What are Government Car Auctions?

Ken Black

Government car auctions are those held by various levels of the government in an attempt to liquidate vehicles that are no longer needed. These vehicles could come from a number of different sources, with most being older service vehicles, or seized assets. These auctions are a favorite source of used cars for many dealers, but are open to the general public as well.

Government car auctions might include sedans formerly used by agencies.
Government car auctions might include sedans formerly used by agencies.

While many people may be interested in government car auctions for the sedans and traditional vehicles that may be available, this is just a portion of what can typically be found. Government vehicles may include graders and street sweepers, to name a few. Industrial vehicles such as dump trucks and even garbage vehicles may also be up on the auction block occasionally, making it a viable source for equipment for various private contractors.

Government car auctions may include traditional cars, but they may also include industrial vehicles as well.
Government car auctions may include traditional cars, but they may also include industrial vehicles as well.

These government car auctions may be held in a number of different ways. If it is a local or state government, the most common way is to meet at a physical location, bring out the various vehicles, and conduct proceedings very much like a typical auction. In the United States, the federal government commonly uses traditional auctions as well. Some auctions may also be held online, and there may even be silent government car auctions from time to time.

Finding government car auctions is usually not difficult, if you know where to look. Government agencies such as departments of transportation regularly post announcements on their Web sites. Usually, the law requires these notices be posted, perhaps even in a newspaper or on television. Several online sources, both free and subscription based, also keep track of auctions throughout the country.

For those interested in going to, or purchasing vehicles from, government car auctions, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Typically, the mileage on the vehicles will be more, sometimes substantially more, than the mileage on private vehicles of similar age. While this may be a concern to some, government vehicles are also usually better maintained than other vehicles. Thus, it is possible to get a vehicle at a government auction that is in better shape than a similar vehicle with much less mileage.

With nearly all such auctions, sales are usually final, and payment must happen before you leave. Though there may be some recourse if the vehicle does not work as expected, especially if it was represented as a fully functional vehicle, the buyer should exercise caution. In nearly all cases, the winning bidder will be expected to provide payment nearly immediately. Therefore, those who need financing should get pre-approval, or risk having their bid voided and the car put back on the auction block.

Government car auctions may on occasion feature garbage trucks.
Government car auctions may on occasion feature garbage trucks.

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