How to Buy Impounded Vehicles

Updated April 17, 2017

Impounded vehicles are typically sold at an impound auction. During these auctions, the savvy buyer may have a chance to buy vehicles at prices far below retail value. Anyone can buy an impounded vehicle, but you need to prepare before entering the fray.

Check in your area for where car auctions are held. Police departments and other branches of government hold impounded vehicle auctions regularly, so the official website for your city is a good resource for auction information. The federal government also offers cars at auction at You can also watch the classified ad section of the local newspaper for auction dates and times. Websites such as Gov-Auctions provide auction information to members.

Read the list of vehicles to be sold at the auction. This list is often available about a week prior to the auction. Note vehicles that interest you, including the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN.)

Look up the retail value of the vehicle on a website such as NADA, Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. You can also use the VIN number to get a vehicle history report at Carfax.

Calculate a maximum bid. Remember that an impounded vehicle may be in less than ideal condition, so don't plan to pay anywhere near maximum retail value.

Attend the auction. Some auctions require an admission fee to enter the impound lot, while others are free. In some cases, you can apply your auction entry fee toward the price of a vehicle you purchase .

Bid on the vehicle that interests you. "Remember there will always be another car so stick to your budget and upper limits of your bidding range," says Cars Direct. There are no warranties on auction vehicles.

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