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Extra RV Storage - Government Surplus Bargains

The M101A2 twins on duty

If you are a true fulltime RVer like Miss Kathy and I am, storage space is an ongoing issue.  If you want to buy a new piece of equipment or even stock up on a bargain on sale at the grocery store, your first thought is ‘Where am I gonna put it?’  Some recreational vehicles have more storage space than others  – I guess a Fifth wheel is the champ and a travel trailer is its’ poor cousin as far as storage space goes.    Even if you sell off that sticks and bricks and pare the necessities to the bone, you still have a certain amount of stuff that you just cannot part with.

Some people put the stuff in storage.  (raising my hand)  Call us guilty of that one by golly.  Miss K and I have 3 storage units between us — one in South Dallas, one in New Braunfels down in the Hill Country and one in Terlingua.  At least we scattered ’em around some.   Call that smart logistics, OK?  If we move off down toward that South Texas like I am thinking, the South Dallas location will have to go.  Storage units are not a bad idea.  I write them off as a business expense.  Still yet, I sure do hate paying those monies out every month.

Another way some people go is a storage trailer they just haul around with them.  Most opt for a small enclosed trailer.  I had a 28′ enclosed trailer until that Perterbilt rear ended me back in 2007.  It was too big anyway.  Small enclosed trailers like a 10 or 12 footer are expensive in my way of thinking.  Even used they still command a premium price.   My solution was a government surplus cargo trailer.  I have bought 4 of the Desert Tan Babies and I gotta say I like ’em.  8′ of cargo box 5′ wide,  they have high ground clearance and a rubberized tarp top that keeps 99% of the moisture out and some of the dust.   They are as tough as a sack full of hammers and pull easily behind the Old Girl or the Suburban.  As a matter of fact, I gotta watch it.  Miss Kathy is usually the one hitched up to one of the Babies and if I am not watching, the next thing I know she is burning down the road at 80+.

I have never really explained just how you go about buying a DTB for your self.   The govmint boys don’t sell the stuff themselves.  They use a contractor out of Arizona to take care of it and they do it via online auction.  Right here:  Government Surplus Auctions.   You register for free but you do have to give them a valid credit card to register – more on that later.   Once you are registered, the bidding process is pretty much like eBay with a couple of twists.  Some of the equipment -like the trailers-are war ready; so they have to be demilitarized before they pass to private ownership.  Nah, they don’t modify the trailers or anything; it is just paperwork.  If you have to fill out an End Use Certificate that basically says the trailer is for personal use and you will never sell it outside the country.   The kicker is the EUC along with a background check may take 2 months to complete.   They charge your credit card the day the auction completes and then you may have to wait two months to go get your trailer.  Sorta sucks it does.  The good news is once they check you out the first time, subsequent EUCs usually clear in a week or so.

M101A2 rear view

So what can you expect from a government auction?  It is basically the luck of the draw.  Most items usually have a scanty description and a half dozen pictures and that is about it folks.  You can go pre-inspect the items you are interested in and if you are buying a 6X6  or something of the like that is the way I would go.

If you are specifically interested in a cargo trailer, let me tell you what to look for.

There are three trailers currently being sold as surplus:

M101A1 – older model, old style split rims with military tires, no surge brakes

M101A2 – surge brakes,  chevy 8 lug wheels and 16″  regular truck tires

M101A3  – newest surplus model, a wider track, Hummer wheels and lugs and they look extra cool.  They sell HIGH!

I always look closely at the pictures to check tire condition and the condition of the top.  Some may be rusty and a common rust area is the front of the bed.  The only trouble I have ever had with one of these trailers was the wheel bearings running a little hot.

The electrical system is 24v and they use a pintle hitch.  You can get a pintle hook at Tractor Supply that fits in a 2″ receiver hitch.  They run about $90.  I have a magnetic tow light set I always take with me for tail lights to get the trailer home.  Changing the light plug and replacing 4 tail lights is all you have to do to convert them to 12v.

Not a day goes by that somebody passing through our gate doesn’t ask me about the Babies.  I coulda sold 5 of them right here if I was so of a mind.  As far as prices, I have paid anywhere from $225 on up to $375 for the trailers.  On top of that, you have a 10% buyers premium and sales tax.  I routinely see them selling on eBay and Craigslist for $600 – $1200.   I have no doubt that I will probably buy another one at some point in the future.

UPDATE 9/23/2011–  A surplus lot of varied items closed yesterday at the Red River Army Depot in Hooks, TX.  Among the lot were a dozen or so M101A2 military cargo trailers.  Final prices ranged from $290 – $470.   Looks like the average price was around $330 to which you add tax of $25 or so and the buyers premium of 10% = $33 so you would be out the door at around $388.  Just so’s you know.


End Note:  Mean Town Blues (Live) By Johnny Winter from the Best of Johnny Winter.  Damned if this old man can’t still rock out hard.  Holy crap!

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