Your Complete Guide on How to Buy Police Impounded Cars

Every day, police around the country impound cars. While the police cannot seize cars during a routine traffic stop, they can typically do so for three primary reasons:

  • The vehicle was involved in a crime
  • The vehicle is evidence in a criminal case
  • The driver of the car poses a public safety risk to others

If the owner does not reclaim the vehicle after a specified time, the police will sell the car. Otherwise, the car could be stuck on an impound lot for years, collecting dust. As a car buyer, impounded cars should pique your curiosity.

The cost of impounded cars is cheaper than new car prices (Still, new cars have their own charm). An impounded car could provide you with a safe vehicle that runs smoothly, for a fraction of the cost. Below, you’ll find everything that you need to know about how to buy police impounded cars.

Two Ways to Buy Police Impounded Cars

Wondering how to buy police impounded cars? There are two primary ways to do so.

Live Auction

One of the best ways to purchase police impounded cars is through a live auction. A live auction provides you with the chance to inspect the vehicle before bidding on the car. Police departments around the country routinely host live auctions for impounded cars. The best way to find out about an upcoming sale is to contact your local police department.

If you’re going to purchase a car at a live auction, you should clear your calendar for that day. Live auctions tend to be quite time-consuming. The process of inspecting, bidding on, and purchasing the vehicle will likely take up the entire day.

Make sure that you arrive early. That way, you can inspect the various vehicles and learn more about the different make and models available for purchase that day. You could then research the car before the bidding begins. Make sure that you also secure a bidding number. Otherwise, you cannot participate in the auction. 

During the auction process, you’ll be competing against others who are also interested in purchasing the vehicle. While on the lot, you likely won’t be able to test drive the car, so you’re going to have to trust your instincts. Know that you are responsible for paying whatever amount you bid. If you win the vehicle, you'll have to pay for the vehicle on the spot. You could drive your car off the lot that day.

Online Auction

The other way to purchase impounded cars is through an online auction. The online auction process is quite similar to the live auction process. The most significant difference is the fact that you cannot inspect the vehicle before making your bid.

However, online auctions tend to come with very detailed car descriptions. You’ll also likely find photos included with the vehicle description as well. Some online auctioneers also provide you with the opportunity to ask questions about a car before bidding on it.

Furthermore, because the auction took place online, you won't have access to the vehicle that day. You'll first need to pay for the car. Most online sales accept bank transfer or credit cards as valid forms of payment. You have the option of picking up your vehicle in person or having it shipped to you.

So, in summary, the primary downside to online auctions compared to live auctions is the fact that you won’t have access to the vehicle before bidding starts, so the process is a bit riskier. However, you’ll also have access to thousands of more cars, as you can bid on vehicles on the other side of the country if you’d like.

The Direct Cost of Police Impounded Cars

The police don't have much to gain by selling a car at market value. They are merely concerned with moving a car off its impound lot to clear space. This is one of the primary reasons why the cost of police impounded vehicles are so much cheaper than the price of a new vehicle.

Take, for instance, one of the most popular Ram trucks, the Ram 1500 Tradesman. The base price of this vehicle is nearly $32,000. The bidding at a police auction starts very low, and those bidding on the car help determine the price. Cars are routinely sold at police auctions for as little as a few hundred dollars – yes, you read that correctly! 

Other Costs and Fees

Although police impounded cars are so cheap, there are a couple of things that you should be mindful of. There will likely be some other miscellaneous costs that will drive up the final sale price.

As we’ve mentioned, if you participate in an online auction, you're going to have to pay to ship the vehicle. Furthermore, there's a good chance that you're going to have to pay to repair and clean the car.

Perhaps the vehicle impounded the vehicle after it was in an accident. Or, maybe the car was used as part of a crime, such as selling illegal drugs. Unfortunately, it can often be challenging to determine the extent of the damage until after you've purchased the vehicle.

You may want to avoid cars that have been involved in severe crimes like murders. Otherwise, you'll drain your funds trying to have the vehicle professionally-cleaned.

Check the VIN

No matter if you're purchasing the car online or in person, you should have access to the Vehicle Identification Number before bidding. The Vehicle Identification Number is unique to the vehicle. Searching this number will provide you with an extensive vehicle history. You should check the VIN before making your purchase.

You should also know that the VIN is listed on every part of the vehicle. While it could be tedious, it could be worthwhile to check things such as the doors and engine to ensure that the VIN is consistent. If there are inconsistencies, this could be a sign that the car was damaged in the past.