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Government auction websites are one of the best-kept secrets among fans of used pickup trucks. But with the price of the trucks at used car lots and dealerships going through the roof, more and more buyers are turning to local and federal auction sites. The trucks listed range from retired fire trucks to light-duty pickups that spent their lives on Army or Navy bases. But some makes and models come up again and again. Here are three of our favorites, and how to shop for them.

1997-2006 GMC Sierra 1500

A red GMC Sierra pickup truck parked at a construction site.
2004 GMC Sierra 1500| John Wilcox/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The 1997 through 2007 GMC Sierra 1500/Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is one of the best deals on the used pickup truck market right now. This generation of General Motors truck and full-frame SUV was originally called the GMT400. It strikes a sweet spot between modern capabilities and low maintenance costs. In addition, the resale values of this post-square body body style have hit rock bottom. But you better pick yours up quick, because the GMT400 will become a collectible classic soon.

MotorTrend wrote an extensive buying guide to the 1997-2007 GMC Sierra 1500. This pickup truck was available with a 4.3-liter V6, or three sizes of V8s. The largest engine was the 6.0-liter V8. While most of these Sierras were automatics, it was the last generation of General Motors pickup truck available with a five-speed manual transmission. One feature that may be important to certain modern buyers to hunt down is the E85 flex-fuel upgrade. 2006 and 2007 models with this option had a “flexfuel” badge, but 2005 and earlier trucks just had a sticker inside the gas filler door.

See what’s making the GMT400 a collectible classic truck.

Square body Ford F-150 and Super Duty

A man loads hay bales in the bed of a blue and white Ford truck.
1989 Ford F-150 | Ford

The Ford F-150 is often called “America’s favorite truck,” and one reason for its strong sales numbers is its popularity as a fleet vehicle. The square body Ford truck—often considered the 1980 through 1997 model years—is the quintessential no-nonsense F-150 work truck. You rarely see “bulldog nose” (1980-86) F-150s still listed on government auction sites. But you do see the similar-looking 8th-generation (1987-1991) and 9th-generation (1992-1997) trucks occasionally.

Ford sold these two generations in various configurations: regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab, available with short and long beds. The base engine was the legendary 300 cubic-inch I6, which gained fuel injection in 1987. It is often paired with a five-speed manual engineered by Mazda. At the top of the lineup, the Super Duties of the day featured a PowerStroke diesel V8.

Read up on the square body Ford trucks.

2007-2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

A gray Chevrolet Silverado truck towing a boat.
2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 | General Motors

General Motors’ 2007-2014 pickup truck chassis was codenamed the GMT800. These trucks feature modern looks, plenty of get-up-and-go for highway driving, and maintenance costs nearly as low as the GMT400. They hold onto their value better than the earlier GMs. You may be able to offset this added cost by opting for the Chevrolet Silverado version instead of the pricier “professional grade” GMC version.

Every truck has its own weak points. But the great thing about the 2007-2014 Silverado is that many things prone to breaking are cheap to fix. For example, the GMT400 and GMT800 are known for leaking coolant, but a water pump gasket fixes the problem. They can also burn oil, but simply replacing the driver’s side valve cover—and the PCV valve it contains—will usually solve this problem. Other common issues include the knock engine sensor and throttle body position sensor. But again, these are cheaper and easier to fix than powertrain problems.

Buying a government liquidation pickup truck

Government liquidation sites, such as are an excellent way to find low-dollar used pickup trucks. But do pay attention to what vehicle you are considering, and how hard it was used. A plow truck from a northern climate is, for example, going to be in much rougher duty than a light-duty southern truck that has yet to have a trailer hitch installed. It’s never a bad idea to go look at a truck before buying. And if that’s not possible, you may even be able to hire a local mechanic to inspect it for you before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Next, learn all about the 2007-2014 Silverado or see how to pickup a government auction truck or Humvee in the video below:


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