You may ask... WHY buy an ambulance? Well, many people actually buy former ambulances... and it isn't to go around faking being an emergency vehicle (highly illegal by the way).
My reason was simple. I have always wanted to do a road trip across Canada and the United States. The initial idea was to buy a Volkswagen "hippie" bus, but that dream was soon diminished after seeing how pricey the good quality ones are... not to mention trying to find spare parts if something breaks down. So I started looking elsewhere; various online buy and sell websites, the typical ones anyway. Then I was told that federal, provincial, and even municipal governments sell surplus or asset vehicles all the time, sometimes to update their fleet (the best reason) or to get rid of partially destroyed or costly repair vehicles (not so great). I was looking for cargo vans initially, when I stumbled upon some ambulances and curiousity got the best of me. Upon looking at one of these I realized... Electrical is all pretty much done for me... They are sturdy machines... Have been maintained usually every 5,000km... and they still have enough life in them to last fairly long (here in Canada the general rule is they get rid of ambulances after 10 years of service).
And so the search was on! Read on to find out how to maybe snag one of your own... :)
Step 1: Start Searching!
First step is to start searching government auction websites. I had my sights on places in Canada. Here are three right away to start looking at:
Not in Canada? Not to worry! The first link has a worldwide as well as a U.S. option (although most you'll find will be in the states).
Another option is to look for government auctions near you. This is great because you might be able to get a website that is for your province, state, county or country. Another option is to actually call the government body or look through local newspapers, as governments will sometimes put advertisements of surplus sales. These usually occur in the spring or fall seasons.
Step 2: Read the WHOLE Description!
All ambulances are not created equal! You'll find that some auction websites will actually give you a lot more information than others. For example, the bcauction.ca website usually gives you everything wrong (at least that they know about). Be weary of websites that don't say anything. Your best bet, if you live near the auction lot, to go and see it in person. If you have any mechanically inclined friends, now is the time to invite them ambulance-hunting.
In my experience, I was lucky enough to get a vehicle near my hometown that had everything included, as it was one that was being sold by a College Paramedic program... they use them for driving class and scenarios. Not bad!
Step 3: Strategize Your Bids
This can be broken down in a couple of steps.
- Look for the terms and conditions on the website for bids. Websites like bcauction.ca have a firm deadline, and someone can outbid you with an automatic bid if you try and bid in the last minute. You'll be left scrambling in the last 30 seconds trying to refresh and set a higher price, only to be disappointed (speaking from experience)! You can also set a maximum price you are willing to spend, which sometimes is a nice feature. Some websites (like govdeals.com) have an auto-extension of 3 minutes if there is a bid in the last 3 minutes. This prevents last minute bidding, and gives an equal opportunity... so long as you are watching the bid. Other websites like gcsurplus.ca won't show the highest bid at all, and you are stuck with just submitting a price you are willing to spend, hoping that you are the top bidder. NOTE: Make sure you read all the terms! Sometimes if you are bidding for something in another country there are distinct rules, as these are usually government auctions. Buyer beware!
- Bid according to the terms. In the auction for the ambulance I was looking at, I had the 3 minute extension, and sure enough, someone had an automatic bid waiting to outbid me. Lucky for me though, they had a maximum they were willing to spend and probably weren't watching the last moments.
- Don't overinflate the price! This goes for all auction sites, no matter the terms. There is absolutely no reason to bid weeks in advance of the deadline, unless you are going somewhere remote without internet access... and you won't be there for the end. Be patient, eye on the prize, and keep refreshing!
Step 4: Win the Auction!
Congratulations! By now, you've hopefully snagged an ex-ambulance. The adrenaline is probably still pumping, so take a few moments and jump for joy, dance, and let it all out. If you didn't win, be patient, and look for another! I'm in the school of "everything happens for a reason", so maybe that one just wasn't right for you.
The steps after you've won vary by website, but usually they require payment through the website, signing the appropriate paperwork and getting your insurance and registration in order.
If you're like me, maybe you bought one that was further away. In that case, you can either try transporting it through UShip (companies and contractors alike can bid for your shipment), or search Facebook for some rideshare groups in your region. I was lucky enough to get someone who wanted to drive to Yukon and had the time, and I made an agreement to buy their return flight for them and gas costs... it was certainly cheaper than a transport truck! If you are finding someone, make sure to establish an agreement, much like a rental agreement, and suit it to your needs. You should also probably get there license details and maybe a driver's abstract. Buyer Beware!
There are also websites like hittheroad.ca that find drivers for you and act like a third party if you don't want to deal with the time and effort of finding a driver.