Some government agencies sell items to the public through live and online auctions. These auctions let you buy government-owned assets from across the U.S. and its territories.
What the Federal Government Sells and Why They Sell It
Agency auction sites usually sell such things as:
A variety of other types of property. These may include boats, planes, art, jewelry, trailers, furniture, computers, and lab equipment.
Government agencies sell assets for several reasons.
Law enforcement agencies sell criminals’ seized or forfeited property.
The U.S. Treasury Department sells items forfeited for violations of Treasury laws, including failure to pay income taxes.
Agencies sell items they no longer need.
Federal Motor Vehicle Auctions (formerly listed on GovSales.gov)
GSA Fleet Vehicle Sales sells thousands of government-owned vehicles each year by auction. All vehicles are well-maintained, low-mileage, detailed, and ready to drive. And they’re available at significant savings.
Vehicles for sale include:
Alternative fuel vehicles
Sales are conducted:
Online: Search the site for the vehicle you’re looking for. You can specify make, model, mileage, fuel type, and more. Or search by location. Though bidding is online, you can visit the auction site ahead of time to inspect the vehicles.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies list vehicles for auction at GTB Vehicle Remarketing. These vehicles are for sale "as is" and may need extensive repairs. They must be towed from the site. They should not be considered safe for driving until checked by a licensed mechanic.
Light and medium-duty pickups and vans
Sport utility vehicles (SUV)
Various size sedans
Sales are conducted using:
Live auction lane. These auctions are held throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.
Federal Auctions with a Variety of Property Types (formerly listed on GovSales.gov)
GSA Auctions is an easy-to-use site with extensive listings in a wide range of categories. Items for sale are government-owned excess property. They’re located or stored all over the country, and include:
Airplanes, vessels, and vehicles
Travel trailers, manufactured housing (mobile homes), and park models
Office equipment and office furniture
Auctions are conducted completely online. You can view most items ahead of time by visiting the facility where the item is stored.
The U.S. Treasury holds about 300 public auctions each year throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Property sold at auction was forfeited by owners for tax evasion or other violations of Treasury law.
Treasury auctions sell:
New or used cars, aircraft, and boats
Jewelry and clothes
Sales methods vary.
Property seized by the Internal Revenue Service for tax violations may be sold by mail-in bid or live auction.
Real estate sales are conducted using online auctions. Bidders can see properties in person by appointment.
Most other property is sold by online auction.
The U.S. Marshals Service manages the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Program. The program serves to identify stolen property and return it to its owners, and to compensate victims with the proceeds from sales. It helps deter crime by depriving thieves of the goods they stole.
Seized and forfeited items for sale can include:
Cars, boats, and planes
Antiques and collectibles
Sales are conducted by third-party companies and sales methods vary. Check the site for the property you’re interested in to see how auctions are managed.
Federal Auctions of Real Estate
You can bid on real estate for sale through the following federal agencies’ websites:
Many states and even some local governments sell surplus property. Contact your state's surplus property division to find out if it operates an auction program.
Tips for Participating in Government Auctions
The general rule for auctions is that the highest bidder wins, and cancellation is not possible. Check with the auction site ahead of time to find out if you can cancel a bid.
Each auction website operates differently. In some cases, the government agency itself runs the auctions. In other cases, the agency operates the shopping site, but a third-party company handles the auction itself.
Find out what forms of payment auctions accept. There is no uniform payment policy across all the different auctions. Some auctions accept credit card payments or personal checks. Others, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), don't accept either of these. Most auctions accept cashier's checks.
For real estate auctions, you may need to work with a broker or real estate agent to bid or make the purchase. Also, for real estate auctions, find out if financing is permitted. Many times it is not and the full purchase price is due when you win the bid.