What is a police car auction?

Whether it’s on our weekly shop or a new car purchase, us Brits love a good bargain. And if you’re up for a new experience when it comes to car buying then you could see significant savings by attending a police car auction.

If you’re a keen deal hunter then read our comprehensive guide to these auctions and how you might benefit. We’ve got answers to all your police car auction questions, right here!

If you’ve recently had a car impounded or seized, depending on what happens next, it might eventually end up at one of these police auctions.Perhaps you’re interested in what might happen to your vehicle after it leaves your possession?

When it comes to insurance, the team of knowledgeable specialists at Insurance Factory are always ready to help. We can arrange insurance cover suitable for any circumstances and any budget.

From impounded car insurance to cover for taxis and other specialist vehicles, by searching our panel of insurers we’re sure to offer you the best priced policies available.

What is a police car auction?

When you see an advertisement for a ‘police car auction’ then it could be one of a variety of auctions where vehicles seized by the authorities are being sold. In many ways a police car auction is very similar to any other new or used car auction.

The main difference being that everything in the auction has been seized by either the police themselves or bailiffs, banks, insurance companies, finance companies or other lenders.

So, cars could have come from a wide variety of circumstances, in far better condition and representing much better value than you might at first be aware. Indeed, the deals can be so good that there are many auto traders and dealers who specialise in cars bought at such auctions – there’s clearly a tidy profit to be had.

Interestingly, it’s not just those looking for a new car who attend such auctions. There’s a whole variety of vehicles that the police or other bodies could put under the hammer, including vans, motorbikes and even motorhomes. Pretty much anything that you can take on the road!

There’s another group of vehicles which sometimes appears at police car auctions that it’s important to be aware of. These are former police vehicles that are now surplus to requirements.

Every year police forces up and down the country have to retire and replace many vehicles to keep their fleets updated and offering the very best public service. After all, you won’t get far chasing criminals in an old banger!

A big advantage for any buyer of an ex-police car is that you know the vehicle will have been properly serviced and maintained by qualified professionals throughout its career.

There are many reasons people attend police car auctions but one of the biggest is the fact you can potentially make an excellent saving on price. Sometimes hundreds, or even thousands of pounds can be saved compared to buying the vehicle elsewhere.

A great excuse to buy a better quality or more prestigious model than you might otherwise have been able to afford.

Many of these cars are in far better condition than you might at first imagine. This is because vehicles that were once part of a finance agreement have often been well serviced and maintained as part of that.

Another reason is that many lenders won’t hang around if payments are missed and will soon repossess a vehicle. This often happens fairly early on in the agreement. So, in theory you could be getting an almost new car that’s been well serviced and is still in great shape.

How might a car end up at a police car auction?
Cars end up listed on auction sites as ‘police seized’ for a whole host of reasons. With only a slim chance of any of the auctioned cars having ever been directly involved in a crime.

Instead, you are far more likely to find a car that has been the subject of outstanding payments on a finance agreement. Unfortunately, when economic circumstances change those involved in such deals can soon find themselves falling behind on their payments and the car is repossessed.

With over 90% of new car buyers opting for finance every year it’s no wonder that a decent number of these end up at a police car auction.

In many other cases, the vehicles being sold at a police car auction have been impounded by various public authorities after being towed away.

Your car can be seized and towed away for a variety of reasons. For example, if:
  • The insurance policy on the vehicle is no longer valid. If your insurance has lapsed the police have the power to impound your car.
  • The vehicle is parked illegally. Police and local councils can clamp and remove vehicles which are illegally parked on roads as well as public land, or if they are causing an obstruction. This can also include vehicles that have broken down.
  • The vehicle isn’t taxed. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has the power to tow or clamp your car if you have failed to tax it.
  • You haven’t paid penalty charge notices (PCNs) or other types of outstanding debts to the local council. Fine enforcement officers or bailiffs can then tow your vehicle. This does not apply in Northern Ireland.
  • Your car is a danger to other road users. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) can clamp or tow a vehicle if it’s overloaded or unroadworthy.
  • A vehicle has simply been left abandoned on the street and is still in good working order then the authorities may well pick it up and send it to auction.
With so many vehicles impounded every year, and with limited storage capacity it’s obviously impossible for the police to keep them forever.

Indeed, once you have received a notice of your car being seized you must go to the pound within seven working days and have specialist impounded car insurance in order to drive it away. If you fail to get your car back within 14 days, then it could be either destroyed or auctioned.

Once a vehicle has been seized by the authorities and no one has reclaimed it, then it’s a comparatively simple route to the auction house.

First, the car is given a full expert examination to decide on its worth before auction. There’s a lot that needs to be taken into account in this process, not just the make, model and age of the vehicle but also any mechanical problems.

Then the expert will note down any structural or surface damage (such as dents, rust or chipped paintwork) and will come up with an estimated overall value. After completion of this thorough examination, an auction guide price will be set for the vehicle and a detailed description will be written for potential bidders to read.

Finally, the seized vehicle will be listed as part of a specific police car auction and sold to the highest bidder on the day.

With this procedure in mind, it’s very important that if your car is impounded then you act fast to get your car released. Getting impounded car insurance in place quickly and efficiently is vital in such situations.
A desk at the front of an auction house with screens and a gavel

How to find a police car auction

The police use the same auction houses that host regular car auctions, so you shouldn’t have too much problem tracking one down. Simply check local auction houses and their online sites and look for events that are specifically listed as a police car auction. Wherever there’s a police force you’ll find an auction.

So, with a bit of perseverance you should be able to find one close to your location. Most auction houses publish auction listings every month, so you’ll have plenty of time to find an auction taking place near you if you’d like to attend.

Be aware however that many smaller auction houses that work with the police to auction these vehicles don’t always appear at the very top of your Google search. So it might take a bit of targeted searching and digging to get the right results.

Another place well worth checking is on a police force’s own website. To attract buyers many forces advertise upcoming auctions online. Or you can also contact them directly by email and ask when the next auction is coming up and where it’ll be held.

Finally, many police forces and auction houses put adverts in local newspapers so it’s worth keeping an eye on these, too.

While finding a police car auction can be tricky, there’s no reason why finding impounded car insurance has to be. Call Insurance Factory to get it sorted quickly and simply.

Top tips for buying a car from a police car auction

If you’ve ever been to a regular car auction then you’ll be used to the format of a police car auction. The cars are brought out to view and the auctioneer will ask for bids from those attending.

These can be made either in person, on the phone or via the internet and the price will continue to rise until only the highest bidder remains. Provided any reserve price on the car has been met, then you’ve got yourself a new car!

Just as with any regular car auction, when buying at a police car auction it’s particularly important to keep in mind three particular points.

Check for an HPI marker or outstanding finance

Running a vehicle history check on your target car will tell you if it has any outstanding finance attached to it in the form of an HPI marker. In the vast majority of cases this information should already have been included in the detailed description offered by the auction house for the car. However, it’s often better to be safe than sorry.

After all, if you buy a car that still has outstanding finance attached, then the finance passes to you along with the car. If you’re not careful, then as its registered keeper you could be liable to settle any outstanding payments. A nasty surprise when you hoped to be getting a bargain!

A vehicle history check is also useful as it will identify any criminal activity that the car’s been related to, along with other useful information. This could include registration plate changes, whether it’s been recorded as stolen and whether it has been declared an insurance write-off.

Check the service history

As already discussed, many cars coming to auction as a result of a previous finance agreement will often have had regular and professional servicing and maintenance.

However, it’s never good to make assumptions without examining the auctioned car’s description and checking the MOT expiry date.

Remember, if you buy a car at auction then you might not have the same consumer rights as if you bought from a garage dealer or trader. Always check the auction conditions of sale before you buy.

Check for a log book

In view of the many different ways that cars find themselves at a police car auction, logbooks aren’t always included.

Whether or not the car has a logbook (V5C registration document) should be listed in the vehicle description. If the car you want to bid on doesn’t have a logbook, then don’t despair. You can simply get a replacement by contacting the DVLA and asking for a new one. There’s a small fee of £25.

Police car auctions can be great places to find bargains, if you know what you’re doing. So, if this is your first time then take a knowledgeable friend or family member along to help.

A police car parked on a pavement in-front of a bank

Impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory

Police car auctions might not be so much fun if it’s your own car that’s getting sold! To stop this from happening you need to act fast and call the Insurance Factory for impounded car insurance.

We’re able to arrange temporary cover for 30 days, giving you plenty of time to get your car back from the pound and back on the road. Having this policy is vital, because if you don’t have proof of insurance you won’t get your car back.

Take out a policy with the Insurance Factory, and you’ll receive documents to use as proof when you visit the pound.

Get a free, no-obligation quote for impounded car insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.