A government liquidation is a sale of items held by the government, usually at low prices in an auction format for members of the public. Government agencies may handle liquidations directly or contract them out to companies specializing in auctions and sales. Information about upcoming sales is typically listed in newspapers of record and may also be published in fliers and circulars to alert members of the public to sales they may wish to attend. The advertisements will discuss the types of items being liquidated.
The government liquidation may focus on surplus items the government needs to sell to make room for new things or getting rid of aging items that are no longer useful. These can include cars, trucks, equipment, surplus food, and a variety of other items. Often the prices are very low and the government may sell items in large batches. Retail stores can buy batches and in turn resell the items to members of the public at low costs.
Government liquidations can also feature seized items. When government seizures occur, the subjects may have a chance to redeem seized belongings, and if they fail to do so, the government becomes the owner and can use them, hold them in storage, or sell them. Sales are common, as they raise money for the agency that performed the seizure. With things like items seized for nonpayment of taxes, the sale is part of the process for resolving the situation that led to the seizure in the first place, by recovering monies owed to the government.
Goods at a government liquidation are sold as-is, and people must be sure they want to buy them, as there are no returns and the government is not liable for any problems. It is also usually necessary to pay in cash at the time of purchase. Some sales require prepayment, where people must buy their way into the sale. This discourages bidders who are not serious or people who just want to observe, as they may be unwilling to pay the fee. The monies paid apply to any auctions the bidder wins and any leftover funds are returned.
When attending a government liquidation, it is common to have access to the goods in a preview. This allows attendees to examine and evaluate items to determine if they want to make purchases. Options like turning on equipment and being able to test drive vehicles may be available by request. In other government liquidation previews, a physical examination is the only thing attendees are allowed to do.