One of the primary reasons I buy Apple’s overpriced hardware is to avoid trips to the computer repair shop. It’s a hassle, it’s expensive, it leaves you without your devices for a few days or weeks – no thank you! Mishaps are inevitable, though. And when something goes wrong, you’ll find yourself looking for a repair shop for Apple devices.
The most obvious choice is going to the Apple Store. There, you’ll find a solution for nearly any Apple device you might own (assuming it’s not considered a “classic” device). A perk of going to the Apple Store is that they nearly always get things right. You’ll be getting genuine parts, a fast solution to your problem, and benefits like temporary device replacements that only Apple offers.
You’re also going to get a big price tag most of the time. Apple charges a hefty fee for device repairs, and sometimes (like in the case of water damage) they won’t even fix it – they’ll just offer to replace it for an even bigger price tag. AppleCare can help (read here), but not everyone can afford Apple’s device insurance.
That’s why many Apple users opt for an independent repair shop for Apple devices. You’ll nearly always get a better price than at the Apple Store. The service is often friendlier, too, and you’ll get an overall more personal experience.
An independent repair shop can also create more problems. Sometimes they diagnose the problem incorrectly, charge for parts you didn’t need, or make repairs with non-standard parts.
In this article, we’re going to cover how you can pick a repair shop for Apple devices while also avoiding the pitfalls they occasionally come with. We’ll cover when you should consider an independent shop over an Apple Store (and vice versa). Then, we’ll get into some specific tips you can use to tell the good repair shops from the less-good options.
When should you use a repair shop for Apple devices instead of an Apple Store?
Unless you have a nearby repair shop for Apple devices that you know you can trust, I wouldn’t recommend always taking your Apple devices to an independent repair shop. Apple’s repair services are expensive, but they’re also incredibly reliable. You’ll rarely regret taking your devices there – although your wallet almost surely will.
To help you better decide when you should take your device to the Apple Store over an independent option, here are some decisive factors to consider.
Apple has quoted you far too high
If Apple has quoted you for a repair that you can’t afford, then you should look to a repair shop for Apple devices. Repair shops will likely give you a more affordable price than what Apple presents.
That’s not to say that you’ll get a low price at an independent shop. Sometimes, a repair is just going to be costly no matter what. But you should be guaranteed a lower price.
Apple will give you a quote for free, so there’s no reason not to go to an Apple Store first. You can easily schedule an appointment online in a few minutes. If you’re having a software issue, Apple Support will also help you fix the issue for free. I experienced this firsthand when my partner deleted the “Photos Library.photoslibrary” file from the Pictures folder in Finder. Deleting this file completely breaks the Photos app, so I have no idea why it’s even possible for the average user to easily drop it in the Trash to begin with.
Regardless, I was able to get support for the issue within 30 minutes of contacting Apple Support. They used remote screen sharing to view what I was doing on the Mac and helped me create a new version of the missing file.
The moral of the story is that Apple will fix a lot of issues for you for free. I’ve had keyboards replaced for free, was once offered a free upgrade on my iPad, and so on. So shoot your shot and see what Apple quotes you before contacting an independent place!
The only time I wouldn’t recommend getting a quote from Apple first is if your repair is time-critical and you know that you can’t afford Apple’s price. If you need your computer for work or school and are strapped for cash, then go for the fastest, most affordable route. That will likely be an independent repair spot.
You know Apple will deny your repair
A reason to skip Apple over an independent repair shop for Apple devices is if you know Apple won’t fix your device. This can happen for a few reasons:
- Your device is too old for Apple to repair (5-7+ years old)
- You’ve damaged your device in such a way that Apple will only offer to replace it, not repair it (e.g., Apple doesn’t fix water-damaged iPhones – it just replaces them for a high price)
- There are multiple things wrong with your device. If this is the case, Apple usually won’t fix just one issue – it’ll either fix everything or nothing
I encountered this last point a few months ago. I went in to have one of my MacBooks’ batteries replaced. It was shipped off and everything, and I had already had the $200 replacement hold placed on my card.
The issue is, though, that this MacBook also has busted hinges. You have to be careful opening and closing it. The computer is still usable and can otherwise be repaired. But Apple halted the battery replacement and tacked on the additional $600 charge for repairing the hinges.
Apple did email me before making this new repair, which I appreciate. But there was no option to only fix the battery and ignore the hinges – the price was now $800 or nothing for a machine I plan on replacing in a few months anyway. So my MacBook was shipped back, unrepaired, and I had to go a week without my MacBook for nothing.
Point being: If you need something simple done on your Mac but know that there’s another issue that Apple’s going to catch, and you don’t want that other issue tackled right now, then go to an indie shop. They’ll work with you to fix what you want fixed – not what they want to fix.
A repair shop for Apple devices is the only option in your area
If this is you, then you probably don’t need me to throw this one out there. But I’m including it in case you think it’s worth it to travel several hours for an Apple Store repair:
Don’t. Yes, Apple Stores will nearly always take better care of your issues than an independent repair shop for Apple devices. But it’s not so much better that it’s worth going out of your way for.
I would say that if you live more than two hours away from the nearest Apple Store and Apple doesn’t offer free ship-in repairs to your area, just opt for an indie shop. This is especially true for those that live in regions where there are no Apple Stores or ship-in repairs available.
For those that don’t know, Apple does offer free ship-ins for repairs that can’t be resolved over the phone. These are only available in certain regions, but it’s worth looking into!
Your device needs a minor repair
This one might not be so obvious – if you don’t need a serious repair to your device, stick to a local repair shop for Apple devices. This includes battery replacements and cracked screens.
Apple offers these repairs to everyone, but you can almost always find a more affordable option locally. And the result likely won’t be any different than Apple’s own repair.
The only caveat I would suggest here is to make sure you find a reliable shop. I once had an iPad screen replaced at a local shop for $100 as opposed to the $200+ Apple charged at the time.
At first, I didn’t have any issues with the repair. Within a week, though, I noticed that the corners of the screen were lifting up. More and more areas of the screen continued to lift, and then one day, about two months later, the entire screen spiderwebbed in my hand. It wasn’t dropped, I didn’t squeeze it between my hands. I just lifted it off the table to start reading, and a spiderweb crack spread from where I was holding it.
Had I been a little older and a little less broke, I probably would’ve gone back to the shop to complain before it cracked. But I was young and broke and never stuck it to the guy.
Anyway, my roundabout point is that local shops are a great way to save money on simple repairs that can’t be messed up. Just make sure you’re dealing with a shop with enough competency that they won’t flub such a simple repair. Yelp reviews are a great way to suss this out!
You’re ok with not having your device for a few days/weeks
Last but not least, consider how long you can afford to be without your device. This primarily applies to Macs, as iPhone and iPad repairs happen relatively quickly (usually within a few hours) regardless of who repairs your device. A Mac repair, on the other hand, can take several days or even a few weeks.
If time is of the essence, then stick to Apple for your Mac repairs. You’ll hardly ever be without your Mac for more than two weeks no matter what the reason for the repair is. That’s because Apple already has all of the parts, experience, and guides required to make the repair.
An independent shop, on the other hand, will likely need to order parts for your Mac. That alone can add a week to your repair time. They’ll also have fewer people to work on your device and overall fewer resources.
Again, if you have a simple repair, you can probably get the repair in just a few days at either an Apple Store or an independent repair shop for Apple devices. But if it’s something more complicated, like failing internal hardware, then an indie shop might need more time to get the parts and make the repair. Something to consider if you can’t wait the extra week it might take for your repair to be completed!
How to pick a repair shop for Apple devices
And that’s it! That’s everything you should consider when deciding between an Apple Store or a repair shop for Apple devices. Now, we’re going to proceed as if you’ve decided that an indie shop is the way to go for you.
Below are a handful of strategies you can use to sort the good repair shops from the not-so-good ones. As we’ve covered, you’ll get a more affordable but also less consistent experience at repair shops. By using these strategies, you can improve that consistency and possibly even find a shop you like more than your local Apple Store.
Check for Apple Authorized Service Provider repair shops
First things first, look for a repair shop for Apple devices that is an Apple Authorized Service Provider. Apple has a program that shops can apply for, similar to its MFi program. When shops apply for this program, Apple ensures that they’re offering a certain level of quality with their repairs and services.
Then, if they make the cut, Apple will provide them with additional resources. Those resources include genuine parts (although Apple is now offering genuine parts and tools to non-ASP shops for the first time), reimbursements for under-warranty repairs (this can lower the cost for you), and repair guides.
In short, it just means that Apple has given that particular repair shop a stamp of approval and some extra tools to get the job done right. You can find an Apple ASP shop here.
Now, it’s important to note that this certification is not a silver bullet for making sure you get a reliable repair shop. This shop could have just been behaving nicely in order to get the certification, it could have replaced all the staff/management since the certification was received, etc.
Obviously, though, it will increase the chances of the shop being a reliable place to have your Apple devices repaired. So don’t overlook it. It should be the first thing you check, but not the only thing.
What about Geek Squad..?
Geek Squad is usually an Apple ASP, so I figured I’d give you some advice on them, too. To be clear, this is just my opinion based on my anecdotal experience, not a fact. That said, my opinionated advice based on anecdotal experience is…
Do not bother with them!!!
Some of the staff are very competent, and some are just your typical hourly workers. I don’t mean this as an insult to the workers or anything – we’re all trying to make a buck out here. But it seems that Best Buy puts very little resources into these teams.
Like a lot of corporate programs, Geek Squad seems to just exist to further crush small tech shops in your area while simultaneously exploiting customers. The fact that it’s backed by Best Buy does not mean you’re getting a better experience than your local repair shop. My experience has been that it’s the opposite – you’re getting a worse deal.
Case in point: This Reddit AMA where a (seemingly) former Geek Squad member explains how the whole thing is a scam. You can find repair shop owners in the comments correcting this former Geek Squad member’s talking points even as that former worker is tearing Geek Squad down. They don’t even know enough about fixing computers to properly insult Best Buy or give you a look behind the curtain.
It highlights how Geek Squad is there to keep you in Best Buy, spending more money than you need to and replacing your computer instead of getting it fixed. Don’t fall for the marketing and stick to your local experts.
Read reviews and ask for suggestions before you visit a repair shop for Apple devices
In my opinion, the second most important thing to check for is reviews. What do people think of this shop? I know Yelp has a bit of a Karen-y context, but I love it. It has answers to any questions you could have about a business from people who have had firsthand experience shopping at that business.
Google Reviews are kind of helpful, too, but I find people put far less thought into those reviews. And I generally don’t trust reviews on a shop’s site (or any kind of business, really) as they can fake and slant the reviews at their leisure. These same things can happen on Yelp, but I’ve been using the app for five years now and have found it to be pretty accurate.
The one thing I would advise against when using Yelp is looking at star ratings! Star ratings are surprisingly inconsistent. I still wouldn’t spend too much time looking at a shop that has less than three stars. But the differences between 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star business on Yelp will generally be personal experiences and not reflective of your potential experience.
Instead, read the reviews! If a place has three stars because two people are ranting about a rude cashier, then it’s probably just as good as the 4-star repair shop. Conversely, you may see a 5-star shop that doesn’t use genuine parts, and only one or two reviewers noticed while the rest unknowingly gave it a glowing review.
So use Yelp and look for a repair shop for Apple devices that has favorable, reasonable reviews and a 3+ rating.
Try to get a price check before you bring your device in
This point is not always available and even when it is, still might not be reflective of the final price you pay. But it can give you a better idea of what a repair shop is going to charge you.
Get a quote! Most places allow you to call them, text them, email them, or instant message them. Do one of these things, explain your issue, and ask for a rough estimate of the cost of the repair.
Just like when trying to get a quote from a car mechanic, some are going to be stubborn about it. They’ll refuse to give a quote until they’ve looked at the device, which makes it harder for you to shop around and plan for the repair.
Sometimes, a repair shop for Apple devices really can’t give you an estimate. Water damage, for instance, could be a quick clean-up or a major overhaul for your device. And there’s no way for a technician to determine which it is without opening the device up. The same goes for data recovery.
But if you have a more standard repair, like a screen replacement or broken charging port, then you should be able to get a quote from a shop. So look around online, ask questions (another perk of Yelp is that allows you to message businesses), and start putting a list together in your Notes app of the different prices.
Just remember that this is a quote, not a promise. Someone could quote you $50 for a screen repair, take your device apart, and realize that whatever cracked your screen also destroyed your motherboard. So give the quote some leeway and be prepared for the price to change. Shops shouldn’t make additional repairs without your permission, so they’ll likely let you know before the price increases.
Consider your repair needs ahead of time
Another point to consider is your repair needs. What do you need to be done on your device, and what kind of shop would you like to do it? Again, this is kind of like taking your car to an auto repair shop. If your AC is going out, don’t bring it to someone who specializes in transmissions. You might get worse or no service.
The same goes for finding a repair shop for Apple devices! Simple repairs like battery and screen swaps can be done by pretty much anybody. You can even bring it to the local mall and have one of those dime-a-dozen cracked screen repair kiosks take care of it if that’s your thing. This goes for most iPhone and iPad repairs, honestly, since they’re so common and usually very simple.
On the other hand, I would be extremely choosey about where I bring my Mac. Especially if I’m having an issue like water damage, data recovery, malware, etc. These are not “pop a bad part out and put a new one in” type repairs. The person not only needs experience but some serious technical know-how.
If you’re in this boat, then seek out a specialist. Not all areas will have a specialist, especially if you live in a rural area. But you can sometimes find a specialist that will let you ship your device to them. The Rossmann Group Repair Group, a famous tech repair shop, provides mail-in services.
Opt for an on-site repair if it makes sense
On the opposite end of the spectrum of mail-in repairs are on-site repairs. With an on-site repair, the repair technicians will come to you. If you’re at work or home, you can hire an on-site technician to come to your workplace or house. They’ll have all of the tools and parts they need, allowing them to finish the repair right there.
As you can probably guess, this is not always a viable option. You might not have any on-site technicians in your area, they may have canceled these services permanently or temporarily in the face of the pandemic, or they might not be able to make the repair you need on-site.
Like many of the points in this post, you’ll only be able to reap the benefits of an on-site repair if your repair needs are simple. Cracked screens and old batteries are a common contender for on-site repairs. Just make sure that you’re sure what your repair is. You don’t want to pay for someone to arrive at your home only to realize you gave them the wrong device model or described the problem incorrectly.
Don’t be afraid to question a repair shop for Apple devices
This is something that we all do from time to time. You’re doing business with a shop whose services you don’t fully understand, and rather than get clarification, you nervously go along with whatever you’re being told.
Don’t do this! I know that’s easier said than done (believe me!). But really, technicians are not out to get you. Let them know about any concerns you have. Do you have a budget? Need your Mac back by Monday? Worried that you might lose your data? Aren’t sure you understand what they’re going to be doing?
Just ask! You’re paying them, and they no doubt answer questions all day long. It’s part of the job, after all. So check on any information that you feel like you need, get emails and receipts, make sure you understand the charges, etc. You can also let the technician know your budget upfront if that’s a concern. This way, they don’t proceed with work you can’t afford.
It can also be useful to ask for a technician’s hourly rate. Oftentimes, they won’t be charging a flat rate. You’ll be charged for parts and the time it takes to make the repair. Knowing their hourly rate can help you form an estimate for the repair cost.
Don’t return to a repair shop for Apple devices that burned you
Last but not least, don’t return to a repair shop that burns you. You should have a good experience, whether it’s Apple or a repair shop for Apple devices fixing your device. If you don’t, then just go somewhere else!
In most areas (at least in the U.S.), you’ll have a few different repair shops in your area at least. Don’t keep returning to the same shop that let you down just because it’s familiar to you. Branch out until you find one that gets it right nearly every time.
I’ve even done this with Apple Stores. At one point in time, I lived in an area where I was within driving distance of three Apple Stores. I had a bad experience at one where I was told a certain repair couldn’t be done for less than $800. I had this repair for the same device before and knew this wasn’t the case. So I declined service, went to a different Apple Store, and was given the repair for free.
Now, I’m not saying you should expect free service just by switching around. I wasn’t even expecting that at the time. But if you aren’t feeling the repair shop, have a negative experience, or just want to try other options, try those other options! You have more options, and they have more customers. You’ll both be better off in the long run.
Sometimes, you’re better off letting Apple handle your repair
And that’s it- well, almost. There was one last point I wanted to touch on. This last point may seem to contradict the rest of the post, but it is something I believe in:
Sometimes, you’re better off letting Apple fix your device. Aside from the high price, Apple nearly always gets it right. I’ve only had two negative experiences with Apple’s tech support, and that’s after more than five years of being an Apple customer.
As painful for the wallet as it can be, Apple’s service does a good job of living up to its luxury status. It’s also one of the core reasons I continue to purchase Apple products. I’m fairly confident they’re going to be reliable for several years, and when they have an issue, I trust Apple to be readily available for a fix.
If you can afford it, don’t want to be bothered by the hassle of finding an independent repair shop, or really, really need a proper repair, then going with Apple is a valid option. I don’t think anyone should necessarily avoid going to the Apple Store for repairs.
All that said, I do hope that more people give independent repair shops a shot. In my experience, a majority of them have been more than competent, far more personable than Apple, and way more communicative. Not to mention the better prices and the knowledge that you’re giving a boost to local businesses.
Find a repair shop for Apple devices and get your devices working again
And that’s it! For real this time. I hope you enjoyed this article! For better or worse, I’ve had a lot of experience with Apple Stores and the occasional repair shop for Apple devices, too.
In some ways, the services are very distinct. Going to Apple is like going to a local fast food joint. You know the experience will be consistent and in line with your expectations. Indie shops are more like mom-and-pop diners. The experience may vary, but will nearly always feel a little better. So long as you keep these strategies in mind, of course!
For more insights, news, and guides on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.
See you next time!