Over the past five years there has been a lot of discussion surrounding how to buy cheap cars at U.S. government fleet sales. Every year, all levels of government will sell off surplus and used government vehicles to the general public at auto auctions around the country. While there is no arguing that a majority of the vehicle sold at auction could be considered a smart purchase there are always a handful of winning bidders to bring home particularly great deals. The key to bringing home one of these great deals is understanding how U.S. government fleet sales work and how to leverage the unique characteristics of this type of auction to maximize the potential benefits.
3 Unique Characteristics Of U.S. Government Fleet Sales
1. Listings Have a Multitude of Similar Units
The first unique aspect of a government used vehicle sale is the arch and listing has a multitude of similar units. Common similarities include make, model, mileage, color, and age. This creates two separate yet complementary situations. The first is most bidders will not drive up the price on any particular unit because they can just as easily wait until later when a similar units comes up to the auction block. This suppresses the overall sale price of fleet vehicles sold at U.S. government auctions. The second is you gain the ability to wait for one or two units which hit the auction block during a lull in the betting. These are the units which typically sell for far less than their similar counterparts.
2. Listings Are Typically Larger than Local Government Auto Auctions
Another unique characteristic of US government fleet sales is the auction listings are typically much larger than traditional general public auctions. This is especially true when the sale includes fleet vehicles from multiple sources. There are two reasons government fleet auctions are larger. The first is that they are not held every week, unlike many general public auctions so the listing has time to build up. The second reason is that they are only held in a handful of locations per state. This centralized approach means larger listings per location rather than smaller listings across multiple locations.
3. All Vehicles Have the Same Maintenance and Repair History
The final aspect that makes US government fleet sales unique is the vehicle maintenance histories. All levels of government have a specific set of maintenance practices that are uniformly applied to all vehicles. This means you bid on a car, you can rest easy knowing it was likely well maintained. This limits your risk and allows you to target multiple vehicles with confidence.
How to Take Advantage of These Characteristics to Save Money
While there are several characteristics that make government fleet sales unique, they don’t do you any good if you don’t take advantage of them. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips you can follow to get a great deal at US government fleet sales.
1. Be Flexible
The key to getting the best deal is remaining flexible. Since there will be multiple cars that are fairly similar, you should gather background information on all them. Flexibility allows you the opportunity to wait until the price is right before bidding. There is no reason to overbid on a particular unit when another similar option will be on the auction block later on in the same auction. As an added bonus, this flexibility is also what prevents other bidders from arbitrarily driving up the bid.
2. Focus on Value
Another key aspect of getting a great deal at US government fleet sales is focusing on value as well as price. Getting the cheapest car available is only ideal when it presents a strong overall value. For example, if you pay $500 for a car that will last 2 years it is a good deal but it will also leave you looking for another car in the near future. On the other hand, if you pay $750 or $1000 for a car that will last 4 or 5 years with minimal maintenance, you are getting a much more significant overall value for your purchase. Value can be defined in a variety of ways depending on why you need a car, how soon you need it, and whether or not you need an auto loan to make the purchase. Make sure to consider all aspects of the purchase before pulling the trigger.
3. Be Prepared and Know When to Walk Away
The final key is getting a great deal at a US government fleet sale is knowing when to walk away. This could mean walking away from a specific car or the auction in general. Assuming you have researched each vehicle you will potentially be bidding on, you should already know how much you are willing to pay and what price point reflects a strong value. Once the bidding on a target vehicle moves beyond this price point, it is critical that you stop bidding. It is easy to get emotionally invested in the bidding process, especially if you spent a lot of time researching the car prior to the auction. Unfortunately, the more emotionally invested you become the less willing you will be to stop bidding move on to the next vehicle.