How Government Car Auctions Work, And Who Can Participate In Them

October 8, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Online Auction

If you are interested in getting a good car at a price which is a steal, look no further than a government car auctions. Chances are you have heard of them, but probably don’t know how they work or how you can get involved.

In short, various federal, state, and local government and law enforcement agencies regularly auction off surplus, unclaimed, and seized property, including automobiles, equipment, and even real estate. These are collectively known as “government auctions.”

Who holds government auctions? The General Services Administration (GSA) is one of the largest.

Then there’s the FBI, IRS, DEA, U.S. Marshals, Department of the Treasury, Homeland Security, and Border Patrol, to name a few. State, county, and local governments also have regular auctions.

Included are state police, DOT, city and county law enforcement, city and county administrative departments, and fire departments. Some government auctions are surplus property auctions and sell everything from computers, furniture, forklifts, to vehicles.

Some specialize in selling cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. Banks and lending institutions also repossess property and automobiles from non-paying customers, and sell the goods through public auctions.

Government seized-property or surplus auctions are held all over the country at various locations and on various schedules. Typically an event is held at a particular location on a regular basis – usually monthly or quarterly or annually.

Local and national newspapers often have listings and details. Usually these are more than just car sales.

All kinds of property are included, including real estate. All vehicle types, makes, and models are sold at such auctions – SUVs, coupes, sedans, vans, minivans, even convertibles.

Obviously, these government agencies and lending institutions are hoping to get as much money as possible for their goods. But good bargains and cheap cars can be had.

Otherwise, the events wouldn’t be as popular as they are and no one would participate. To buy at auction, you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid drivers license.

Many auctions have a preview period of about two days preceding the auction in which you can look over and inspect the vehicles. However, in most cases, you will not be able to drive the vehicles although you can start them and check them over as much as you like.

And there are no warranties or guarantees, which is no different than most other used-car sales. For most government-run events there are no buyers fees or registration charges.

The price of the vehicle is all you pay. There may be fees for auctions run by professional companies.

To become a good buyer, a little practice and self-training can help tremendously. You can significantly lower your risks by knowing what you’re doing, knowing about the car(s) you want, researching your pricing, and understanding how the process works.

These events typically move very fast, so you should attend a few just to learn the pace and bidding techniques. If there is a “catch” to government car sales, it’s that there’s competition in the bidding.

If the car you want is popular and in great condition, you can expect other people, including used-car dealers, to be just as interested in it as you are. Competition and heavy bidding will drive prices up – sometimes beyond the real value of the vehicle.

Don’t get caught up in the frenzy and overpay. Set a spending limit on each car you’re interested in.

The best bargains are usually on the older less-than-perfect vehicles that dealers don’t want to spend time and money on. Dealers go for the relatively late-model higher-priced vehicles.

Since dealers want to make a profit by buying low and selling high, you might be able to pick up a good car by bidding slightly higher than a dealer is willing to pay. Or bid on older vehicles that dealers don’t want.

You must be willing to bid and lose in any kind of event. You must also be willing to bid and win, and be prepared to pay cash or finance within the required time set by the auction company.

You can apply for a pre-approved used-car loan at your bank or credit union and be prepared in case you win a bid. Personal checks are not usually accepted, although credit cards, money orders, certified checks, and traveler’s checks are accepted.

Tommy Greene has worked as an auctioneer for the past 18 years and written hundreds of articles about penny auctions and Bidsauce.

Contact Info:
Tom Selwick