Anyone ever buy a government vehicle at auction?


#1

My state has a vehicle auction upcoming, open to the general public. I think I’ll try my hand at it–I think the odds are good that the goods are a bit less odd than one might find at a general auction of cars. Seems to be a lot of late-model vehicles (like 4-y.o.) with high miles (like 120k). Crown Vics and Foci, with some others thrown in.

Anybody have notable success (or failure) at public auction? Is it possible to “flip” any of these cars for profit?

If you’ve got an interesting story, I’d love to hear it!


#2

Well I know the vehicles we send to auction are the ones our mechanics have given up on, Had a bud who bought a Trail;bazer from an after market auction seller, worked for him, sure It had Navaho nation sticker and a few extra holes in the dashboard, worked for him.


#3

No don’t try to make any money on it. I can only speak for Minnesota but some cars are cared for well because they are driven by a single person all the time. Others are driven by multiple people and may or may not have good service records. The cars are purchased the same as Avis would, with the eye toward resale value. So they are bought cheap and they are going to try to get as much as possible from them and is why they are equipped for resale value. Not saying you can’t find an ok one with a reasonable discount on the price but the resale is the difference between profit and loss from good fleet managers. Plus there are state, city, and county auctions with each one having a different history of the use of the vehicle and generally mileages are upwards to 80K or so. Now Crown Vics are going to be exclusively law enforcement cars which may or may not have the police packages.

If you just want maybe an ok car at an ok price, that’s fine but the days of getting a good car for a song are generally over. If there was money to be made by flipping them, they would flip them themselves. Now if you want an old dump truck 10 years old used in the woods by the DNR, thats different. Same thing with buying surplus computers etc. They aren’t surplus, they are used up. IMHO anyway.


#4

While you know about cars, you’re not the only one. The prices should reflect these cars’ value. You might make a little, seems like a lot of trouble. But if you want to try one, sure, give it a shot.


#5

Yeah, I’m going, if only for the experience, plus my wife said she’d enjoy a 2-day “working vacation.” I’ll bring my NADA book with me and hop on anything substantially below book–willing to walk away if everything gets bid to the sky.

I just think–in the rust belt, especially–the market over-values miles, and under-values age. I think a 3-yo car with mega-miles could be a solid car for a while to come, at a decent price. (The Foci, especially…probably haven’t been in too many hot puruits, LOL.)


#6

Unless they were driver education cars for a school district the Foci were probably just used for one of the agencies to drive to meetings or other business. Could be good cars depending on condition.


#7

Colorado sells their surplus state-owned vehicles through eBay auctions… I have purchased several of them and have been quite happy with them. I inspected them carefully before I bid on them…The Crown Vics are usually P71 models, police interceptors that have a lot of nice heavy-duty stuff on them…But many of them have been run hard so you have to look for the better cars…Major problems are always spelled out in the vehicle description…

If an auction company is running the sale, an old fashioned stand up and shout auction, people can get carried away and they will pay way to high a price if two or three people want the same vehicle…You gotta know when to step back…

Colorado’s latest offerings…go to eBay and in the search window type
colorado_auto_sales


#8

You can flip the broken ones if you have an easy fix. You only have to fix the part that keeps it from moving. That was old information; some of the problems in a late 90’s vehicle can be fixed by miracle or luck only or have expensive problems. The good ones are costly to me. I wouldn’t pay the prices people paid when I went to an auction close to home. Unbelievable.


#9

Growing up, my father always bought our family vehicles at state auctions. Most were black Ford sedans. I recall they served our family well.


#10

There are some great deals at government auctions. You just have to be careful. I went to DRMO auctions on base when I was in the Air Force and bought a couple of vehicles. One was a '72 Vega that I bought for $17. I sold it for scrap because it wasn’t worth fixing and made a little money. The other vehicle was a lift bucket truck that I bought and sold the next day to a small town that was looking for one. We had a very good Christmas that year.


#11

There might be a difference between local and state and military vehicles. The military vehicles we drove were maintained to the hilt and most were on their best behavior driving them. The local vehicles we drove that went to state auction were pretty dependent upon the municipalities and actual driving habits of those using them. Personally as others have mentioned in the past when discussing this issue, like a private sale, knowing it’s history is worthwhile. You get what you pay for…so a $17 car is often worth; $17. My neighbor bought an old state auctioned plow truck to do our road. It had no power steering and was really useless for anyone but a state champion wrestler to drive. It sits in a field beside the road now…rusting away. It may even have accumulated a few bullet holes.


#12

What are the rules in PA about reselling? In MD, you can’t sell more than 6 each year, I believe. I’m sure you won’t buy that many, but PA may have rules to keep you from flipping whatever you buy. But you may well have checked into this already. Also, do they allow you to look at the cars, and how closely? Are they started for prospective buyers so you can hear them run? I think most will sell for well under book value because you won’t be able to do much of an inspection. Since they buyer absorbs all the risk without a chance to mitigate it, he should get a hefty discount.


#13

In Minnesota its either 5 or 7 vehicles a year before you are considered a dealer and need the license.


#14

Thirty some years ago, my brother went to a state auction and bought an HP car, thee 135 mph type. There was a state mechanic there, and they frankly asked him questions, and he answered correctly. That particular one was actually well maintained. I think in those days they were trading out by use, not condition. So many miles and it was cycled out.

They drove it for several years. The repaint was not perfect, so under certain lighting conditions, you could tell it had been a HP car. They’d be driving on the Interstate, and when people saw them, you could see the brake lights coming on.

The mechanic did warn them about a couple of the cars.


#15

My daughter’s graduation truck was a GSA motor pool Ranger 3.0 m/t 2wd.
Purchased in 94 , I think it was probably a 1990.


#16

Back in 67 I had a friend that bought a 64 Ford MN HP car. It was still maroon but they painted the white door anyway. He had it repainted then took it to Mexico and had the interior re-done. He liked it, but they had taken most of the stuff out of it except for the switch that turned the tail lights off. He seemed to think that was a useful feature.


#17

I think you have a better chance of getting a decent car at a government auction than you would buying one from some John Doe on craigslist or the local newspaper.
Taxpayer pockets are deep so the government has unlimited funds to repair and do preventative maintenance to their vehicles,whereas most people only repair their cars when something breaks and then they buy the cheapest parts to fix it.preventative maintenance is just some foreign concept to most people.


#18

Naw, that may be public perception but thats not reality.


#19

@db4690‌ can confirm or deny that allegation.


#20

Around 1980, I picked up a post office jeep for $300 IIRC. Left hand drive. I think it might have been a ?DJ5? model. Drove it for 3 years before rust ate a body mount.

Although all USPS markings were removed, I would have people come up to me with their mail!