1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Government Auctions

Spending Less For The Best


Home with foreclosure sign in front yard
Ariel Skelley/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The U.S. government unloads billions of dollars worth of inventory every year and by law we as citizens are supposed to get first crack at buying it. What can be purchased at government auctions covers a tremendous amount of merchandise including business furniture, luxury cars and boats, personal items seized in drug busts, and commercial and residential property. All information about the items being sold is free information and easily obtained if you know where to look.

Browsing the following government sites will get you started in finding out where and when auctions are held.


The General Service Administration

This is a good resource for buying surplus merchandise but be prepared to shuffle through a lot of junk. The GSA Auctions is completely web-enabled, allowing all registered participants to bid on a single item or multiple items (lots) within specified time frames.

GSA Auctions offer federal personal property assets ranging from commonplace items, such as office equipment and furniture to more select products like scientific equipment, heavy machinery, airplanes, vessels, and vehicles. The system's online capabilities allow GSA to offer assets located across the country to any interested buyer, regardless of location.

You can also look in your local phone book (blue pages) and contact the regional office nearest you to get on the GSA mailing list to keep you informed of regional auctions.


U.S. Marshall's Service

The U.S. Marshall's Service handles property seized from the commission of a felony. The property offered for sale consists of residential, commercial real estate, land, business establishments, financial instruments and a wide range of personal property such as motor vehicles, boats, aircraft, jewelry, art, antiques, and collectibles.

For information on property that is currently available for sale and for sales locations, dates, and other pertinent information check the National Sellers List or check the classified section of your local newspaper.


U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service is a good source for a large variety of merchandise that was undeliverable or damaged in transit. They have five locations throughout the country where auctions are held. The Atlanta, Ga office seems to be the most active. You can contact the office nearest you and obtain additional information or check online for scheduled auction locations and the type of merchandise being sold.
  • J.A. Farley Building, 380 West 33rd Street, New York, NY 10199
  • 2970 Market Street, Room 531A, Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • 443 E. Fillmore Avenue, St. Paul, MN, 55107
  • 730 Great SW Parkway SW, Atlanta, GA 30336
  • P.O. Box 7837, San Francisco, CA 94120

The Internal Revenue Service

The IRS has a large assortment of property seized by taxpayers who did not pay their taxes. Items include anything from houses, cars, livestock, boats, furniture, and property. The items seized by the IRS are cheap and participation in the auctions can really pay off.

Sale participants are required to register prior to each sale. Just bring a government-issued photo ID to register and receive your bidder number and catalog. Registration is free. The catalog contains a listing of merchandise to be sold and important information about the Terms of Sale is available. For dates and locations you can browse their website or check the classified section of your local paper.


The U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration acquires property while administering its loan programs, and it is available for purchase by the public. The property ranges from real estate - commercial property, single family homes, vacant land and farms - to personal property such as machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures and inventory. The property list contains a SBA Office, as well as a contact person. For more information, call the listed contact person. If the contact person is not available, then call or visit the nearest SBA office to your location.

Caution: Before you participate in a government auction verify with the applicable agency that the auction is affiliated with them. There are many auctions out there that illegally represent themselves as being government sponsored.

More: Where You Shop Can Save You Money

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.