Buying A Used Car: Police Auctions

2007 Barrett-Jackson auctioneerPolice auctions—or government auctions—are hidden-away, seasonal or annual events in some places; and in other bigger cities they’re ongoing markets, with formal auctions every week or two and a near-constant flow of vehicles and other confiscated goods up for bid.

Are police auctions a good place to get a deal on a used car? It’s possible, yes; but it’s actually quite unlikely and these don't bear any semblance to any collector-car auctions you might have attended. Here are some points to consider if you’re going to seek out these sales and the vehicles in them:

Deals are scarce. Contrary to that image that might have been planted in your head by infomercials or get rich quick schemes, you’re not going to find vehicles at prices that are screaming deals.

Competition is fierce. From backyard mechanics to auction hobbyists to those who think they can make some quick bucks ‘flipping’ certain kinds of cars, police and government auctions are typically flooded with attendees..

Low miles, sure…but don’t get too excited. If it’s a police car or other government-duty vehicle, expect that it’s spent a lot of its life so far idling—which isn’t at all good for engines. You also probably have zero access to maintenance records.

Avoid the crime scene. What do municipalities sometimes do with vehicles involved in violent crimes? You guessed it; they push them out to auction. Are there bullet holes? Were door panels removed? You’d best move on to the next possibility.

No chance for a second opinion or inspection. In most cases, you have some limited hours to check the vehicles out in person, but they can’t leave the premises. full mechanical inspection.

What you see is not necessarily what you get. Sometimes municipalities retire multiple, nearly identical vehicles (like Ford Crown Victorias) at once. Make sure you’re bidding on a specific vehicle, by vehicle identification number (VIN), and that you’ve looked that particular vehicle over as well as you can.


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