US Customs Auctions: How They Work and What They Sell

US Customs Auctions

In our last blog post we began our discussion of the various government agencies and their functions by talking about one of the oldest, but perhaps least well know agency, The United States Marshals Service. Now we will continue our discussion of government agencies and how you can profit from them. Here we will be focusing on the United States Customs Service.

What is the U.S. Customs Service?

The U.S. Customs Service exists to make sure that anything entering the United States is legal and that any import, levy or tariff that is due is paid. This government agency basically serves as the gatekeeper for all goods entering the United States. There are hundreds of trade and import restrictions and laws on the books, and it is this agencies’ duty to make sure those laws are followed. The U.S. Customs Service has the power to seize assets and arrest any individuals who violate the law. Working closely with other agencies, Customs seizes billions of dollars worth of assets every year.

Where does the agency get stuff it auctions off?

A surprising number of people try to smuggle things into the United States. When most people think of smuggling, they think of someone going through the airport with an illegal substance in their luggage. However, a large percentage of smuggling occurs when goods are transported in shipping containers overseas. Others, who are not attempting to smuggle, either cannot afford to pay the import duties on things they are trying to bring into the country or just forget and leave stuff at the port. Either way, the seized assets, including electronics, tobacco, food, large machinery, and anything else you can imagine, are sold off to the public through auctions.

A lot of the assets seized by customs come from drug trafficking, which is why they have a large inventory of cars, trucks, boats, and planes. You can find some excellent deals on these types of assets at customs auctions, because the inventory is plentiful. 

What you need to know?

  • At customs auctions, cash, certified checks, and major credit cards are usually accepted.
  • Customs requires that some assets be sold only for export. That means that if you are the winning bidder, you must immediately have a way to export the asset out of the country, otherwise you will forfeit the asset.
  • Some of the cars and boats that you will find at these auctions have all sorts of hidden compartments that were used to smuggle drugs and other illicit materials. When these assets are sold the hidden compartments have to be dismantled or destroyed at the buyers expense. The changes must be made before you can get a clear title, and there is usually a time requirement for completion. Keep this in mind when bidding, because alterations came take some time to make.

Look out for our future blog posts where we will be discussing one of the largest sources of surplus property from the U.S. government, the General Services Administration (G.S.A).

Start checking out United States Customs and other auctions by activating your free trial account right now!