extends the automatic 1-year warranty. Coverage for 3 years, yes, but what you are purchasing is a 2-year plan on top of the item's standing coverage.
    By this logic, the annual plan should kick in at year two. At the end of three years, you would have paid just $198 (99 x 2 for years two and three, with year one covered by standard warranty). So you would actually save money on the annual plan (198 vs 279 bulk plan).
    The $30 savings you penciled out means you are paying $99 for a year one warranty that duplicates the basic warranty that comes with the laptop.
    You do get more now, with the accidental coverage for 2 incidents. But that should be prorated in Year 1, because the warranty coverage is already included (vs years 2&3, where the $99 buys accident coverage AND extended warranty).
    My question is: when do you pay the annual plan fee? For year one (right away), or at the start of year two, when the warranty ends? Your column suggests its the former. That seems outrageous, but does make the standard 3-year bulk plan the better buy. Can you clarify @henrytcasey ? Thanks.