How to Buy from Government Surplus Auctions

Have you ever needed to buy a parking meter, but just couldn’t find one? Probably not, but if you know about government surplus auctions you’ll never find yourself wondering how. Surplus auctions give you an opportunity to find unconventional items at discount prices, some of which can be pretty useful.

What are Government Surplus Auctions?

When government agencies have excess supplies, equipment or materials, they usually attempt to donate them to nonprofit or public organizations. If for any reason, they can’t donate any items, they become surplus and are available for citizens to buy.

Some states and counties hold public auctions or take out newspaper ads to advertise surplus items, but most surplus auctions are done online today.

Sites like GovDeals and GovSales allow you to place bids on surplus items, and you might be surprised by what you can find. You can browse for discounts on common items, pick up tools for a DIY project, or buy a Blackhawk Helicopter. Really.

Everything You Can Buy

There are tons of useful items you can find through government surplus auctions. For instance, you can find medical supplies like CPR equipment, but there are also items for auction like nitrogen tanks and dental chairs. There’s also deals on filing cabinets, office furniture, and supplies, which can help a small business cut costs.

Government surplus items are great for small business owners looking for discounted equipment and office supplies, but there’s still stuff for the average consumer. You can find discounted exercise gear, furniture, and even jewelry. This Tiffany and Co. Silver Necklace is listed for auction until March 17, as an example. There are also deals on bikes, motorcycles, and cars on auction sites.

There are also a lot of things that are…not so useful.

As mentioned above, military vehicles are commonly sold through government auction, like this Tomahawk Helicopter. Some of the most interesting things we found included:

So it’s not an exaggeration to say you can find just about anything through a government auction. Occasionally, you can find some really cool items. Last year, for instance, a Wisconsin man bought a lighthouse from the Coast Guard.

Some entrepreneurial people even turn government auctions into a side hustle. Reddit user Mercer_Keel posted on r/SideHustle that he buys and re-sells items from auction for profit. He said that he has purchased four cars from auctions, all needing minimal upkeep to function, and started flipping them. Not all states allow you to legally buy and sell cars like this, but it’s certainly an interesting way to make a little money on the side.

Bottom Line

There’s no guarantee you’ll find something you end up buying on a government surplus auction site, but you’re sure to be interested. If nothing else, it’s worth browsing an auction just to see some of the unusual things that are available.

If you’re willing to put in some work, you can try your hand at restoring and selling vehicles like Mercer_Keel, or just save some money by securing deals in auctions.