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Maybe you’ve seen online auctions featuring surplus government and military vehicles and trucks. It might be tempting to buy that Humvee or cheap pickup truck, but it has the potential to be too good to be true. So, is buying a surplus military vehicle a good idea or a silly notion? 

Can a civilian buy military vehicles?

Yes, civilians can buy military vehicles in auctions and direct sales. Once the government deems a vehicle to be past its usefulness, the machines often end up for sale online. 

A surplus Humvee military vehicle drives through an African desert.
A Humvee in the desert | Fadel Senna, AFP via Getty Images

Moreover, the sheer volume of vehicles leads to low starting prices. For instance, some High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), or Humvees, start at prices below $1,000. Of course, once a potential owner wins an auction, they’ll have to plan for shipping or collection. 

Is it a bad idea to buy a military vehicle?

While military vehicles can be cheap to acquire, potential owners must remember how hard the military treats these machines. Humvees, Light Tactical Vehicles, and 5-Ton trucks have complex lives, operating in temperature and terrain extremes on a regular basis. 

Moreover, some units have operational requirements that put stress and wear on vehicles faster than others. For instance, U.S. Army airborne units often drop vehicles out of cargo aircraft like the C-130. Furthermore, United States Marine Corps (USMC) expeditionary units often take trucks and other equipment across battlespaces by helicopter, naval ship, and even Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercrafts. It’s a hard life for these service vehicles.

An airborne unit drops military vehicles and equipment like Humvees onto a battlefield.
Airborne drop | Joerg Koch, Getty Images

Additionally, interested car hunters will have to take transport into account. For instance, a Humvee can weigh well over 11,000 lbs, per the U.S. Army. As a result, shipping one across state or national boundaries can be very expensive. 

What military vehicles does the government post for sale?

The government and military sell many vehicles to civilians, various agencies, and even foreign governments when they’ve exceeded their usefulness. For instance, Humvees, 5-Tons,  Internally Transportable Light Strike Vehicles (ITVs), and Light Medium Tactical Vehicles (LMTVs) are just a few of the options in government auctions. 

Is buying a military Humvee worth it?

Humvees are workhorses of the military, so most have worked hard during their lifespans. Moreover, the size and weight of a Humvee could limit its applicability as a street-going SUV alternative. However, the Humvee’s merit as a work truck or service vehicle is proven. 

Depending on the model and the state’s registration laws, a military car, truck, or utility vehicle could be street legal. For instance, California doesn’t allow the registration of any vehicle that the manufacturer didn’t intend to go on public highways, including military-spec examples.

Are military vehicles reliable?

Fortunately, most vehicles that the government purchases for service in the armed forces are tough; their whole purpose is to stand up to combat and logistics operations in the most challenging extremes on the planet.

Would you get a car, truck, or tactical vehicle from a government auction? Tell us in the comments below!


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