Find Seized Vehicle Bargains at Government Auctions

It’s hard to beat government auctions of seized property when looking for an affordable live-aboard boat or airplane.

| January/February 1984

Have you ever wanted a boat? Not a canoe or a rowboat, mind you, that's not what I mean. I'm talking about something substantial, something you could live aboard and use for commercial fishing or other maritime enterprises . . . a shrimper, trawler, tug, or freighter, say. A nice dream, isn't it? Unfortunately, most times the cost of a toy like that is virtually guaranteed to keep your dream boat just that . . . only a dream.

And likewise, the idea of owning an airplane is out of the question for the average person, even when you consider the moneymaking possibilities of bush-piloting, backcountry transportation, and such. The outrageous price tag pretty well dictates that—for most of us—our only flights will be those of the imagination.

But owning a live-aboard boat doesn't have to be just a dream. And piloting your own airplane doesn't have to remain in the category of a fantasy. Why not? Uncle Sam, Your Friendly Auctioneer describes the fantastic bargains to be found at U.S Customs Service auctions of abandoned and confiscated import goods. What I'm about to reveal to you here is closely related to that article, but has a different twist: It's about auctions of seized vehicles —usually boats and planes—courtesy of Uncle Sam and his various long arms: the FBI, DEA, USCS, BIN, and a number of other acronymic law-enforcement agencies.

Want some examples? How about a 40-foot commercial lobster boat with a V-8 Detroit diesel for $1,600 . . . or a 56-foot trawler for $6,500? Maybe you'd like a slick little 52-foot motor sailer for only $7,000? Tell you more, you say? OK. Recent Government Accounting Office figures show that the federal government has in storage—right now—some $82.1 million worth of confiscated boats, planes, and other ex-smuggling vehicles! With that kind of inventory to choose from—at unbeatable auction prices-who's to say that your dream machine isn't just waiting for you to sail or fly it away for (relative to what such things normally cost) peanuts?

How Do Seized Vehicle Auctions Work?

Here's how: An agency—the Drug Enforcement Administration, let's say—makes a bust, and a boat- or airplane load of imported marijuana falls into the hands of the law. A routine search for the owner is run, and the vessel is placed in storage . . . pending litigation to decide who owns what (creditors often enter the picture at this point). If the courts determine that the craft is now government property, an auction is announced . . , but not too loudly, as it turns out. In fact, most of these sales are advertised in the local papers only.

So the trick to having access to these government sell-offs is to know about them. And with the large number of law-enforcement agencies involved, that can be quite a trick indeed. Until recently, a serious would-be bidder had to call each of the agencies frequently to keep abreast of the what, when, and where of the different sales. But that's all changed now.

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