Is it Legal for a Civilian to Own a Tank?
Have you ever dreamed of owning a tank, just like in the movies to show off to your friends, or maybe crush things in as they run over old pieces of equipment just for fun? Is it actually legal to own a tank as a non-military personnel?
It is legal in the US, Russia, UK, and other countries to privately own a decommissioned tank. Civilians can purchase them from other governments outside of the US, or through dealers legally. These outdated unusable tanks can range from $50,000 – $100,000 on the less expensive side.
You may have seen an old decommissioned tank at an army supplies store, or at a museum that was used in actual combat, but did you know that you can own one of those yourself? If you were to own your own tank, what would you do with and would you keep that knowledge from your neighbors?
Who Can Own a Tank?
There are many reasons why someone would want to have their very own tank, but how does that work? Do they just buy one off of eBay?
You may or may not have seen a few years ago that Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to raise money so that he could buy a tank. This was so that he could crush things with it and donate the money to charity. Crazy idea, right? Especially when you think about the fact that he was in California trying to buy one. Well, he did, and now he’s been crushing things with it as he partners with a program to help kids want to stay in school.
While it is legal for a civilian to own a tank in the US, it is not always legal to drive it on public roads like streets or freeways. Another thing that tank owners have to do is deactivate the gun that sits atop the tank so as not to have any future weapons running around causing havoc in people’s neighborhoods. (Source)
Who Sells Tanks?
Surprisingly, many countries sell their old tanks off to private purchasers as they have no real need for them once they’ve become outdated and newer ones are being used. Many of the old Soviet countries sell their excess tanks off, and even the US will sell its extra tanks away as well. Governments will usually sell them off to dealers who refurbish and decommission them to be sold for civilian use.
An old tank that is from after World War II to the 1990s can be sold for $50,000 to $100,000, but tanks that were used in WWII or before that sell for $2,400,000-$2,600,000. That seems fairly cheap when you consider that new tanks from the U.S. went for $6,210,000 each tank. These top-of-line weaponized machines can cost a pretty penny. In fact, Taiwan bought 108 M1A2 tanks or two battalion’s worth of tanks in 2018. (Source)
Something to note here is that a modern tank, one that was built for battle in this century is not allowed to be owned by civilians. As you can imagine, that would be a disaster waiting to happen if ordinary civilians were allowed to own modern tanks. They tend to be bigger than old-school tanks, and not only won’t do well on streets but also are much more capable of doing damage. They are, however, allowed to be owned, or handled through museum curators with the correct papers. (Source)
Arnold Schwarzenegger has owned his own tank for a couple of decades, but it was over in Austria. He just had to raise the $20,000 to ship it to his home in the US. It was actually the same tank that he had trained in and driven when he served a year in the Austrian National Army in 1965.
Austria requires mandatory military service, so, he signed up at 18 right after high school. He uses his 50-ton, 810-horsepower tank to crush old cars, and donated items to kids who are in school as an after-school program to encourage children for getting good scores in school. So, tanks can be put to good use! (Source)
Where Can You Drive a Tank?
While it is legal to own a tank in the US, where you can drive it can be a bit more tricky. Some roads have weight limits posted on their roads, or you may have to check with the state’s laws. Many states and localities have a weight limit of 34,000 pounds, but the federal limit goes even higher to 80,000 pounds.
As you may have guessed, some roads are not built for very heavy loads and a tank, if allowed on the road, may need to use rubberized tracks in place of its normal military-styled tracks to be allowed to roll on roads.
Some local laws may vary in where they will allow you to drive. For instance, bridges, highways, freeways, or residential streets may not welcome the presence of a tank if it does not meet the weight requirements. The local department of transportation for each state or DOT will be able to tell you what is prohibited and what is not.
In the Czech Republic and other countries, it is illegal to drive a tank on public streets, but crazy enough, you can get permission from the government to have a fully weaponized tank. Though getting this permission will be difficult.
Why Buy a Tank?
The people who buy tanks are usually big fans of history or they have relatives who have served in the military, so, there are people out there who, if they could, would buy a tank. They may have a personal connection to the tank because they drove them during their military service like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or maybe they feel a familial connection with the history like Mr. Schwarzenegger because his father fought in the invasion of Stalingrad.
The draw in buying a tank for most people is that it’s a part of history. It’s something from the past that you can have, that is, if you have $70,000 laying around somewhere. There are private citizens who collect old military vehicles and gear. Why not a tank? Whether you’re planning on using the tank or just displaying it somewhere, it’s a blast from the past that future generations can look at to see a physical reality of what happened in their history books.