By: Gov Auctions | 27 August 2014

Seized Cars for Sale - A Buyers Guide

There are a number of different ways you can save money on a quality, reliable used car. One option which is growing in popularity is purchasing seized cars that are for sale at public auto auctions. In order to take advantage of seized cars for sale it is important to understand what exactly a seized car is, who sells them, where they are sold, and how to choose the right one to purchase.

What Are Seized Cars and Who Sells Them?

The first thing to understand is what seized cars actually are and who will be selling them. In the most general term, a seized car is any vehicle which was previously privately owned by an individual but was subsequently seized by a government entity. While some of the most popular seized car auctions are tied to the US Marshals Service, nearly every local government holds seized car auctions as well. When looking at the auto auction listing it will be easy to identify who is selling the seized vehicle because very few auctions include a combination of sellers. It is typically either a city seized car auction, state seized car auction, or federal government seized car auction.

Where Are Seized Cars Sold?

Nearly every seized car is sold at auction at some point. It is important to note that some seized cars will never make it to auction for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is the seized car is eventually reclaimed by its former owner. Some seized vehicles are also turned into government fleet vehicles, primarily used by law enforcement as undercover vehicles. To ensure seized cars are readily available to the public, they are almost always sold at auction rather than a direct sale. This is to guarantee the general public has an equal opportunity to purchase the vehicle. In some cases, the more exotic seized cars are bundled in with other seized property auctions.

3 Things to Remember When Buying a Seized Car at Auction

There are three basic rules that apply to every seized car auction. Each of these rules is important to remember because they will directly impact how you should bid and which cars will prove to be the best deals.

  1. Seized Cars are Sold As-Is/Where-Is
    • The first thing to remember is seized cars are sold as is. As a result, it is essential to take the time and research each vehicle to see if there are any red flags in its history. Not only are cars sold as is that they are also sold where it is. This means if you purchase a vehicle which is not currently running then you will need to procure a method of telling it off of the property.
  2. Test Driving the Car is Rarely an Option
    • Some auto auctions will give you an opportunity to test drive the vehicle before bidding on it; however seized car auctions are rarely included in this category. As a result, you will need to pay attention to how the car sounds and looks as it is being driven on to the auction block. Additionally, during the pre-auction phase when you can inspect vehicles can be the best time to really listen to what a seized car sounds like.
  3. There Will Not be a Warranty to Fall Back On
    • The final thing to remember is there is not a warranty you can fall back on. This is important to keep in mind because many people who understand seized cars are sold as is, don’t understand that this means there is zero buyer’s protection post auction. The only exception to this rule is if the vehicle somehow does not fit the description provided by the auctioneer or auto auction website.
    • How to Be a Smart Seized Car Buyer at Auction – Pre Auction
    • There are several important steps you should take before an auction begins in order to identify the best potential targets to bid on at any seized car auction.
  1. Get the Listing as Early as Possible
    • The first step is getting a copy of the listing as early as possible. Even though listings are prone to change up until the moment and auction begins, it is important to get a general idea of what will be available at the auction. This will help you understand exactly what to expect.
  2. Create Your Own List of Potential Bidding Targets
    • From the listing is important to create a list of potential vehicles you are interested in. There is no point in researching every vehicle if you are not likely to be bidding on it at the auction.
  3. Research Each Vehicle
    • Once you have a list of potential bidding targets is time to start researching them. At the very minimum, you should take the time to do a brief car history search to find out if the vehicle has been in any major accidents.
  4. Narrow Your List
    • Once you have researched each vehicle you are interested in it is time to narrow your list. Ideally, you will show up to the auction with a list of only 5 to 10 target vehicles. This will make it easier for you to stay focused and bit effectively.
    • How to Be a Smart Seized Car Buyer – Auction Day
    • Doing the necessary legwork to prepare for an auction is critical to success, but only if you can control yourself during auction day.
  5. Stick to Your List and Your Limits
    • Since you have taken so much time and energy creating a short list of potential bidding targets it is essential you stick to your list as well as the maximum bid limit you set for yourself. This will guarantee you will not overspend while simultaneously giving you an edge at identifying the best available deals.
  6. Take the First Good Opportunity
    • If you see a great opportunity early and auction it is easy to want to wait and see if a better deal emerges later. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee this will happen. Always take the first good opportunity you have to bring home a quality, reliable vehicle at below market price. Even if you do end up missing out on a better deal later on, you can still go home knowing you save money.
  7. Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away Empty Handed
    • Finally, you need to be satisfied if you have to walk away empty-handed. If you walk away empty-handed it means you avoided over bidding on a vehicle simply because you wanted to get something. In the end, the benefit of a seized car auction is that it offers an excellent value and opportunity to save money. Sometimes walking away is the best way to accomplish this.