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What to Expect in Government Auctions


Government auctions

There are many opportunities to score great deals in government auctions. Government agencies such as police departments, military installations, post offices, and even colleges or public schools have surplus or items that are auctioned off on a regular basis. These agencies want to purchase new items and get rid of inventory, they have lost and found items, or the items have been seized from a crime scene (in the case of police auctions).

What you can buy

You can expect to find everything from jewelry to collectibles, household goods, coins, furniture, computers, electronics, cars, and even real estate in government auctions. Typically all items being auctioned off are in used condition.

Every once in awhile we hold government surplus auctions for the local San Diego community colleges that include office furniture, tons of computers, vehicles, workout equipment, plus lost and found items such as phones, jewelry, sunglasses, clothing, and more. In fact, we have an auction coming up in July for the San Diego Community College District.

When are government auctions held?

Auctions are held periodically throughout the year – it just depends on the agency or auction company hosting the event. Some hold auctions twice a year while other auctions are held monthly or even weekly. Most companies do send notices or updates if you sign up on their websites.

Bidding process

The process of bidding and purchasing items in an auction are different from agency to agency. It also depends on the company or service provider hosting the auction on the agency’s behalf. Some auctions may be held live in person or it could be strictly online.

If you’re attending a live auction, you’ll receive instructions on how to bid, descriptions of the items that are being offered, and an opportunity to inspect the items. It may be helpful to get information beforehand about the auction if it’s published online. After the auction you’ll have a certain amount of time to pay for any items you’ve purchased.

Online auctions work differently in that you are placing all of your bids electronically. Most likely you will be asked to put down a deposit to register and bid on any item. (We only charge $1 deposit to bid in all of our online auctions.) Some auction companies offer a preview/inspection day where you can go to a location to take a look at the items in person before placing a bid. When the auction is over, you will receive an email letting you know which items you’ve purchased (your credit card will be charged) and the date(s) you can pick up items, and/or shipping information.

Do you have any experience buying at government auctions? Share your tips on our Facebook page.