Auction systems article_20140430_top 5 things to know about government surplus auctions
TOP 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT
a u c t i o n A N D a p p r a i s e . c o m
Municipal, county, state and federal agencies hold government surplus auctions
when they have property they no longer need to conduct ongoing business.
Although the agency may have no use for an item, you just might!
What’s considered a government surplus item? By definition, a surplus is anything
produced or acquired in excess of what’s needed. In a government scenario, a
surplus refers to any item that has outlived its useful life for a particular agency. The
agency has determined selling the item at auction makes better financial sense than
maintaining, repairing and/or storing it for possible future use.
Each item a government agency owns has an opportunity cost. When an agency
decides an item is surplus, it has determined the proceeds of a sale can be put to
better use than the value the item currently provides.
Here’s what you need to know to make the most of attending a government surplus
1. You can often find items at below market prices.
Why do so many people attend government surplus auctions? Primarily, it’s because
they can find below-market prices on surplus property – sometimes items sell for less
than half their market value. Even big ticket items like vehicles can be purchased at
amazingly low prices.
Because government surplus auctions are open to the public, anyone can bid on
items. No special credentials are needed to get a good deal.
In fact, many people attend government surplus auctions with the intention of
reselling items they buy. Reselling for profit has become an attractive business
opportunity for auction goers. It not only puts cash in your pocket, it’s a lot of fun!
2. The diversity of items at a government surplus auction is a major
What can you find at a government surplus auction? The answer is easy anything
any agency uses in its operation is fair game for a surplus auction.
For attendees, this diversity adds to the excitement. Because you never know what
you’ll find from one event to another, government surplus auctions are one of the
best places to shop for all kinds of property. Plus, the inventory is always changing,
which keeps people coming back.
Some examples of items include:
• Heavy Equipment
• Office Furnishings
• Building Materials
• Kitchen Appliances
• And lots more!
Vehicles represent a big category for government surplus auctions. Because
maintenance and repair costs tend to be higher for cars, trucks and other vehicles,
government agencies have to run the numbers on an ongoing basis to determine if
it makes sense to keep them. So, sometimes the vehicles offered at auction are in
great working order and just may be older with higher mileage. Other times they
don’t run at all and require repairs.
Usually the government agency and the auction service they hire will note any
problems with vehicles. However, it’s up to you as a bidder to do a thorough
inspection to determine current condition and value.
3. Items offered can be in excellent condition or in need of repair.
As discussed above, surplus just means the government agency no longer uses the
item. It doesn’t necessarily mean the item has no value; it just no longer has value
to the agency. Once an item has served its intended purpose, it can have lots of
useful life left.
Agencies have many reasons for disposing of an item. For example, if an agency
buys too much material or products for a project, they can auction the excess to the
public. Also, if an agency needs more room, it can decide to sell some property
and re-purpose storage space. In these cases, the surplus property can be in
Finally, an agency may be holding onto items that are in need of repair. Rather than
make that investment, they decide to auction the assets to the highest bidder. In
this scenario, they can use the sale proceeds for more productive projects rather
than for repairing or storing non-functioning property.
Given surplus property may not be in working order, it is imperative you realize
all items are sold as-is. The government agency and auction service provides no
guarantees or warranties on anything sold.
Therefore, you must carefully inspect any item of interest before you bid. In the
case of vehicles, make sure you take along a mechanic if you’re not mechanically
The auction house will conduct in-person inspection periods prior to the live
auction event. Usually these inspections span multiple days and will be announced
well in advance of auction day. Only after you evaluate an item and note any flaws
can you determine the true market value (and your maximum bid).
4. It’s important to understand how the auction is conducted.
As noted previously, government surplus auctions are open to the public, so any
private citizen over 18 years old with a valid driver’s license can bid on items.
Typically, a government agency hires a professional auction service to conduct
the event. The auction service evaluates items, writes escriptions, advertises the
event, conducts the event and performs all other duties associated with selling the
government’s surplus property.
Although usually conducted similarly, each auction will set its own rules and
procedures. So, you’ll need to make sure you visit the auction website to register
and read the specific terms before bidding.
The government auction may be conducted as a live-only event, an online-only
event, or both a live and online event. If an auction is held online and live, you can
begin placing bids as soon as online bidding opens and before the live event takes
5. Everyone can win with a government surplus auction.
No other auction offers such a winning scenario for all participants. Government
agencies can conveniently dispose of property no longer needed. They save
money on maintenance, repairs and storage costs, as well as earn extra revenue.
Private citizens have the opportunity to get items at reduced prices. Since
government auctions are held on a regular basis, the inventory of items is
constantly changing and being replenished.
Taxpayers benefit too. Auction proceeds from surplus government items help
reduce the cost of operations. An agency that efficiently manages its assets doesn’t
require as much taxpayer revenue to run. The auction proceeds help offset the cost
of buying new assets.
Finally, the environment wins with government surplus auctions (or really any type
of auction). When you buy from an auction, you’re doing your part to recycle and
keep items from ending up in a landfill. Auctions represent the ultimate form of
Learn More about Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers
Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers, Inc. conducts all kinds of auctions,
including government surplus auctions, on a regular basis. To find out more about
our company, visit our website or contact us. Or, check our auction schedule for
About the Author
Deb Weidenhamer is President of Auctions Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers,
Inc., based in Phoenix, Arizona. They specialize in auctions and professional
appraisals. Visit us at http://www.auctionANDappraise.com or call
800-801-8880 for more information about Government Surplus Auctions.