Winning at Internet Auctions
How to Shop at Government Surplus Auctions
September 23, 2014 by Jake Butler
For savvy shoppers looking to land great deals and save their hard-earned money, the internet offers a number of unique avenues to discounts, bargains, and relief from retail prices.
Government surplus auctions are one such avenue. If you have a growing business and need supplies, or if you're just looking for creative ways to shop, finding a relevant government auction could help. In this post, the first in our series of tips for winning at internet auctions, we'll give you a comprehensive look at government surplus auctions and how they can help you save money.
How Government Auctions Work
Any time a government agency has extra equipment they no longer need, or property they’ve seized or foreclosed, those items are either transferred to another agency or sold to the public at auction. You can find all sorts of great values if you remain persistent – from used cars marked down thousands of dollars off their Blue Book value to brand new computers for extremely low prices.
Government auctions work much the same way as other consumer sites like eBay – once you’ve found the item you want, simply register on the website and place your bid. If you win, you have a certain amount of time to pay for your purchase and arrange for either pickup or delivery.
The catch is there’s no universal website for these kinds of auctions. Each agency has its own website. For example, the General Services Administration (GSA) auction site is separate from that of the IRS. You may have to scour a number of sites to find what you’re looking for.
Where To Start
In order to find the best deals, you need to make sure you’re looking at the right websites. A good place to start is this list on USA.gov, which also includes official gift shops for various entities as well as auction sites. You can find all sorts of stuff from Air Force Advantage, the Presidential Library, NASA, U.S. Mint, and many others.
- GovSales.gov works as a catalog that links out to other individual auction sites. You’ll have to register at each website separately if you find something you want to bid on. The categories make shopping simple and easy.
- GSAauctions.gov, much like GovSales, has a very broad range of categories. The one caveat with this site is that they don’t provide shipping services. You have to be mindful of the location of the sales office on each individual listing. If you can’t be there in person, it is possible to have someone else to pick up the item and ship it to you, but that may not be ideal for everyone.
- GovernmentLiquidation.com doesn’t have the most glamorous inventory, but it might be a viable option if you’re looking for industrial equipment, mechanical parts for aircrafts or boats, or anything of that nature. They’ve also got a lot of gear and accessories that service members may be interested in.
- Bid4Assets is another online auction market where a number of federal, state, and local agencies come together to sell forfeited, seized, or tax-defaulted property. Many items listed have no reserve prices so you can bid as low as you want.
- This list of local surplus sites might also be worth looking into. Your state may not make surplus sales available to the public, but it’s still worth checking out. Just find your state and follow the link.
Now that you have a list of resources, all that’s left to do is see what’s out there! Have you scored big at a government auction in the past? Share your secrets to success in the comment section below.