Used Military Vehicles: How to Buy Them + Some Advice

Purchasing used military vehicles has become much more popular over the past few years. This can be attributed to a few main reasons. First, the United States military has decided to start leaning out their assets in the most recent years. The only way to get rid of assets is to sell them to foreign militaries, scrap them, or sell them to civilians. Also, the government has been accused relentlessly about wasteful government spending. They will be trying to reprise some of the costs of this wasteful spending by selling unused assets.

Selling them to foreign military units is usually the first course of action. Foreign militaries will usually buy them in bulk, and it’s likely to strike a large deal with them. It also helps build relations.

However, some vehicles will be of no use to some foreign governments, when this happens the government usually tries to sell them to the general public. This helps spread some of the wealth domestically.

Why Buy a Used Military Vehicle?

There are several reasons you might want to buy a used military vehicle. First, they are built to last decades. Seriously. They are contracted out by some of the top engineers available. Additionally, the resources of some of these government contracting corporations have are limitless, and the government is willing to pay top dollar for the vehicles it requests. So they will often use top of the line material to protect from assaults, weather, aging, etc. They truly are built to last a very long time in the case that they don’t get top tier servicing and maintenance.

Secondly, they get the job done. If you need a military grade vehicle, we’ll assume you have a heavy duty project that needs that sort of hardware. Or, as we have seen in a lot of cases, you live in a place where the weather can be terrible. If that’s the case, military grade 4×4 vehicles will serve you very well. They are designed not to get stuck in even the worst of places. Really, when you think about it, you can’t ask the bad guys to give you a hand pushing your car out of the ditch before they start chasing you again. They are simply designed not to put their drivers in those types of situations.

Lastly, military vehicles don’t necessarily mean they are killing machines. The military also owns dump trucks, construction equipment, etc. This would be a great addition to your construction fleet. They are likely more durable than the regular equipment you would get your hands on, and you can probably get a fantastic deal on them as well.

Where to Buy Used Military Vehicles?

More than likely your best bet will be an auction. There are several types of auctions where you can get good deals on used military vehicles. First, you might want to try Ebay. It sounds sort of weird to buy a large military vehicle off of Ebay, but it happens all the time. In fact, you can get a pretty good deal. Ebay is an auction hub. It works well, so why wouldn’t the government want to use it? Not only does the government use it, but it’s also used by people who have purchased used military vehicles and are looking to resell them.

You can also try government auctions. They have them all the time; you just have to know where to look. Almost every state will have a military base of some sort. Almost always the base will hold auctions and almost always the auctions will be on base. There is usually some sort of liaison to the public that will seek out unused military equipment and vehicles and hold auctions to sell them to the public. My advice would be to get there early, bring a decent amount of hard cash, and know when to call it quits. Sure, that 1985 Hummer is pretty cool, but keep in mind that you can purchase one for around $6,000 these days, if you have a guy trying to drive the price up to $10,000, it’s just best to walk away. There will always be other auctions, and there will always be vehicles to buy.

I would also try looking on surplus websites. There are always military enthusiasts and those looking to make a few bucks selling vehicles on their own sites or through vendors. Most often these vehicles sit for long periods of time so it’s very likely you will find a deal that you didn’t expect.

It’s also never a bad idea to check local listings. This is especially true if you live near a military base or in a rural area. We have come across tons of used military vehicles that are just withering away in rural barns or car lots. I say “withering,” but they are almost always in good shape by the time we find them, because they are made with top notch, anti-rust materials, they usually just require a solid tune-up to get them started. You’ll generally find the best deals if you go this route, you’ll just have to expect to put in a little more leg work.

Lastly, you can even contact your local military bases. There is usually someone in charge of inventory that might be willing to part with a vehicle and just hasn’t had the time to host an auction yet. We don’t recommend being pushy or requesting an outrageous vehicle, but you can certainly check and see what they might be willing to part with if you have a particular type in mind.

How to Buy Used Military Vehicles

Well, it’s not going to be like other used cars, you’ll have to really check them out before you buy them. Also, unfortunately, there is no Carfax or Kelley Blue Book. They are machines that have been especially engineered for some sort of military service. That being said, you will have to give them a run through before you decide to buy them. We’ve found that generally, the listing tends to be pretty spot on, albeit relatively vague.

Keeping in mind these vehicles were generally build for warfare, they can come with an interesting spectrum of issues. We have found cars that do not include keys, some need a heavy tune-up, some need a jump, or some just need some TLC. Regardless, we have found they are generally in good shape, but since the record of these vehicles can be a little hazy, it’s important to give the map a thorough walk through before make any large purchases. If the barrier between you not buying the 6×6 cargo truck and spending $10,000 on it is checking the engine or the records, I would say don’t buy it. However, you can almost certainly bet on the vehicle having a meticulous servicing history.

What to Stay Away From

Like we have stated quite a bit before, generally the vehicle you inherit from the military will run like a champion. However, even so, there are a few types of vehicles that you won’t want to buy. We have compiled a short list of used military vehicles that you do not want to purchase:

  • Any vehicle that has tracks instead of wheels. Yes, we mean tanks. Also other vehicles with similar mobility technology. Although these vehicles are awesome in theory, the repairs on them are a nightmare, transporting it will be expensive, and what will you do with it? Really? Believe us, we have come across a few vehicles like this from time to time, and they just end up becoming 10 ton paper weights.
  • We would advise to avoid vehicles that are older models. This is for a few reasons. First, you can usually get newer modems for relatively low prices. We recently saw a 2010 6×6 go for under $10,000. Also, these vehicles are so uniquely made that finding a replacement part for a broken or lost piece would be extremely difficult and in some cases; next to impossible. The older the model of the vehicle, the more difficult it will be to find a replacement part.
  • Vehicles that you’d like to drive around but aren’t street legal. This should be a no brainer, however, these are all based on state laws. So just because it’s legal in one state doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legal in another. You might buy this large, awesome relic from U.S. military history and not be able to drive it. Even worse, you might have to pay to have it transported home. To avoid that, we would recommend reading up on state laws before you buy a military vehicle to drive on the streets.

What to look for

We’ve told you what you should stay away from, let’s go over what you should be looking for. We’ve compiled another list of things you should look for when you buy a used military vehicle. These things will tell you if you’ve found a keeper or not!

  • Does it start and run smoothly? This seems simple enough, but building off of what we stated in the previous paragraph, some people notice what seem like small issues in their prospective purchase and think it is going to be a small fix. This is generally not the case. Listen for a smooth turnover, effortless shifting, and no strange sounds. Not to say other issues won’t arise, but if it seems like there aren’t any issues on the surface, it’s a good start.
  • Check the drive shaft, axles, and frame of the vehicle. These vehicles are generally given hell: rolling over rocks and logs, hopping hills, etc. If the drive-shaft hasn’t been replaced yet, it might need it. Make sure this vehicle has a strong drive shaft and frame, if it doesn’t look like there are discrepancies, you’re generally in the green.
  • Check the title and records. There are almost always going to add up correctly, but it’s worth a second look. It’s good practice to check out all of the records to make sure it’s been serviced regularly and not wrecked. It’s also good to check the title and make sure they didn’t mix up the vehicles in the chaos of their massive military. VIN, year, miles, etc. should all match up. If all these things do, and the price is right, it’s usually alright to give the vehicle a try.

Final Thoughts

We understand the appeal of purchasing used military vehicles. We wouldn’t have posted this if we didn’t. They are just plain cool. They’re also strong, durable, and they’ll last for decades. However, we strongly recommend you take the time to do your research before you buy a military vehicle. They can be a great addition to your work or collectors fleet, but only if you purchase the right one. Otherwise, you might be stuck with a vehicle that you can’t use and can’t fix.

Additionally, if you decide to go to a live military auction, don’t feel obligated to purchase a vehicle on your first trip. If you’re not sure about a vehicle or you don’t find one that meets your standards, don’t rush into it. The military will constantly be retiring used vehicles, and you will have several chances to find the right one. It’s important to note that military vehicles are not like regular vehicles. You can buy any reasonable vehicle, and you likely won’t have a hard time getting rid of it if that’s what you want to do. Military vehicles are not the same. If you wind up with a military vehicle that has something wrong with it or that you want to sell, you might have an incredibly tough time getting rid of it. You might even end up having to scrap it to get a fraction of your investment back. We suggest you take your time and make a well informed decision. We hope this article helps you do that!