By: Gov Auctions | 27 April 2014

Select Reliable Cars at a Government Car Auction

Government auctions are becoming more well-known with each passing year as a way to save money on a reliable used car. All levels of government take advantage of car auctions as an effective way to get rid of surplus used fleet vehicles as well as cars they have obtained through other means. Not only is this economically beneficial for the government but also a great way to provide local citizens with the opportunity to save money. Just like any other car auction, government auto auctions offer vehicles that range in quality. This makes it imperative for bidders to choose wisely in order to identify and purchase a used car that proves to be reliable and durable while remaining a cost-effective option.

Identify the Type of Government Car Auction

The first step in selecting a reliable car at government auto auctions is determining what type of auction it is. There are several different types of government auctions and each is unique in terms of normal listing characteristics. For the sake of simplicity, government vehicle auctions can be broken down into two basic categories: fleet vehicles and impounded vehicles.

Tips for Government Fleet Vehicle Options

Government fleet vehicle auctions are primarily comprised of vehicles which are domestically manufactured. This is because the government prefers to choose domestic manufacturers whenever possible. Additionally, they often purchase cars for their fleet in bulk. As a result, most fleet vehicle options offer a limited selection in terms of make and model.

  1. 1. Pay Less Attention to the Mileage
    • The federal and state governments all have very specific guidelines for how and when a car undergoes maintenance. While most cities have similar guidelines, it is up their own discretion so some may not. As a result, it is much easier to determine how well a vehicle has been maintained because the maintenance records will mirror the government guidelines. This means bidders can pay less attention to the mileage since the vehicle has been well-maintained. For example, a car with 100,000 miles but is well-maintained can easily be in better condition than a car with 75,000 which was poorly maintained. This allows bidders to place less emphasis on mileage when bidding while still targeting a vehicle that will be reliable.
  2. Focus on Makes With Multiple Listings
    • Another key to selecting reliable cars at government car auctions is focusing on models with multiple listings. Since most governments purchase vehicles in bulk, this is often easy to accomplish. There are two benefits to focusing on makes with multiple listings. The first is bidders gain the ability to directly compare multiple used vehicles and rank them in terms of projected reliability. The second benefit is it helps save money. With multiple options available there is no reason to overbid on a specific unit because a similar option will likely hit the auction block soon.
  3. Don’t Be Picky When It Comes to the Details
    • A majority of government vehicles will be the basic trim level of any given make and model. This means there is little room to be picky when it comes to extra features. The only major feature difference will be the color. As a result, there is little reason to get caught up focusing on the details of a specific car because it can cause bidders to lose site of the bigger picture which will result in over-bidding.
    • Tips for Impound/Seized Vehicles
    • Impound and/or seized vehicle options are starkly different than fleet vehicle government auctions. Not only does the listing vary a great deal more but the range of overall reliability increases. This means it will take more time and knowledge to identify the vehicles which have the highest likelihood of being reliable over the long run.
  1. Make Sure It Runs
    • The first step to choosing a reliable car to target at an impound auction is ensuring it runs. Some auctions will drive cars onto the auction block which will provide the perfect opportunity to see how it looks and sounds as it drives. Unfortunately, many impound auctions will not use this approach. Instead the auctioneer will move from one car to another which eliminates the need for them to be started. Plus, if a car is impounded or seized there is a chance no keys are available which makes it impossible to start the vehicle before bidding.
  2. Assume City Mileage to Create a Safety Net
    • Buying a car at an impound auction can be difficult because there are a variety of unknowns which cannot be verified, even with in-depth vehicle research. This is because all of the vehicles were previously privately owned. Barring a major accident which must be reported, it is impossible to determine exactly how well it was maintained. For safety purposes, it is always best to treat each car like every mile is from driving in a city. This will automatically provide some compensation for any maintenance inefficiencies.
  3. Look for Aftermarket Additions Which Add Value
    • Another great way to compensate for a potentially less than reliable vehicle is by looking for aftermarket additions. Not only do they provide an increased value when purchasing the vehicle, but they could also be sold once you purchase it in order to cover any minor repair or maintenance costs.
    • Overall, if reliability is your primary point of emphasis when choosing a car at a government auction then fleet vehicle options offer the best opportunity. While impounded or seized vehicle auction can provide some great deals, there is also more inherent risk involved which makes your purchase less of a sure thing.