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That depends on what you're trying to purchase. There are many services that promise to connect you with great deals on seized jewelry, surplus vehicles, or even abandoned homes. Instead of having to visit the local courthouse or visit a far-flung warehouse somewhere, you can use your computer - or even your smartphone - to browse auction listings, bid on items, and even submit payment.
Why do people buy from government auctions? Most of them are looking for a great deal on new and used merchandise. And, not many shoppers are aware of the available resources to connect them with the goods on offer by various local, state and federal agencies. These governmental offices aren't trying to make a profit: more often than not, they just want to clear out their warehouses and get what they can, especially for items that are used or in less-than-perfect condition.
Tuesday, August 16th
At first glance, you might not look at the Government Auctions website and think it'll be your best option - but look again! This service is our preferred resource for government auctions, despite a somewhat busy-and-outdated appearance. Featured in Barron's, Good Housekeeping, Black Enterprise and more, Government Auctions offers a wide range of options ranging from seized property like jewelry and electronics to vehicles, foreclosed homes, and much more.
Autos, Foreclosures, Jewelry, And More
Curious as to what Government Auctions has to offer? You can get a pretty good idea of what kinds of auctions are available by clicking around on the site. Start by using the tabs at the top of the page (Government Auctions, Autos, Items, Foreclosures), and then search by keyword or browse in your state. You won't be able to see full information unless you become a paid subscriber, but you'll get enough details to determine if this service is a good fit for what you're hoping to buy.
Large Number Of Items Available
You can also take a peek at Government Auction's social media channels, where you'll see photos of some of the items in various current auctions. For example, at the time of this review, we spotted weightlifting equipment, pearls and other jewelry, a forklift (!), an accordion, plus boats and vehicles galore.
We recommend you get started by creating an account and taking advantage of Government Auction's 3-day free trial. From there, you can browse the full details of federal, state and local auctions of every type: seized, surplus, and abandoned property. Once your free trial ends, you will be billed $19.95/month as a subscription fee for the service. In the first 30 days of your paid membership, you can cancel and get a full refund. Otherwise, you can cancel at any time (but with no refund offered) - there's no contract or commitment involved with this service.
Another big reasons for recommending the Government Auctions service is the company's solid reputation. In this industry, it's not uncommon to see a really slick website - but get nothing worthwhile for the money you spend to access the auctions. Government Auctions has been in business for nearly two decades and has earned a flawless "A+" rating and accreditation from the BBB. Even more noteworthy, the company has zero registered complaints there, which is almost unheard of.
Government Auctions should be your go-to resource if you're looking for the internet's best deal on seized or abandoned property, including vehicles and foreclosed real estate. This service earns our highest recommendation.
Police Auctions got its start in 1999 as a simple list of links for government auctions "and other interesting websites". That's important to know, because if you come to this site expecting it to only be what the name would suggest, you'll either be surprised or disappointed.
Not Just Government Auctions
You can definitely find up-to-date government auctions here - but a significant portion of what the site offers is best described as "non-government, $1 no reserve" auctions. This could include baseball cards, diamond rings, gold coins, and lots of other merchandise types. In other words, you can find good deals here, but they won't necessarily be strictly limited to seized or abandoned property being auctioned off by a police department or other agency.
Free User Account
You can create a free user account that will allow you to access all non-government auctions (most of the merchandise-type items you'll see, like gemstones, watches and precious metals). If you also want access to government auction listings, you'll pay $7.95 per month (renews automatically) or $39.95 per year (doesn't renew automatically). However, you can easily browse the Police Auctions site to see what kinds of items are on offer: you'll only need an account (paid or free) if you want to see full details and/or place a bid.
Police Auctions has one of the best reputations among all of the government auction services we evaluated. The BBB gives the company a perfect "A+" grade, as well as 17 years of accreditation. There were a handful of complaints registered with the Bureau, but they were all over a year old and showed a professional, prompt response from Police Auctions' representatives.
100% Money-back Guarantee
Customer feedback is equally positive. Take a look at Police Auctions' social media channels and see ample "likes" and favorable reviews. This government auction service offers many client-friendly perks, like a 7-day, 100% money-back guarantee on all merchandise purchased directly from Police Auctions, as well as live customer support during regular business hours. That's a leap above rival services that only allow you to request help via email!
While this site is definitely weighted towards non-governmental auctions (especially jewelry), it offers a strong range of possibilities for virtually every type of bidder. And, it's hard to find government auction platforms with the type of reputation enjoyed by Police Auctions. This service is an easy choice if you want well-rounded options and don't mind paying a small monthly fee to get them.
Gov Deals is a service offered as a liaison between the public and government agencies, allowing them to buy and sell surplus assets. These assets literally run the gamut from A to (almost) Z, as you'll see when you first visit the site: starting with Agricultural Equipment and Commodities, all the way down to Woodworking Equipment.
Lots Of Cars
When using Gov Deals, you'll definitely see some types of merchandise in greater quantities than others. For example, if you're looking for cars, you're in luck: at the time of our most recent visit, there were 496 automobiles (plus 10 classic/custom models). Cafeteria and Kitchen Equipment was also well-represented, with over 400 items ranging from hot dog carts to ice dispensers.
Do Your Detective Work
On the other hand, for usually popular categories like Jewelry and Watches or Fine Art, you may only see a handful of products being auctioned off. Looking at the seller name can often give you a clue where these items are coming from and why they'd be limited in supply. For example, jewelry isn't likely to be auctioned off by a university, for instance, but you might be surprised to see it coming from a public utility (Think about what turns up as washed down the drain, dropped in the gutter, and so on.) That little bit of sleuthing might be as much fun as bidding on the items themselves!
One of the best reasons to use Gov Deals as a source of government auctions is because it's completely open access: you won't need to create an account to see full details on any merchandise. In fact, you'll be able to see the contact details for each seller, read questions that other interested parties have asked, and any other information you might need to make your decision to enter a bid.
Read Those Details
You'll want to read those details very carefully, because that's where you'll find information about any buyer's premiums that will be charged, taxes due, and requirements for shipping/delivery/pick-up. In order to place a bid, you'll need to register as a user, but there's no charge to do so. We recommend reading Gov Deals' Terms and Conditions carefully, because there's a specific list of restricted parties who should not sign up for an account (such as US Dept. of Commerce Denied Persons and Specially Designated Nationals). That won't apply to the average consumer looking for good deals through government auctions, but there are other rules and regulations you agree to by creating an account (that could come back to bite you later if you're not aware beforehand).
We like to see a government auction platform with a strong reputation. How does Gov Deals measure up? The service still has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau, which is usually a good sign. However, we were disappointed to see that the BBB had revoked Gov Deals' accreditation in late 2019 for failure to respond to customer complaints. That's definitely worth keeping an eye on, because it could indicate a downward trend in customer service and the overall quality of auctioned items.
Proceed With Caution
Of all of the government auction sites we evaluated, Gov Deals is probably the most straightforward - and the least cluttered with "extras" like non-government merchandise and real estate foreclosures. And, we love that access is 100% free for all users, all the time. But, the removal of Gov Deals' BBB is a big deal, which means we recommend some caution when using the site for government auctions.
Of all of the government auction sites we evaluated, GSA Auctions is the only one with a .gov website - making it clear that this is actually part of a Federal Government system. You'll only find "surplus federal assets" here, and as such, be prepared to provide your Social Security number when you register your free account for auction bidding.
You probably won't be overly impressed with the inventory on offer through GSA Auctions. When we made our most recent visit to the site, there were approximately 700 items on auction, most of them being vehicles (271) and furniture (155). We did get a little excited when we saw "NASA/Shuttle/Hubble" in the list, but unsurprisingly, the inventory count there was 0. Because this service is strictly limited to federal surplus, you won't see the types of merchandise you see with local and state auctions.
Browse By Location
Browsing what's on offer can be fun, especially since most items have a low minimum bid of just $10 or $25. Just be sure to check location details before you enter a bid; otherwise, you could wind up driving a long way to pick up that "bargain" of a desk chair. Consider using the "Browse by Location" dropdown, so that you're only looking at merchandise that you're willing (and able) to pick up within the required timeframe.
Be sure to read all details very carefully: most of the government auction items are sold as-is and not warranted. For example, on a listing described as "MISC COUCH", the listing said that it was usable, but repairs may be required and parts may be missing. You can schedule an inspection prior to bidding, but that might not be reasonable if you don't happen to live within a short drive of where the item is being held.
Lower BBB Rating
We weren't thrilled to see that GSA Auctions has a "C" rating from the Better Business Bureau (and, frankly, we were surprised to learn that a governmental service can actually have a BBB listing and grade). There were only two complaints registered there, and only one of them had gone unanswered, but that was enough for the BBB to give GSA Auctions a lower rating.
Find More Elsewhere
From our perspective, GSA Auctions gets an average ranking. We love government auction sites that are free to use and that make it easy to see all of the available details about the items listed there. But, because this service only features federal surplus items, it doesn't have as much to offer as our higher-rated government auction sites. There's no risk involved with using GSA Auctions for browsing to see what's out there, but in the end you'll probably find more with a service that includes local and state auctions as well.
Auction Resource is a membership-based platform that gives subscribers access to "over 4,000 live and online auctions" held by agencies like the DEA, FBI, IRS, US Marshals, and local police departments. Available merchandise may include seized boats, jewelry, cars and more.
Pay An Annual Fee
In order to gain access to these listings, you'll pay an annual fee of $39.95. This membership also gives you access to auction tutorials, plus several eBooks about how to successfully win an auction, invest in real estate, and so on.
No Free Trial Or Limited Access
Still have questions about Auction Resource? We do too. Unlike most of their rivals, this government auction site doesn't give people a way to try the service: no free trial, no limited access prior to signing up for a membership, nothing.
As we dug into Auction Resource a little deeper, we came away even more puzzled. This service routes all of its purchases through ClickBank, a marketplace that doesn't have anything to do with auctions. And yet, the "Contact Us" page for Auction Resource tells you to reach out to ClickBank if you need any support with your order. If you browse what kinds of products ClickBank offers through its marketplace, you won't see any of the houses or vehicles prominently featured on the Auction Resource homepage.
Only A Listing?
Going further, your $39.95 fee for a year's access to Auction Resource seems to only give you a list of third-party government auction websites - which you might be able to find on your own at no cost (and some of those sites are probably featured here in other reviews). Sure, there's a 60-day money-back guarantee, but we're not 100% confident that you'll have an easy time getting a refund. Auction Resource is only reachable via email, and they don't have a listing with the Better Business Bureau.
Too Many Questions
For all of these reasons, Auction Resource winds up towards the bottom of our rankings. There's no guarantee that this service offers anything of value, especially since you can't see any of their actual, live listings until you pay to create an account. Using one of the higher-ranked government auction sites would be a wise choice.
Gov Planet primarily focuses on government and military surplus auctions. If you're looking for heavy equipment like cranes, trailers and generators, you won't be disappointed with what's featured on this site. On the other hand, if you're hoping to get a great deal on some jewelry or consumer electronics, the selection at Gov Planet isn't going to thrill you.
Free To Browse
We like that you can browse everything available on the Gov Planet site without making any kind of commitment: no subscription fees, no pay-for-access plans, nothing. You can even see items that were sold in past auctions, if you want an idea of how often a particular type of equipment has been available. At a glance, you'll see where the item is located, number of bids so far, the minimum bid increment, and the ending date for the auction.
Shipping And Payment Details
Don't forget to click on the "Important Information" button when you spot something you might want to bid on. That's where you'll find all of the in-depth details regarding shipping or pick-up of your item, any applicable notices and restrictions, and payment details.
Read The Inspection Report
Next to that tab is the inspection report. You must read it closely, because the site clearly states that "as the buyer, you are responsible for reviewing the entire inspection report when evaluating an item". In other words, if you get your meat slicing machine home and discover that the blade doesn't engage, you won't have any recourse if that defect was clearly spelled out in the report.
Still, even if you're searching for exactly the type of equipment that Gov Planet features, we strongly suggest that you avoid this service. Why? The Better Business Bureau gives Gov Planet's parent company, Iron Planet, an abysmal "F" rating. With more than two dozen complaints on file in the 12-month period leading up to this review, Iron Planet can't be described as reputable by any stretch of the imagination. Customers said that they never received titles for vehicles purchased at auction, there were defects not listed in the inspection report, and that Iron Planet failed to honor repairs that should have been covered under warranty.
Don't Waste Your Time
We believe Gov Planet is a risky site to use for government auctions - and that's being generous. Their selection is, by definition, limited, and the service they offer on the heavy equipment they list is subpar at best. Don't waste your time with this government auction resource when there are much better ones available.
However, no two government auction sites are the same. Some act strictly as a clearinghouse for federal agencies, while others carry both government-auctioned items and overstock deals from other sources. And, while some sites give you access to these listings at no cost, you may find that the more robust platforms expect a membership fee in exchange for providing you with the most updated lists of government auctions around the country.
How can you tell which government auction site to use? Here are several criteria to factor in when deciding on the service that's right for you:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best government auction sites on the internet today. We hope this information helps you find all of the merchandise you're looking for - at bargain prices!
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