How to Confidently Select the Best Sellback Partner

June 1, 2020

If you’re refreshing your devices and are looking for a company to purchase your current fleet, chances are you’ve run into a number of trade-in companies that look the same. Many promise the highest payout and outstanding customer service, so how can you choose the best partner with confidence from pickup to payout?

According to technology directors, one of the best ways to make a smart selection is to network with peers, such as members of ACTEM, to leverage their experience with companies with whom they have worked.

Scott Nason, Director of technology at Bonny Eagle, the largest school administrative district in Maine, has done several device refreshes and sellbacks over the past five years. “When we first decided to sell back devices, there weren’t that many options because the industry was so new,” said Nason. “We did an online search and selected a company, which worked out okay, but we really had nothing to compare it to.” Today, Nason says he gets as many as four emails a week from trade-in companies looking to buy devices. With his last sell back, Nason sought the recommendation of his Apple rep and peers. “Most school districts have traded in devices by now, so there are a lot of people who can be helpful in selecting a sellback partner,” said Nason. “If you talk with enough colleagues and peers you can draw your own conclusions.” If you can’t talk with peers, ask for references and call them. A good sellback company should be able to provide you 25 or more references.

In addition to networking with peers, there are a number of other ways to make a confident selection.


Some trade-in companies will bid high to win the business, and then will not pay out the full amount or deliver the services you were expecting. Ask for a detailed grading scale, and look for hidden deductions, costs, and other items that may result in a lower payout. Ask peers how close their payout was to the quote price. Also, determine what is included in the quote, such as free pick up or shipping, sorting, asset tag removal, and hard drive erasure.


It can be tempting to simply rank trade-in companies by price, but that only tells part of the story.

Peter Robinson, technology director at Auburn School Department in Maine, solicited information and quotes from five different companies for his last sellback. One company sent an expert out to do a pre-assessment of the schools’ devices, and then based the quote on the information gathered during that visit. “Their quote wasn’t the highest and it wasn’t the lowest, and that wasn’t a bad thing,” said Robinson. “We felt the high quote was unrealistic and the low quote was really low. We were impressed that the sellback company we eventually chose was trying to do the right thing and guaranteed the price they quoted.”

Nason agrees, adding that transparency is paramount. “You can get a feel for a trade-in company by how transparent and proactive they are. A good company will guide you through the process.” It’s also smart to check out a trade-in company’s finances to make sure they haven’t defaulted on transactions, and that you will be paid promptly for your devices.


No two school districts are the same, so you shouldn’t be treated like a commodity. Look for a sellback company that gets creative with challenges and works to meet your specific needs.

For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, some schools were concerned about how to safely take back devices from students. Second Life Mac developed a Touchless Trade-in automated drive-through device drop off program that allows students and administrators to maintain social distancing and doesn’t require schools to handle any devices. The process is based on a proprietary QR code that links the student to the device being traded in. Also, ensure the company you choose is able to handle your project. Big or small, you want to know your trade-in is important and that the company can handle your devices safely and securely.


Some trade in vendors will broker your devices and sell them to another company for refurbishing. This becomes a problem if data on the devices isn’t properly erased, or if unlocked devices are sold and new owners start contacting the school for help. Likewise, it is important to ask if the vendor employs temporary workers in sensitive positions, including device pick up and refurbishing, which are parts of the process where data can be compromised. The right sellback partner can give you confidence that your refresh will go smoothly. A little due diligence in your selection will ensure you find a partner you can count on.

About the author: Megan Finnegan-Ratliff is director of procurement at Second Life Mac. She can be reached at



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