How to Buy A Military Surplus Vehicle

Updated: August 7, 2020

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    If you want to know how to buy a military surplus vehicle, the first thing you will need to do is to find the reputable sellers who are actually doing business in this area and avoid sources that may charge hidden fees, use “gotcha” tactics to up the final cost of the purchase, etc.

    How to Buy A Military Surplus Vehicle If you are new to buying a government surplus or military surplus vehicle, that’s a challenge that can seem quite daunting–at first. With a little information (see below) you can bid and buy military surplus trucks, cars, and other vehicles with confidence.

    Buying A Military Surplus Vehicle: Buyer Beware

    The first thing to know when buying surplus of ANY kind is that these are as-is transactions. You may not be able to return these purchases in many cases. In others there may be a very small window of opportunity to do so.

    For best results, take a long, careful look at the terms of sales and service when buying surplus. You want to know exactly what the terms and conditions are.

    Not all surplus sellers or resellers offer any form of guarantee, but a small number do. These guarantees are not standardized, nor are they necessarily even legally binding depending on the language of the purchase agreement. But if you can get a guarantee of any kind, you’re ahead of the game when it comes to buying surplus.

    If you are specifically looking for military surplus, don’t forget that there are plenty of other vendors and government agencies selling vehicles–felony arrests can result in impounded vehicles and equipment.

    You have options that include asset forfeiture sales initiated by state or federal law enforcement. But if you are strictly interested in military sources, it will be important to differentiate between asset forfeiture auctions and surplus auctions.

    Know Who The Vendors Are

    If you’re reading this article, chances are good you don’t know who sells and who has a reputation for being reliable. The good news is that you can find some crucial information with some basic research. The key is knowing where to start looking.

    The Department of Defense has an entire office dedicated to surplus property of all kinds (not just vehicles, but definitely including them).

    The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is the home of a branch called “Disposition Services” which basically oversees the transfer of gear, cars, computers, office equipment, and more from the end-user at U.S. military bases all over the world to either a surplus sale, salvage, or other final destination.

    DLA isn’t the only agency to do so; another government operation called GovSales is administered by the U.S. General Services Administration. GovSales is the clearinghouse for all “approved federal government sales centers.”

    This website operated for some time at its own destination, but as of September 2020, it now functions as a part of the federal website USA.gov which is described by the government as “the front door to government information and services for the public.” Those visiting USA.gov to buy surplus can locate and purchase surplus via online sales centers there.

    If you know these two websites, you can definitely get started finding and purchasing a government surplus vehicle.

    Two Names You Will See Frequently

    If you simply start Googling “how to buy a military surplus vehicle,” there are two results you will notice on the first page. One is a website called IronPlanet, and another called GovPlanet.

    There are other results, too–some civilian, some government. But how do you know which of these to trust? Here’s a hint–both IronPlanet and GovPlanet are listed on the DLA official site (see above) as business partners.

    These two companies work with the government, but are not government agencies. They are private companies doing business with the federal government, which means having to meet certain federal guidelines and follow specific standards.


    How To Buy A Military Surplus Vehicle

    Buying military surplus cars, trucks, earth movers, and heavy equipment is all made possible thanks to a combination of in-person sales and online sales. Selling online involves both direct sales and auctions.

    You may find more auctions than direct “buy it now” purchases, but you can definitely do both when searching for military surplus. When buying directly, you should ask about the availability of “titling documents” for the purchase. Different vendors may have different policies concerning this. GovPlanet policies include supplying a title document on demand as long as certain conditions apply:

    • The vehicle must have been sold in a “useable” property sale
    • Information needed to produce the document must be available
    • A processing fee of $50 applies
    • Customers requiring a state certificate of title or duplicate state certificate of title will be charged $150 (at press time, this amount is subject to change)
    • The option to select a titling document is offered during the checkout process

    Some sites like GovPlanet allow you to browse Buy It Now vehicles and let you purchase at the suggested price OR make an offer. If you make an offer, it may be considered legally binding and not subject to cancellation or reduction by the buyer.

    Auctions are very common online, and similar rules apply. Once you enter a bid, you cannot delete it, retract it, or reduce the amount. All bids and all sales are final. This is true unless otherwise expressly indicated in writing.

    How you render payment may depend on the website or agency you buy from. GovPlanet, for example, has a wire transfer policy AND a check policy, but paying by check is more time consuming and requires a waiting period to transfer funds successfully.

    “Once full payment from the buyer has posted into the secure bank account assigned to the transaction,” the GovPlanet official site says, the agency will let the buyer know the funds have cleared and “the buyer will be provided with the location of the equipment and the seller must release the equipment for shipment.”

    You will also encounter specific, time-restricted payment options–for example, you may be required to render payment within three business days of a successful bid or purchase. You will be responsible for any taxes that apply and other expenses including a transaction fee where applicable.

    What Kind Of Military Surplus Vehicles Can You Buy?

    Don’t think that military surplus is limited to passenger vehicles; the list below reveals several surprises including fire trucks, forestry gear, and more.

    • Aircraft
    • Aircraft Parts, Tires and Ground Handling Equipment
    • Boats, Ships and Marine Equipment
    • Agriculture and Forestry Construction Equipment and Supplies
    • “Wheeled Goods”
    • Cars and SUVs
    • Fire Trucks and Fire Fighting Equipment
    • Motorcycles
    • Motor Scooters
    • Bicycles

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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