How to Buy a Military Surplus Vehicle
Whether you’re looking to drive your favorite vehicle from your time in the service, have always wanted to own a tough and rough ride from a military movie, or just interested in a really great deal on super-rugged vehicles, shopping military surplus might be your ideal solution. Just like any company, the U.S. government is often faced with an abundance of extra equipment and unneeded product. To stay efficient and make room for newer items – not to mention add additional income – the government and various contractors work together to find interested purchasers in the civilian world. It’s often a win-win situation, as civilians can find great deals in the process.
Here are five steps to purchase a surplus military vehicle.
- Start your search.
While you may have some luck searching your local classifieds, online listings like Craigslist and eBay, and social media “garage sale” groups and pages, there are some sources that specialize in military surplus vehicles. The website GovPlanet (an off-shoot of the site IronPlanet that specializes in selling used construction vehicles) creates an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of surplus government vehicles and equipment, hosting online auctions for final purchase prices. The site Government Liquidation is run by an exclusive contractor working with the U.S. Department of Defense, operating a1 million square-foot warehouse – along with 150 outposts on military bases –
to liquidate government trucks, RVs, boats, trailers, and tractors, along with items from 500 additional categories, ranging from test equipment to uniforms and even scrap metal. If you want the most bang for your search buck, these sites are a great starting point in your military vehicle search.
- Make sure it’s been inspected… or take your chances.
Just like purchasing anything used through a private party or online, the buyer must beware. GovPlanet does offer an “IronClad Assurance,” stating that the items for sale on its site come with a detailed inspection report conducted by its field experts; you have 24 hours to contact them if what you receive is not what was described. Government Liquidation is more inline with other online auction sites; you may find a good deal but it may be in a remote location and you may or may not be able to see it in person before purchasing. Still, many consumers find the benefits – super-low prices and unique finds – to be worth the tradeoff.
- Do your math and remember extra fees.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an online auction, it’s important to remember your overall budget and the additional fees you may encounter after the auction ends. This includes taxes, fees from the site, shipping or freight costs, or your own personal cost to travel to the location of the vehicle and retrieve it. Again, some of the prices and deals you can find are so low that it is still affordable and worth the extra effort; just remember to review the site’s policies before purchase, know applicable taxes and fees, and be realistic about what it will take to get your vehicle to your own location. If you plan to drive the vehicle on public roads, you’ll need to remember the costs of licenses and registration for your state and county as well (see Step 5). Finally, if you’re purchasing a fixer-upper, remember the cost for repairing it or, in some cases, de-militarizing it (i.e., making it more comfortable for civilian/sports use with new doors, tops, etc.).
- Complete the transaction.
You’ll need to be prepared with cash or funds in hand to purchase these items, as most of these liquidation sites will not accept any form of payment from a third-party; the person registered and completing the bidding is expected to be the single source of payment. Many sites will let you use the typical credit cards and even PayPal, although they may have a threshold amount (for example, $10,000) where they then require funds to be wired or paid with a cashier’s check.
- Get it registered for your location.
Once you get your vehicle home, you’ll be excited to start enjoying it right away. Just remember it’s important to ensure it’s “street legal” to avoid any additional expenses from your local law enforcement. Rules vary depending on the vehicle’s gross vehicular weight rating (GVWR), meaning how much weight your vehicle is capable of hauling. Check with your state or local law enforcement department and ask for a "commercial vehicle enforcement officer" (or equivalent title) who will be familiar with the details of the law. There are also additional requirements if you’re planning on driving the vehicle very far from home, and if you’re crossing state lines, you’ll need to check with that state’s rules as well. Additionally, certain vehicles – basically anything larger than a Jeep – may require special driver licenses (like a commercial driver’s license or CDL), even if you’re planning on using the vehicle purely for personal use. Hopefully you already have the required licenses if you drove the vehicle during your service; if not, just be sure to build it into your timeline and budget.