How it Works: Government Surplus Military Vehicle Auctions

All military vehicles, with a few exceptions, are first owned by the Federal government. That is, the Government has the vehicles built by industry in the first place, then uses the vehicles for some number of years, and finally disposes of them through auctions. Surplus auctions, conducted by the Federal Government as well as state and local jurisdictions, are the original source of most military vehicles. Almost all of the privately owned vehicles went this route at one time in their lives.

surplus m-1009 blazer from 10th mtn division, fort drum, ny
Surplus M-1009 Blazer from 10th Mtn Division, Fort Drum, NY.

This page is about how to buy military vehicles through the government surplus auction system. If you are looking for how to buy parts for surplus vehicles from dealers, go to the linked page. Or, visit the Military Vehicle Ownership Guide. For a complete overview of the website, you can go to the Home Page or the Directory.

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Where do Surplus Military Vehicles Come From?

While almost all military vehicles start life in the government and enter the private market through surplus auctions, conducted by the Federal Government, there are a few exceptions. Occasionally a prototype unit (or several) is built for the military, but is not actually purchased by them. Such prototypes are sometimes later sold off by the companies and enter the private sector. Rarely, vehicles are sold in error or through a special exception that violates the usual rules. Another exception is stolen vehicles that disappear before being delivered to the government (or from government facilities). And finally there are some vehicles which are built up from parts and never had an original identity in the government. Once these exceptional units enter the private market, their origin may not be verifiable. CAUTION: buying a stolen military vehicle is the same as throwing your money away and could land you in serious trouble. If the origin of any vehicle is suspicious, walk away.

Exceptions aside, government surplus sales are the door through which most military vehicles travelled. For vehicles originally manufactured for the Federal Government, which includes all military vehicles, many were given away to state and local governments, non-military departments, or private non-profit organizations such as Red Cross or Boy Scouts, as explained on this Olive-Drab page on donations of vehicles and other Government property to non-profit organizations.

Depending what vehicle type you are interested in, government auctions may or may not be of current interest to you. For example, if you want to buy a World War II jeep, forget government auctions. All those jeeps have been gone from inventory for many years. Even state and local governments have a rare few if any left. However, if you are interested in military Blazers (M-1009) or the Dodge pick-ups of the 1980s (M-880) or even some older units like the Dodge M-37 built in the 1950s and 1960s, these do still come up for auctions. Also found in many current auctions is the 2 1/2 ton M35 models which are really hefty trucks often sold surplus in surprisingly good condition. You can find trailers and tons of parts and equipment, plus every other kind of gear used by the military.

How to Get Started Buying from Military Auctions

There is absolutely no big deal about buying at Government auctions, and is even easier now that private firms have been contracted to handle the sales. The first company to do this was Government They conduct ebay-style Internet auctions of most lots sold. In 2014, a new contract was let, assigning "rolling stock" to with most remaining categories left with Government Rolling stock surplus assets of the Department of Defense includes trucks, trailers, generators, wheel loaders, cranes, crawler tractors and other equipment.

You can actually get some really good bargains. But that is not the whole story. Here is the rest of what you need to know:

  • The pages of this Olive-Drab section on U.S. Government auctions will get you started and point you to the websites with full information. This is all you need. Those ads about secret Government sales basically want to sell you the information that is found free right here.
  • The sales are "AS IS, WHERE IS" meaning it is up to you to determine the condition of the vehicle and up to you to remove it if you are the winning bidder. Having to carefully check out the property means you usually have to go to the selling location twice. Once to inspect and decide how much to bid and again to pick up anything you win. If you win, you must remove the item. Failure to do so will get you in costly trouble with the Government -- they will do the work and charge it to you. Since the Government is not Home Depot, you may have to go to some out-of-the-way location during their working hours.
  • You cannot rely on the description in the auction notice. No matter what it says there, the sale is "AS IS" -- if the truck is actually a boat anchor, that's your problem. This is what "AS IS" means to you:

cucv, u.s. navy submarine base, groton, ct

This CUCV at the U.S. Navy Submarine Base in Groton, CT may or may not be repairable. Only a careful on-site inspection will reveal everything you need to know, whether its good for a few salvagable parts or maybe it could be restored to a good looking, good running truck.

  • If the truck cannot be driven, or breaks down in the parking lot of the auction site, that's your problem. You have to get it home. Remember, "AS IS".
  • There is a lot of fine print. Check the other Olive-Drab pages on surplus auctions for more information.
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