Government Auctions: Getting Something Back

Now that you've written (or will write) that tax check to the IRS, you may wonder what the government can do for you in return. If you're a bargain hunter, you might want to check out the Federal government's auctions. Various Federal agencies periodically auction off surplus

$2.9 trillionTotal US federal budget in 2008.(Wall Street Journal, 2008)

Now that you’ve written (or will write) that tax check to the IRS, you may wonder what the government can do for you in return. If you’re a bargain hunter, you might want to check out the Federal government’s auctions.

Various Federal agencies periodically auction off surplus, seized, and forfeited goods—a wide-ranging menu of stuff that includes residential and commercial real estate, trucks, cars, yachts, office equipment, household furniture, carpets, jewelry, electronics—even medical instruments and equipment. To those in the know, these auctions can be a bargain maven’s El Dorado.

It’s also gotten easier to find a good deal. Where once you had to visit several government agency web sites to see what was available, now it’s all in one place at GovSales.gov, which lists all the items that the various government agencies are selling. A tip from the pros—if there’s a public preview before the auction, make sure you go. And if you’re bidding on a car or truck, look it up in Edmunds.com so you don’t pay more than it’s worth.

For information on state and local government auctions of surplus property, visit USA.gov.

“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”—Thomas Sowell

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The Ten Most Asked Questions About Auctions