Gavel on top of a computer used to access online government auctions

How to Find Good Deals at Government Auctions

Going to a government auction can be a great way to obtain goods at a nice price. Each year, millions of items are seized by the government or confiscated by government organizations. This naturally leaves a lot of surplus with limited space. Instead of destroying these goods, the government sells them at auctions. They are generally sold at the highest bidder, which means you can buy things for much less than they’re worth.

What is a government auction?

Government auctions are held by a professional auctioneer to sell surplus goods. It is either done in person or on a website. Through government websites such as GSAauctions, anyone can take advantage of online auctions.

You’ve probably seen an advertisement for a government-held auction. Usually, people hear about it through the mail, television, or radio. Items can be sold for simply pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, not every sale is open to the public. Wholesale only auctions are not open to the public and each state has its won separate rules for these auctions.

What appears at public auctions is the stuff that wasn’t sold at wholesale. Again, the rules are different based on what state the auction is occurring in. sadly, the best stuff is sold at wholesale, so don’t go to these sales expecting to find a Ferrari.

There are special types of auctions called police auctions. These are goods that have been specifically confiscated by the police and cannot be returned to their original owners. While this can be goods from other people, it may also be old police equipment that is no longer useful. Usually, these items are taken during investigations or arrests.

What can you buy at a government auction?

Online government auctions sell anything from property to cars to office supplies. GSAauctions provides the list of what you can purchase by category or based on your zip code. One of the most popular things sold at government auctions are vehicles. These are cars that have been seized for a number of reasons and are now being resold.

However, that isn’t all you can purchase. Generally, items are separated into two categories: real and personal property. Real property includes land, single-family homes, commercial buildings, and farms. Personal property is anything else that isn’t real property – vehicles, jewelry, electronics, etc.

Can you find good deals at government auctions?

Yes and no. The government knows better than to sell hot items for too cheap. This is a way for the government to make money using goods that would otherwise be destroyed, so it’ll want to maximize its profits. That doesn’t mean you’ll never find a great deal.

Objects that are considered surplus will be sold to wholesale, but if the property makes it to public auction, it’ll be pretty cheap. If you’re looking for a car, a seized or impounded vehicle may be a great option. It will be much less than if you went through a car dealership. However, it’s important to know that these cars are sold “as-is.” If it requires major mechanical repairs, you are not under warranty. The repairs must be done yourself.

You can also find great deals on anything from computers, furniture, and farming equipment. There are risks when you purchase anything because you aren’t sure of exactly the quality. There is also a lot of competition in bidding during a government auction. If something is good, it’ll probably be popular. Spending over your limit is easy, so be aware of what you’re doing during these auctions. 

Last Updated: January 18, 2016