Government Surplus Military Vehicle Auctions: Tips & Advice

Before you rush into a direct-buy government surplus 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.

1967 kaiser jeep m-35a2, truck, cargo, 2 1/2 ton, 6x6, for sale at camp ripley, little falls, mn, november 2006
1967 Kaiser Jeep M-35A2, Truck, Cargo, 2 1/2 ton, 6x6, for sale at Camp Ripley, Little Falls, MN, November 2006, by Government

Today in WW II: 20 Apr 1945 Northern Italy: US 5th Army breaks out beyond the Apennines, into the broad Po River Valley, forcing retreat across the Po by forces of German Gen. Heinrich Von Vietinghoff.   

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.

Inner tubes For Sale at government surplus auction

Remember the terms of sales are pretty much "AS IS, WHERE IS" for all the auctions. Even though has a guarantee, read the fine print that still puts most of the risk on you if there is a problem. Similarly, be sure to read the Disclaimer of Warranties to get the picture. 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 are a lot of issues 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. The archives of the MV Mailing List, for example, includes good advice like this:

>Any Advice or experiences ???

Take Nothing for granted. Inspect every vehicle as some of the pics aren't even to the vehicle you're bidding on. When you inspect, make sure of not only the vehicle number but also the sale number. Many vehicles from the same yard have the same item numbers but different sale numbers. You might be looking and a runner and bidding on a residue truck.

>Are most of the bids sealed..or is it like eBay ?

There are fewer and fewer sealed bids. Most are internet auctions like eBay but differ slightly in the fact that the ending time is only after 15 minutes of inactivity. Weeds out snipe bidding and also gets GL the last available dollar.

> Any advice would be appreciated.

See above! Inspect or you might get surprised, not pleasantly.

> How long does it really take after you win something to be able to pick it up??

My first EUC purchase took nearly 5 months. Others have been in a week.

Enjoy your experience!

Kenneth Engle

The MV Mailing List is no longer active, but you can find a good crowd at for this purpose.

Help and More Information

There is a good Help and FAQ page on the Government web site and similar information at 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 authorized by the auction companies. 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; 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 page on MV Transportation has some additional advice on shipping your vehicle purchase.