In every county and city across the country the police impound thousands of cars a day for a number of different reasons. This creates an opening for ambitious bidders to sniff out many a good deal and get cars on the cheap at police impound car auctions.
So how does it all start? Cars get impounded for a variety of different reasons. States and cities have different policies and guidelines which they use to impound vehicles, but it’s generally along the lines of:
- The driver have been caught driving without a licence and/or his registration has expired for a period in excess of 6 months
- The driver has been involved in racing and/or has been arrested
- There are parking tickets not paid on the vehicle or the vehicle has been parked illegally.
- The car has been abandoned by its owner for a certain period of time.
- The vehicle has been used in criminal activity or is evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation.
These rules vary from state to state, but nevertheless is a good indication as to why vehicles are impounded by the police. This then sets of a chain reaction which will possibly lead to a police impound car auction.
Usually the police impound these vehicles for a period of 30 days, and for longer if the impound is related to a serious offence. If the owner of the vehicle wants his car back, he will have to pay all the fees relating to the police impound such as storage and towing to the lot.
Once the car has been impounded, the yard will normally notify both the owner and lien holder (if any) that the vehicle has been impounded. This is usually done in writing within five business days.
In certain cases, the lien holder will actually repossess the vehicle whilst it’s still in storage. In this instance they need to present a repo order and proof that they own liens on the vehicle. Simultaneously they will also normally settle the impound storage – and towing fees. This, arguably drastic action, depends largely on the finance company itself and the policy agreement with the car’s owner.
Provided that there are no liens on the vehicle from banks and finance companies which may prompt them to seize the vehicle, it will remain in storage, untouched for 30 days.
After the 30-day period of the police impound, owners are welcome to pay the applicable fees and claim the car back. In the case of the owner not stepping up (and this is where the bidders start getting exited for a potential police impound car auction) the police will normally after this period apply for a magistrate title at the court. In line with typical government efficiency, this process can take around 45 days. The owner still has the chance to reclaim the vehicle at this point provided that he pays the necessary fees.
If after this period neither the registered nor legal owner of the vehicle has acted on the chance to release the vehicle from the impound yard it will be sold at an auction.
A helpful hint: As a bidder one needs to be very careful with regards to any outstanding titles on the car being auctioned. The period leading up to the police impound auto auction leaves little time for the police department to follow up on outstanding liens. A potential pothole for buyers!
However if you understand this process it’s quite easy to realise why vehicles sold at a police impound car auctions are so inexpensive.
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