Yesterday, Apple announced it would expand its self-repair program to include M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro devices, adding Mac parts and guides to the catalog for the first time. If you have an M1 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, or either an M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook Pro, you can now repair these devices yourself with Apple’s blessing. But it quickly gets confusing (and, worse, expensive).
A little about Apple’s self-repair program
In a twist that shocked no one, Apple made its self-repair program confusing, expensive, and generally unhelpful. The company launched the program in April, offering parts and manuals for a limited number of iPhones, but promising expanded product support in the future, as we saw with yesterday’s news.
To be clear, everything about this program is weird, from the extremely un-Apple-like website, to the inconsistent pricing, to the rentable tool kits Apple offers for a fee. Remember, Apple would much prefer you bring your broken device to one of its stores for repair, so it’s not going to make this experience particularly pleasant.
Still, it is a direct solution from Apple, which means we finally have a resource for official repair guides and genuine parts. Now that includes parts and guides for MacBooks, which is huge. Apple has been known to brick devices that use non-Apple parts (which is and will always be an aggressive anti-consumer move on their part), and they’ve kept guides out of the hands of third-party technicians, which makes repairs much more difficult.
Aside from being a window into each Apple device, guides are essential to Apple’s self-repair program: The company lists all the parts and tools you need to complete each repair, and what each costs.
How much do MacBook parts cost?
However, again, Apple doesn’t make it easy. Rather than offer you a simple price chart for all available parts, the company makes you enter the serial number for your device, then follow a menu tree to come across the relevant parts and their costs, which is a giant pain in the ass when you’re simply trying to research repair prices across the board.
Don’t bother doing this work yourself: The Verge’s Sean Hollister took the challenge head-on, compiling a complete list of MacBook parts and their corresponding prices. It’s illuminating to say the least, with some additional, bizarre Apple decision sprinkled on top.
For example, many parts you don’t buy at their real cost. Instead, Apple charges you an inflated price, at times a ridiculous amount of money, with a promised rebate if you send them your old part. At the extreme end, an M1 Max board for a 16-inch MacBook Pro with 64GB RAM and 8TB storage costs a staggering $4,222.24 up front, with a $3,634.40 rebate. That means the board really costs $587.84—an expensive board for an expensive machine, but much less than the more than four grand Apple asks you to place on your card at first.
It’s like this for most big parts: An M1 MacBook Air board with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage will cost you $526.24 up front, with a $158.40 rebate, for a final cost of $367.84. A trackpad costs $95.92 with a $17.60 rebate, meaning it really costs $78.32. Apple prices a MacBook Air battery at $119.25, with a $22.50 rebate, for a $96.75 price tag.
I specifically mention the MacBook Air here, by the way, because it’s the only MacBook Apple lets you buy a battery for. When it comes to the MacBook Pros, the company forces you to buy the entire bottom case, rather than just the battery, for anywhere from $527.12 to $615.12 with an $88 credit.
On the flip side, simple parts are pretty straightforward. A broken antenna module will cost a flat $15 to fix, while $12 gets you an audio board, and a battery cover asks only $4.50. But even then, you’ll need to consider your tools.
It’s probably not worth buying repair tools from Apple
Apple does tell you exactly which parts you need for each repair in the device’s repair guide, but the overall price will vary considerably depending on your repair.
If you need to remove the bottom case on your MacBook Pro, say in the event of a battery replacement or a keyboard swap, it’ll cost $300 to buy the bottom case removal kit. A display press for a MacBook Air display replacement will cost $200, and to replace its battery will cost $99.50 for the battery support and press plate. Not all parts cost this much—as is the case with the parts, tool prices vary, with plenty running less than $10 (the Touch ID alignment kit only costs $0.50). You’ll need to tally the tools Apple requires in the repair guide to see what the total cost would be, and whether you think you’d use those tools again.
If the tool cost is off the charts, or you don’t think you’d use them much, you might be better off renting Apple’s repair kit for $49: It’ll come with the tools you need to complete your repair, without needing to spend too much on the tools themselves. Sure, if you’re repairing one MacBook a week, the $49 adds up, but for a one-time repair—especially for a big repair—you’ll likely want to choose this option. Just make sure you send the kit back within seven days, or you risk Apple charging you additional fees.
An example MacBook repair cost
So, let’s give an example that puts this all together. I have an M1 MacBook Air that needs a battery replacement. After entering all my info, it looks like my battery will cost $96.75 if I send back my old battery ($119.25 if I don’t). I’ll also need battery adhesive for $9. As for tools, I’ll need a battery support frame and press plate, ESD-safe tweezers, Ethanol wipes or isopropyl alcohol (IPA) wipes, iPhone display press, Nylon probe (black stick), and a Torx T3 screwdriver, none of which I own. The display press is $216 on its own, so I’m not going to bother buying the tools; instead, I’ll rent them all for $49.
So, all in, we’re looking at $154.75, as long as I return my old battery and the repair kit in time. Expensive, sure, but presumably cheaper than taking it to the Apple Store, right? Let’s see: Apple quotes the same repair for my MacBook Air at, um…$129.
OK, this program clearly isn’t worth it for most repairs and for most people. Apple makes ordering the right parts and tools too complicated, and too expensive, all in an effort to send you back to their repair centers like old times. For many repairs, you need to put a huge charge on your credit card before sending in your old part for the rebate. Not to mention, if you mess up on the tool kit return, or you break or lose a tool, you risk getting charged big time.
You’ll need to weigh the costs for your particular repair situation Maybe Apple’s repair quote is higher than the parts and rental, which makes it economical to repair it yourself. Or, you’re sick of letting other people repair your stuff, and you’d rather give it a try on your own. Either way, I wish you luck—just don’t forget to return those rented tool kits.
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