It’s hard not to like cheap wheels.

You’ll grab strangers off the street to tell them how great a deal you managed, especially if it was only a grand.

The problem is that you’re usually the one hearing the tale, not telling it.

If only you had that connection, that inside man or woman that gave you the tip. The best part is that we all have that In, courtesy of the Canadian government.

When the Fed decides to relieve itself of reusable surplus items, they turn to their Crown Assets Distribution auction site, at gcsurplus.ca. As you cruise through the offerings, you’ll find everything imaginable, from coffee carafes to combines.

This is also the place to find vehicles, from simple sedans to heavy-duty trucks. If there’s a federal government department, chances are they drove something.

Items for sale are sold at various locations across the country, which can have unique effects on pricing. A 2001 Chevy Blazer with extremely low kilometres could be yours for just over a grand, in Churchill, Manitoba, so you have to think sensibly about what you bid on, and where. You can bid on an item in another locale, just remember that the Fed won’t ship it to you if you win the auction.

Unlike eBay-style auctions, the items at gcsurplus.ca do not show an update as to the high bid. There’s a minimum bid number, which you have to bid above to be logged in. You simply don’t know you’ve won until the auction is over. That’s why it’s important to check the “What Has Sold” tab. From previous sales, plus the condition of a car, you can get a feel for what the vehicle will go for.

While the Fed states that the highest bid will not necessarily be the winner of the auction, you’ll tend to see the same goofy numbers that were used back in ’89 when they used sealed paper bids. I first tried to get an ’83 Malibu sedan in F41 unmarked cop car trim. (If only I had bid $1757.88, instead of $1757.79!)

As cheap goes, the bargain basement tends to have an abundance of ex-police units. While there is something infinitely cool about owning an ex-RCMP Police Interceptor, remember that these cars are driven hard for the duration of their service life. While maintained far beyond civilian specs, police cars sold at gcsurplus.ca are not provided with much detail as to less-obvious under-the-hood issues.

They will advise as to obvious problems, like Check Engine lights, non-functioning equipment, plus body damage. A plus for many of the vehicles offered is an extensive photo array online. In the Pacific region, one such Fed photog puts coins in the tread of tires, to give a visual as to how much tread is left. We could so be friends.

In keeping up with appearances, nothings says your government cares like a hybrid, emblazoned with ‘Canada’ on the sides. This is where first-gen Prius sedans live, the ones that look like a current Nissan Versa sedan. There’s plenty of Civic Hybrids too, even new-school Fusion Hybrids on the West Coast. There’s practically brand new vehicles in the Ottawa region, touted as test vehicles for agencies like Transport Canada. There’s the odd Crown forfeiture vehicle, which could be the Deal Of The Century/World Of Hurt. Kilometres attained on most government units tends to be low, though remember that many of these vehicles could have higher-than-normal idle hours.

My personal favourites are the vehicles that the department forgot they had, like the weird 1980’s stuff that pops up from time to time. When the next oil change reminder sticker is the kind where you had to squeeze a letter into a plastic strip, you know it’s been sitting around for awhile. Ouch! My hand cramps up just thinking about those!

Most auctions run for a week until the item is awarded. If the minimum bid price isn’t realized, the item may be re-posted at a lower minimum bid. The advantage is that you don’t have to keep running back to the page in the final minutes of the auction; just post your bid, and cross your fingers. You can increase your bid before the auction ends. When you win an auction, an email is sent to you, with the request for payment, plus contacts for pickup.

Vehicles can be inspected while being auctioned. Be sure to call ahead to the contacts listed, as many will limit inspections to specific time blocks during the day. As with any auction vehicle, approach any transaction with the understanding that the vehicle is bound to need some incidentals, as well as a good detailing. (Government coffee is the worst stain imaginable.)