When drivers are caught violating certain traffic laws and are not determined fit enough to drive away from the scene, police have the option to impound the vehicle. Although most owners eventually pay the impound fee to get their cars back at a later date, sometimes they are unable or unwilling to do so, and the vehicle becomes police property.
Since it just isn’t possible to keep every impounded car in police possession, police departments periodically clear out their vehicle stores by selling them in auctions. This gives the public a chance to pick up a used vehicle cheaply and increases the police coffers to continue to protect and serve their communities. These previously impounded vehicles aren’t always bought to be driven; sometimes, they are bought to be sold for a profit.
There are two ways to buy a car impounded by the police: at a live auction or from an online auction. While there are similarities between the two, like the fact that the highest bidder reaps the reward, there are also some inherent differences between each format.
Part 1 of 3: Buying an impounded car from a live auction
Step 1: Learn about any upcoming auctions. The simplest way to discover if a live auction is scheduled in your region in the near future is to call the police department and ask. Make a note of any upcoming auctions for impounded property and mark it on your calendar for future reference.
- Tip: When the day comes, be prepared to be at the auction the whole day as they tend to be time consuming. Have someone ready to drive either your vehicle or any car you purchase to your home.
Step 2: Inspect the vehicles before the actual auction. Arrive at the auction early enough to thoroughly inspect the available vehicles, and register for your bidding number, which will identify you if and when you make a bid.
Step 3: Bid for the vehicle. Later, when a vehicle that interests you comes up for auction, hold your number up high for the auctioneer to see when you want to submit a bid, bearing in mind that you are responsible for paying that amount.
If you are outbid by another bidder, you have the option to hold your number up again and submit a higher bid. Ultimately, the highest bid wins.
Step 4: Complete protocols if you win. If you win an impounded car from a live auction, follow the protocol that auction employs for checking out, which can likely be discovered where you registered.
Once you pay for your vehicle and all the paperwork is complete, the car is yours to do with it as you please, including selling it for profit.
Part 2 of 3: Buying an impounded car from an online auction
Buying an impounded car from an online auction is much like doing so from a live auction; the primary difference is that you won’t physically see it until after you buy it. Read the car’s description carefully and inspect any photos included with the listing. In many online auctions, you will also have an opportunity to ask questions, so take advantage of this if you have any.
Step 1: Register with the online auction site. If you decide to place a bid, register with the online auction site so that you can be identified if you win the auction.
Again, the easiest way to learn about any upcoming auctions that include impounded cars is to call local police departments and inquire about any cars that they are offloading.
Step 2: Make your highest bid. Enter the highest dollar amount that you are willing to pay.
It is possible that the highest bid will be less than the amount you enter, and you will win the car for a lower amount. It is also possible that another registered user will outbid you.
- Tip: Keep an eye on the auction page when it is close to its end time to see if you have been outbid, and you will have an opportunity to enter a higher one. Just try to resist the urge to get caught in the moment and pay more than you are actually wanting to pay.
Step 3: Pay for the vehicle and retrieve the car. If you win a bid, you must pay for your car via bank transfer, credit card, or another method accepted by the site. Then, you must decide if you are going to pick your car up or have it delivered, which will include additional fees.
Part 3 of 3: Selling a previously impounded car
Step 1: Decide how much to price the car for sale. The amount should be higher than what you paid for it and also a few $100 higher than what you will ultimately accept from a buyer. It is customary for buyers and sellers to negotiate a final price. Consult a website like Kelley Blue Book or NADA for the true value of your vehicle, and use that as a guide.
- Tip: For more information about selling your car, read our article, How to be Successful When Selling a Car.
Step 2: Advertise your car. Choose how you want to let the public know your car is for sale.
You may place a For Sale sign with your telephone number in the windshield and park it where it is visible to others driving by your home.
You may also choose to place an ad in your local newspaper or on an online classified site, such as Craigslist.
Step 3: Accommodate potential buyers. When potential buyers make inquiries about your car for sale, answer their questions to the best of your ability and set up a time for them to look over and test drive the vehicle.
As mentioned earlier, expect interested parties to offer to pay less than your asking price. You may counter that offer with a higher amount than theirs but lower than your original price, however, do not accept any offer that is less than what you paid for the car.
Step 4: Complete a transfer of title. If you and a buyer come to an agreement on price, collect the money for the car in full.
Then, fill out the back of your car’s title with your name, address, the odometer reading on the car, and how much the buyer paid. Sign the title and write a Bill of Sale.
This can be on plain paper and should simply state that you sold the vehicle to the buyer with both of your full names, the date of the sale, and the amount of the sale.
Step 5: Give the buyer the keys to the car. After the sales agreement is completed and signed by both parties, and the payment has been made in full, you can officially transfer the keys to the new owner and enjoy your profit.
Buying an impounded car be a great way to own a car at a decent price or even make profit (with some extra effort). If you want to make sure that the impounded car that you are receiving is in great condition, you can have one of our mechanics give the vehicle a comprehensive inspection so that any repairs that are needed can be made.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Buy and Sell an Impounded Car and was authored by Elan McAfee.