Is it possible to get good car deals in 2014 at police auctions?
Police impound, seized-car, and surplus auctions can be a great place to find car bargains
Cars that are routinely auctioned or sold by government law enforcement agencies can range from junk vehicles abandoned by owners, to vehicles seized from lawbreakers, to surplus police vehicles that have been replaced with newer vehicles. Vehicles of all types can be found at police auctions. Some are late-model luxury vehicles in perfect condition, some older models in not-so-great condition, some damaged or wrecked, and even motorcycles and RV’s.
How do I find police auctions?
There are a number of types of police and government agencies that hold vehicle auctions and sales all over the country. It can be city or county police, sheriff, or state law enforcement, even federal law enforcement agencies such as the DEA, or FBI.
These agencies typically advertise upcoming auctions in local newspapers, in the “Legal Notices” section. If there are a number of local newspapers, the announcements will only be in one of those papers, not all. The announcements are usually made on a specific schedule, such as once a month on a Friday, as an example.
Some police auction announcements may provide a fairly detailed list of what will be sold on a particular day. Others are less detailed, or provide no detail at all.
Some police seized vehicle and impound auctions are held directly by the involved agency, while others are conducted by professional auction companies under contract by the agency.
Get a directory of auctions
Although you can do the legwork and find auctions on your own, there are online services that offer directories of auctions all over the U.S., for a fee. It takes a lot of work to keep these directories accurate and up-to-date, which justifies the fee that is charged for the service, but it can save you a lot of time.
One service that we particularly like is Gov-Auctions.org because they provide so much free information and a tutorial on how to participate in government and police auctions if you have never done it before. Even if you don’t use the service, the free stuff is well worth a visit. They have a 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee if you don’t find the service useful.
How do I participate in police auctions?
Find out the location and scheduels of auctions in your area from online directories, newspaper notices, or by calling specific police department offices. Go early during the time specified as inspection period, before the auction starts. Typically, you’ll have a few hours to look over the inventory for the day’s sale.
Bring a used-car value guidebook with you such as those you can purchase in a bookstore. If you have an iPhone or other smartphone, it’s a great way to look up car values online while at the auction. You can also check CarFax reports online.
Some police and government auctions allow up-close inspections and start-up of vehicles. Others are not quite as liberal. In no case, will you be allowed to drive any vehicles. In this sense, impound auctions are a little bit of a gamble. You have to be able to accept the possibility of getting a dud, as a trade off for possibly getting lucky with a great deal. Be sure to get a Carfax or AutoCheck vehicle history report to find out if you are buying a previously wrecked or salvage car.
Make sure you understand the rules and procedures of the auction. It can be confusing if you’ve never done it before. You should attend an auction or two just to get accustomed to the process, without bidding.
If you plan to bid, bring finances to pay for your winning bids. Some auctions may require that you prove your ability to pay before you are allowed to bid. Cash, cashiers check, or line-of-credit documents are acceptable in most cases. Most police auctions require pre-registration, which might require payment of a fee — or not. Some may charge a buyer’s premium fee on top of the sale price — or not.
Remember, police impound auction sales and seized vehicle auctions are final and “as-is” which means you can’t return your purchase or get a refund if you find problems later.
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