How to Buy Military Trucks Online

Upwards of 10,000 Humvees will passing under GovPlanet's auction gavel. © GovPlanet

There’s a realm in the world of trucks that few privileged have experienced. It begins where over-the-counter, mass-market, consumer-grade ends and the land of purpose-built, prescription-strength specialty begins. These are vehicles developed with the type of budget that says, “This thing needs to be able to scale a 60 percent slope with a touch of the gas pedal, swim its way through 5 feet of water, require next-to-nothing maintenance for long periods of time and carry 5 passengers comfortably…while the nastiest weapons mankind can craft are being hurled its way. You build it, we’ll buy it.” This is the ultimate echelon of tough, the best our species can possibly do in terms of fusing a rhino, a saltwater crocodile, a mountain goat and some dinosaur DNA with that of a pickup truck or school bus. This is military grade…and for the first time in our nation’s history, there’s a practical and affordable way to experience it.

For years these overbuilt colossi have quietly been ushered off to the green fields of Elysium at open-to-the public auctions. If you were one of the fortunate few who happened to live within a feasible distance of where a DLA-sanctioned (Defense Logistics Agency) auction was taking place, you’d have to show up, kick the tires in person and decide if you wanted to commit your nest egg on a moment’s notice. The system worked well for some, but what about the rest of us who want to sit at the helm of a piece of American military history?

The opportunity for the rest of us has arrived. IronPlanet, an online marketplace where buyers and sellers have traded in heavy equipment since 2000, is the proud recipient of a contract from the Department of Defense allowing them to sell rolling stock for agencies, specifically the DLA. IronPlanet gave birth to GovPlanet and the executives at the fledging site anticipate selling somewhere between 15,000 to 18,000 pieces of military equipment every year.

What kind of military equipment? Glad you asked. If you want to skip to our companion article that touches on the highlights of what’s currently up for sale, click here.

Their nicknames tell the whole story. The “Jeep on steroids”, “The Dragon Wagon” and one simply referred to as “The Beast” in truck enthusiast circles take center stage on what seems to be endless pages of equipment queued up for coming auction dates. Everyone from construction industry professionals to municipal departments, dealers and off-road enthusiasts have begun to snap up the iconic original Humvee,Stewart and Stevenson’s Light- and Medium Tactical Vehicles and the mighty Oshkosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck at extremely affordable prices, but there’s much more to the term “rolling stock” than powerful titans that run on diesel.

Rolling stock is, simply put, anything with wheels on it. Everything from generators to welding units, cranes to forklifts and utility vehicles to campers dot the pages of listings. Occasionally a few full-size pickup trucks will pop up. It’s like Crazy Eddie snuck his way into a compound armed with a camera and a laptop.

So yes, while the prices are INSAAAAAANE (sorry), is it really a good idea to drop your hard-earned cash on some machinery that’s possibly been pushed through some of the most punishing circumstances known to mankind? First, let’s look at the reasons why these overbuilt machines ended up being retired. Each machine type has a shelf life--determined by number of hours operated, miles driven, rounds fired or the arrival of replacement machines with newer technology coming into the inventory. Another factor in play is changes in force structure—downward fluctuations in troops and strength for the military branches mean there’s more equipment available that needs to be dealt with. In the case of the Humvee and Stewart and Stevenson’s tactical vehicles, next-generation platforms are rolling out with significantly improved armor for occupants.

According to Jeff Holmes, VP of Government Solutions for GovPlanet, many pieces of equipment listed on the auction site have gone through a refurbishment process. It’s a little more involved than the 21-point inspection and tuneup at your local grease shack. “That vehicle is driving in the front of a maintenance depot and completely stripped down to the bare metal with all components removed and will then be re-assembled with whatever upgrades in technology and will roll out the back of the depot with 0 hours and 0 miles on the gauges. This is all equipment—everything from small arms to equipment to rolling stock and tanks.” Jeff explains, calling on his years spent serving in the DLA. A lot of the equipment is standard commercial-grade equipment, manufactured by Caterpillar, OshKosh and Stewart and Stevenson. Maintenance is designed to be a simple process and parts are plentiful.

Still, there’s the aspect of bidding on something that you’ve never seen, which tends to feel hairier as the bargain seems better. Every piece of equipment listed on GovPlanet is subjected to a rigorous (and patented) inspection process that is very thorough. Engine and transmission fluids are analyzed, frames are inspected and operational modes are evaluated (you didn’t think the guy in the yellow hardhat above came with the forklift, did you?). The results, along with pictures and, in some cases, video, are posted with the auction listing and GovPlanet guarantees that the equipment you’re bidding on is accurately represented. As a part of their IronClad Assurance, they’ll have the equipment repaired or refund your money if there’s a discrepancy.  The reassurance seems to be working. According to Jeff, the DLA is seeing a 300% increase in the price they’re getting for equipment and over 5,000 people participated in the last auction.

We rounded up some of the highlights from an auction on GovPlanet in a companion article here. To commemorate the sacrifices and service of people in the military, GovPlanet has donated a portion of the proceeds from some Humvee sales to Folds of Honor, an organization that helps families of fallen or disabled veterans get a good education. That’s just another good reason to get out there and buy something fierce.