Reader Question: Federal Auctions?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply?

Stephen asks:  I was wondering if you had advice regarding buying cars sold via auction by the federal government, like the Treasury Department? Is it too risky or is it possible you can find a reliable deal there?

My reply: A good friend of mine regularly buys cars at auctions (local private and government) and I often go with him. It’s a great way to find a deal – and get taken for a ride, if you’re not careful.

Some auctions allow you to physically inspect the vehicles prior to auction, start the engine – and so on. There will sometimes be disclosures made as to general condition but ultimately it is caveat emptor – and due diligence. My friend is a professional mechanic, so his risk is greatly reduced vs. that of the average person. But if you know what to look what for – and what to avoid – you could also score a deal.

Some auctions are “virtual” (online) especially in the era of weaponized hypochondria; or they insist on Face Diapers and Sickness Kabuki; whether you wish to be involved with that is of course your decision.

The “virtual” or online auctions are the most risky since you are buying based on an image and description, without having actually seen the car, popped the hood, etc.  But, on the other hand, fleet cars being auctioned have usually been maintained according to a schedule and – if the price is right – the risk can be worth taking. The government also auctions off seized vehicles – i.e., formerly private property. These vehicles are more variable because of private owners – and there’s really no way to know how well or not they were maintained. Still, if the price is low enough, it can be a risk worth taking.

Be sure you know what you are buying first. Not the particular car – but rather its general characteristics and reputation, as well as its fair market value.

Then adjust accordingly.

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. There is an ethical issue involved with the buying of cars at federal government auctions. These cars were most likely seized by the federal government via asset forfeiture. I would not buy a car that was stolen from a private party by the government, no matter how great of a deal that I was able to get.


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