The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) started
auctioning many of the travel trailers it bought in 2004 and 2005. These
units were used as temporary housing for victims of hurricanes.
As of March 1, FEMA, through the Government Services
Administration (GSA), sold around 1,700 trailers. Its initial goal was
to auction around 300 a month, with the intent to sell more than 300 a
month “in the near future,” said FEMA spokeswoman Deborah
“We don’t want to flood the market in a
particular area,” Wing said. “We’re well aware of the
economic effects these trailers could have.” But 300 units a month
“is a bunch,” and could depress prices if too many sales are
concentrated in a particular region, said Greg Lala, owner of Dixie RV
Superstores in Hammond, LA. “No one is going to drive
cross-country to buy a $5,000 trailer,” he added.
As of March 1, the GSA was accepting bids for 341 travel
trailers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, New Jersey, and
Virginia. Wing said other FEMA trailer auction sites are in Texas,
Louisiana, Indiana, and Maryland.
Bid for Trailers
Interested RV dealers need to go to the GSA website, www.gsaauctions.gov, to bid on
the FEMA trailers. The GSA encourages potential
bidders “to inspect the property prior to bidding. Bidders must
contact the custodian indicated in the item description for inspection
dates and times.”
FEMA’s travel trailer inventory was
“slightly less than 47,000 units” as of February 28, Wing
said. The agency had not yet decided how many travel trailers it should
keep in inventory for future disaster relief, but “47,000 is too
many,” Wing added.
The FEMA trailers being auctioned by GSA were used by
victims of natural disasters and returned to FEMA. GSA was auctioning
trailers that FEMA contractors estimate need more than $1,500 worth of
repairs, Wing said.
However, a significant number of trailers bought by FEMA
after the hurricanes of 2005 were never used by disaster victims.
It’s probably only a matter of time before some unused FEMA
trailers are auctioned, which would have a depressing affect on used
trailer prices, said Jim Hicks, owner of Southern RV Super Centerin
Bossier City, LA.
When asked about the possible auctioning of unused
trailers, Wing replied, “I don’t want to speculate, but now,
it’s only used trailers being auctioned.”
Meanwhile, as of late February, Hicks said it was too
early to measure the impact of the auctions. He said, “Customers
aren’t telling our sales people, ‘I’m going to bid in
the FEMA auction instead.’”
No Buying Limits
Hicks added that because dealers’ profit margins
on used unit sales are better than for new, he believes dealers should
seriously consider bidding on some of the FEMA trailers being auctioned
by GSA. Wing, the FEMA spokeswoman, said she knows of no
limits on the number of FEMA trailers a business or individual could
In addition to the 70,000 trailers built to FEMA specifications in late
2005 and early 2006 by Gulfstream, Fleetwood, and other manufacturers,
Wing said FEMA bought 32,000 travel trailers out of RV dealers’
inventory. FEMA paid an average of $20,000 per trailer.
Lala said he “was impressed” with the amount of some of the
GSA auction bids. For example, among the 50 trailers available in
Mississippi, the best bid for a 2006 Keystone Cougar was $11,600 as of
February 28. Therevalso was a $10,300 bid for a 2006
Gulfstream Innsbruck. Most other bids ranged from $3,000 to $8,500.