Going Once, Going Twice...

The ideal auction process would enable you to sel lyour fleet assets individually as they become surplus, regardless of the time of day or year. The ideal venue would display your vehicles with similar items rather than placing your worn-out pickup truck next to a shiny Cadillac. The ideal audience would be focused buyers interested in the assortment of specialized equipment you have to sell.

These are just some of the benefits an online auction service provides. Perhaps the biggest advantages to selling online are that sellers can reach beyond local clientele and buyers can view a larger market.

To use these online services, the seller provides a photo, a description, and a minimum acceptable bid, known as the reserve price. The auction site does not disclose the reserve price to buyers, so the bidding often begins at a lower level. If the reserve price is not met by the end of the specified auction period, the seller is not obligated to complete a sale. The sales commission, typically between 6% and10%, can be passed along as a buyer's fee.

Auction pages organize sale items by category. Each listing includes the photo of the vehicle and keeps track of the current high bid, number of bids received, bidding time left, and whether or not the reserve price has been met.

The buyer is responsible for sending an authorized carrier or driver to pick up the vehicle. The seller should not release the vehicle until payment has cleared.

Some considerations for selecting an auction Web site include the following:

  • Audit records and reporting capabilities that satisfy requirements for publicly funded agencies
  • An option to extend the auction period
  • Marketing support services such as notifying potential buyers about newly listed items
  • Ease of use for buyers and sellers
  • Current bidder count, especially those located within 500 miles of your zip code.

Several auction Web sites specialize in selling assets from government agencies.Opening the sales floor to a targeted, coast to-coast audience makes it possible to realize greater proceeds for big-ticket items.

For example, the city of Lynchburg,Va., has received more than $30,000 a piece for side-loading refuse trucks that typically sell for about $7000 locally. It also sells to a larger audience: Lynchburg recently sold a truck that went to Oregon and an ambulanceto a California buyer.

The price differential may be less for smaller assets. Many agencies have success selling these items on their own sites, sending e-mail promotions to their local databases and receiving sealed bids. Tapping online auction services for high-priced items helps optimize your revenue stream and streamline inventory management.

John McCorkhill is director of fleet services for the city of Lynchburg, Va.