Count the state Department of Transportation's semiannual vehicle auctions among the events sidelined by COVID-19. The June auction squeaked out in August and the October event was canceled. The university's transportation services staff, which sells 80-110 fleet vehicles in a normal year at the auctions, found an alternative online at govdeals.com, a liquidity site for government agencies ISU Surplus has used strategically for a decade.
Since October, transportation services has sold the five vehicles it listed on the website, including a buyer from Tennessee and two university employees. The sixth, a 2016 silver Chevrolet Impala driven 93,524 miles, was posted earlier this week.
"Local buyers know our vehicles are maintained well, we share the service record, we're up front if there's any accident information," said transportation services director Kathy Wellik. "We think this is an easier way for university employees who know our standards and want to purchase our vehicles."
And by selling on the government site, they also gain a national audience and lose the two-sale-dates-per-year constraint.
The latter is particularly appealing this year. With the pandemic wiping out business travel, university drivers put fewer miles on the fleet in the last 10 months and fewer vehicles need to be replaced. Wellik said fleet vehicles are sold when they hit 10 years or 100,000 miles. She estimates transportation services will sell 20-30 vehicles over the next 10 months or so, some due simply to a lower campus demand for fleet vehicles.
"We're constantly watching utilization and right-sizing the inventory," said Butch Hansen, shop manager for transportation services. "We don't know when things will get back to a new norm, so for now, it's an as-we-go process."
An effective strategy on an auction site is to provide a limited quantity -- and vary the model -- to keep the bidding more competitive. A single Grand Caravan minivan is likely to fetch a better price for the seller than the third of five vans, for example.
How to shop
As ISU fleet vehicles become available for sale, Wellik's team shares those vehicles on its website and Facebook page. ISU Surplus posts vehicles on govdeals.com and collects payment on behalf of transportation services. Bidders on govdeals.com need to register to participate in its auctions.
Purchases focus on specialty vehicles
Because transportation services needs to replace fewer sedans and minivans this year, Wellik said her purchasing efforts have focused on specialty vehicles for university clients, for example, police responders, a customized truck for animals or a box truck for campus package deliveries. Campus units in need of a vehicle are invited to contact Wellik, 294-1657.