What are Surplus Auctions?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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A surplus auction is a process for disposing of surplus items by allowing prospective buyers to bid on them. A surplus item is a product or piece of equipment that has been produced or acquired in excess of the amount needed, is not being used or consumed, and is not likely to be used by its owner in the future. Surplus auctions may be used to dispose of everything from electronics and computer equipment to furniture and vehicles.

It is worth noting that there is a difference between items that are truly surplus and items that are simply excess. Excess items can be described as property that is still useful to the agency or department that uses it, but that is no longer needed by that particular department or agency. By contrast, surplus property is no longer of use to the organization that owns it.

Surplus auctions can be used to exchange extra resources for money. During a surplus auction, bidders make bids on surplus items. Often, large volumes of items are offered at surplus auctions. For each item or lot of items, the highest bidder is selected and granted the right to purchase the auctioned property.


Many organizations, both private and governmental, take advantage of surplus auctions to dispose of their surplus assets. This is often because storing surplus equipment can require a significant amount of storage space and may translate into considerable expense for the owner of the unused items. Furthermore, surplus auctions can be a good way for businesses to unload unused products before they decline significantly in monetary value.

Though there are public and private surplus auctions, public auctions are most frequently used to sell surplus assets. Most businesses engage the services of a professional auctioneer to conduct their auctions. However, there are some organizations that choose to handle the auction process themselves.

Some surplus auctions are held on on site, while others are held at sites provided by professional auctioneers. Many organizations prefer to have surplus auctions at an auctioneer’s location because it creates less logistical issues for them. For example, an organization planning an on site surplus auction must plan for adequate parking for bidders and make provisions for safety and security. If an organization chooses to have a surplus auction at an auctioneer’s location, the main logistical issue for the organization is the transportation of the surplus items to the auction site.


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