Your Guide to Government Auctions


The deals are eye-opening and money-saving.

An electric range from the Central Iowa Health Care System for $11, a modular furniture set from the Blue Ash, Ohio, office of the Environmental Protection Administration for $25 and a wooden dresser from the King Salmon Airport, FAA Compound in King Salmon, Ark., for $5.

All of the above bargains are courtesy of U.S. government. (It's true: The same gang that might pay $435 for a Pentagon hammer, can also sell you quality goods for cheap.)

In fact almost every government agency, including the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service, has property it wants to get rid of. Value conscious consumers can snag real estate, cars, electronics and even clothing by participating in U.S. government sponsored auctions either in person, online or on the phone.

“Items up for auction come from various agencies,” says David Turner, a spokesperson for the U.S. Marshalls Service, which holds auctions independent of other federal agencies. “We have to hold them, maintain their value and sell them where we can get the best price.”

Getting the Goods
If you’re looking for discounted goods for your home, office or even a low-priced luxury automobile, here are some tips:

1. Find out where you want to look. You will find hundreds of state and local agencies online so, before you start plowing through the web, think about what you want to find. For example, if you’re looking to set up a home office, check out the asset sales section of the FDIC web site for desks, chairs and filing cabinets from foreclosed banks. If you’re in the market for a new kitchen table, go to’s government sales and auctions listing and click on the tab for Household Goods. Interested in a new car? Try the U.S. Marshalls Service’s current list of assets for sale. You might find a 2004 BMW 33301 convertible for less than the $22,140 Blue Book value.

2. Register. Though all government auctions are open to anyone except federal employees and third-party auctioneers who are involved with the sale, you can’t just show up and expect to start bidding.

Thrift seekers can register with an agency, such as the FDIC. At their web site, click on to the Corporation’s Asset Sales Tab, and scroll down to Other Asset Sales. Once you click on the name of  the Corporation’s third party auctioneer you’ll be led to a site where you can register for bids.

You can also register for to bid on items by registering at the U.S. General Services Administration’s web site.

3. Have a price in mind. Set a ceiling bid and do not go over it. The items for sale at some government auctions may be cheap, but you’ll still have to compete to win the bid. While you may be able to plunk $5 on a set of knives from the Central Iowa Healthcare System and outbid your closest competitor, getting caught up in the excitement can cut your savings. 

4. Keep a mover in your back pocket. You may get great deals on some items through government auctions, but it’s your responsibility to get them from the auction block to your front door.

If you plan on driving out to a live auction, transporting something like dishwasher may not be much of a problem. However, if you’re bidding online or out of state you may want to get in touch with Ryder (Stock Quote: R), Fed Ex (Stock Quote: FDX) or United Van Lines to find out how much it’ll cost to get your new purchase from one part of the country to another. Factor in the added cost when you bid so your bargain does not become a bust when you have to sign for the delivery.




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