Buying Police Impound Cars

One alternative to purchasing an automobile from a car dealership or used car lot is to attend a police auction of impounded cars. Depending on your location, police auctions can be held every few months or only once a year. Internet searches for police auctions can provide you with dates and locations of auctions that may be out of your local area. These venues can offer much lower final prices on quality vehicles. They can also provide proof of the adage, “Let the buyer beware” since occasionally one of the sold vehicles may not even start.

Contrary to the popular myth, not all automobiles in a police impound car auction were formerly owned by criminals. Sometimes these vehicles have been repossessed due to defaulted loans or gained through the conviction of some financial fraud. Quite often the cars are either very new or barely used. Most are in good shape mechanically and in the body. There can be the problem of cars that have been sitting for long periods of time with no maintenance, which can cause problems.

Very few police auctions will allow a potential buyer to start the vehicle or give it a test drive until after it is purchased. Usually there are rules forbidding the previous owners from bidding on their lost vehicles in hopes of getting them back. Having the knowledge to know how to estimate a vehicle’s condition from merely looking at it will help you make a better choice. Generally before you are allowed to bid on a vehicle you must register with the auction and be able to provide either cash or a certified check.

The process of buying a police impounded car is not difficult. You should take full advantage of the time provided to inspect the vehicles before the auction begins. Sometimes the police stickers on the car will offer a clue as to whether it was recently driven or in storage. Using a used car pricing guide can help you determine an approximate value of the vehicle on the open market. If you have access to a wireless Internet connection checking out the vehicle’s history via the vehicle identification number (VIN) being run through Carfax.com can give you greater knowledge of what the car is like.

As with any auction, you should familiarize yourself with the auction rules. Be sure you understand the jargon used during auction. Find out if the vehicle you are interested in is at absolute auction, meaning it sells for whatever price is bid regardless of how low, or if it has a minimum reserve price that must be met. Know in advance if there is a set percentage fee charged by the auction house. This can be as much as ten to fifteen percent of the final auctioned price.

Make sure you have your valid driver’s license and proof of insurance so you can drive the vehicle away after the sale. As you can understand, rarely do these vehicles come with any warranties or guarantees. Since many of the people bidding against you are professional dealers and car lot representatives, you can assume that generally the vehicles are fine even when sold “as is”.


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