Buy Seized Cars for Sale

Thousands of cars are seized by financial agencies, the government, and law enforcement agencies every year. Many of these vehicles are put up for auction. Seized cars can be purchased for almost 90 percent off their retail value, so they're worth looking into if you're after a bargain.


Know What You're Getting

  1. Understand the conditions of buying a seized car. Buying cars through seized car auctions can get you a car for a great price. However, there are serious downsides to buying cars this way that you need to be aware of pre-purchase:
    • Often there are no warranties on the condition of the cars;
    • Usually you are unable to test drive the car at the time of the auction
    • Most times the cars come in "as-is" condition.
  2. Ask if you can test drive. In some cases, you may be able to test drive cars before the auction.
  3. Ask for a report. Cars often do come with CarFax reports to give you the full history of the car. If they don't, you can request the VIN number and run a report yourself before the auction.
  4. Enlist the help of a friend. If you have a friend who knows his or her way around a car, ask them to attend the auction or "Inspection" day with you. By having someone look under the hood, you are less likely to get a lemon.

Finding a Local Auction

  1. Find a local auction. Seized car auctions can be rather difficult to find. Usually newspapers will report such auctions after the fact. Instead of waiting for advertisements, try using an online membership website. These sites compile all listings for auctions in your area for little or no fee.
  2. Confirm that the auction is open to the public. Some auctions are only open to dealers, so it's important to know in advance that the auction is one that you can actually attend.

Researching the Cars Pre-Auction

  1. Do your pre-auction research. Before attending an auction, do as much research as you can on the specific car you want to buy. Or, if the cars up for auction are not available until the day of the auction, as much general information on kind of car you are looking for.
  2. Find the car(s). Find a specific model for the car(s) you are interested in purchasing. This is going to help you decide what price you are comfortable buying the car for.
  3. Estimate pricing. Use online sources, used car lots, and "Bluebooks" to find the general price range of that kind of car. This helps you have an idea of how much you should bid, and what your ceiling price is for that car (how much you won't spend more than).
  4. Run a VIN number, if available. If you are giving information on the cars in advance, try using a database to find out the vehicle's accident history. This could sway you from buying a particular car that otherwise looks "good."
  5. Figure out the reason for its auction. The difference between these reasons could potentially tell you a little more about the car. Typical reasons include:
    • Seized car: This means that car was taken by law enforcement for either too many traffic violations, or because it was recovered in a raid. This means that the car was mostly likely well maintained. IRS and courts tend to seize cars that are higher valued and of a better quality.
    • Repossessed car: These cars are taken back by financial agencies that haven't been receiving payments for the car. Since the person who was evading payments probably didn't have the income to pay back their loans, they probably didn't have the income to maintain the car. These cars tend to be of a lower quality.
    • Previously-owned government car: These cars tend to be owned by governmental agencies that no longer have a need for the car. Since most agencies update their cars pretty often, these cars tend to be less worn and are fairly high in quality.
  6. Attend the inspection day or inspect the car the day of the auction. If you can go in advance to look at the cars, do this. If not, make the best of the time before the auction. Have your friend who knows about cars come with you to check the car.
    • Check the condition. Look for rust, new paint, or dents that could hint at underlying problems. Have your friend look under the hood to check that the engine is in a good condition.


  1. Learn the rules. All auctions have different rules for "how to bid," what you can and cannot do to the car before purchasing it and how to pay for the vehicle if you have the winning bid. Just to avoid any problems, brush up on the rules for the auction you plan on attending.
  2. Register. As an attendee of the auction, you will probably have to register in advance. This will require a valid photo ID and just your basic information. Again, the details needed varies by auction, so ask at the specific auction house to be sure.
  3. Make an offer or "bid." Keep your ceiling amount in mind when you are bidding. Start at the lowest bid possible and never bid higher than the minimum.
  4. "Buy" the car. If you are the last to bid on a car, then the final number you bid is the price of your new car. Follow these steps next:
    • Make the down payment/deposit. Typically this falls around $50. This is expected immediately after winning and is accepted as cash or check.
    • Pay the balance in 24 hours. The remaining balance of the car is usually expected within the 24 hour period of buying the car.
    • Register the car. Register your car in just the same way that you would register any other vehicle. Luxury cars will not require an additional luxury tax, since the original owner will have already paid that.