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Government Surplus Military Vehicle Auctions: Tips & Advice
Before you rush into a Government Liquidation.com (GL) auction, think carefully about what you are doing and why. Even though it is easy enough to make the purchase, there may be more to it than what you have realized. Buying direct has many pitfalls and you need some support when you start and along the way. This page will outline some of the issues and tell you how to get expert advice.
Do You Really Want to Buy Direct?
There is a lot of risk and overhead involved in bidding on government surplus directly and it's not for everyone. There are dealers who are in that market every day and know all the details. They may not be smarter than you are, but they have the experience to know how to minimize their risk and expenses. Face it: You don't. Bottom line: if buying surplus is a casual or hobby thing for you, it might be a better idea to buy from a dealer. Sure the dealer will make some money on the deal, but you will have a greater chance of getting exactly what you want with no missteps along the way.
Remember the terms of sales are "AS IS, WHERE IS" as specified in the terms on the Government Liquidation.com web site. There may be something wrong that you missed. There may be an error in the description. The photo on the left is described as "LOT (27) INER TUBE, PNEUATIC, TO INCLUDE: (12)CUPPLESCO MFG, 14. 00-24/ 25, TR445, BIAS TRUCK TUBE AT LEASE (5) BRIDGESTONE 11. 00/ 12. 00 R24, (6) 8. 25 R15, 16CR42, TR-77A, AND MORE." With all the misspellings and confused numbers, what are you getting? Some kind of inner tube, but do they hold air? Do they have dry rot? Are they sized correctly? Blems, defects? You can't rely on anything but your own inspection.
The inner tubes were at Port Hueneme, CA, but for another auction you may have to go to the middle of the desert somewhere to pick up your lot. And the site may only be open certain days and hours, appointment in advance. There is a lot of risk and cost when you buy direct and you had better factor that into your thinking.
Surplus military truck dealers buy direct, then go over the vehicle thoroughly to replace parts, correct problems, upgrade tires, tubes, and flaps, tune the engine and running gear, make sure all gauges and controls work properly, and perform safety checks and scheduled maintenance. How much time and money would it cost you to do all that, even if you know how? For more insight, here is a description of the procedures used by long-time surplus truck dealer Joe Young.
Get Advice From the Forums
If you decide to buy direct, you are not alone. Many others are doing it successfully, although sometimes after some painful mistakes. A good way to get advice, in general or about specific lots on sale, is to use the Internet forums where military vehicles are discussed. Check the archives of the MV Mailing List, for example, where you can find good advice like this:
Four Useful Features of the GovernmentLiquidation.com Web Site
You can find these features on the Government Liquidation.com web site, from the Help page.
Check Results of Prior Sales
To learn how much is being paid by the winning bidders for similar equipment, go to the Bid Results of Past Events on the Government Liquidation.com web site. This is mostly useful if you have been watching the sales and know the sale number and lot number from a prior sale. When you find something similar to a current sale lot, compare the quantity, location, condition etc. carefully to discover factors which may make similar vehicles or other items worth more or less in different auctions. Your best guide to successful bidding is the bid which actually wins! Suggestion: Follow a number of auctions from beginning to end before jumping in yourself.
Help and More Information
There is a good Help and FAQ page on the Government Liquidation.com web site. Pay special attention to the section called Understanding Lot Descriptions. Although not everyone is so cautious, when you are a beginner you should never buy anything you did not personally inspect. Remember, if you win the bidding, you have to go get it. And let me say it one more time: "AS-IS, WHERE-IS". Don't assume anything you have not seen yourself. For example, the military unit which released a truck to surplus might have cannibalized the master cylinder. Un-oh, did you check the brakes? No? Good luck getting home.
Hank Fackovec has a very good suggestion based on his experience. When you inspect before bidding, take photos of the vehicle on all sides and the interior. Hank has a good friend who bid and won a large lot of M-151s, but when he returned to pick them up he found the trucks stripped of pintle hooks, clevises, seats and other valuable/saleable parts. But, he had photos! When the yard official was confronted with the pictures, the parts rapidly reappeared.
What if I win?
If you win, you will be responsible for removing your purchase from the Government location within a number of days specified in the sale details. You can do this yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you, using the Shippers and Packers list on the Government Liquidation.com web site. The costs and risks are all yours. For vehicle purchases, make sure you ask for Form SF97 which is your Certificate of Release proving that you are the legal owner. You will need it to get a civilian registration (see the Olive-Drab topic on Registration Issues). The DRMS may or may not be willing to give you an SF97 through Government Liquidation.com; if the vehicle is being sold as scrap, especially if it is a HMMWV or M-151 "residue" they will not give you an SF97 because they don't consider it to be a vehicle anymore. Ask ahead of time if you are not absolutely sure of the status of the item you bid on.
The Olive-Drab.com page on MV Transportation has some additional advice on shipping your vehicle purchase.