How to Buy Impounded Cars: 7 Proven Steps to Save Money

How to Buy Impounded Cars

Like most car buyers, you probably want to find a quality vehicle at an affordable price. Impounded cars offer a unique opportunity to purchase well-maintained vehicles at significantly reduced prices.

You will discover simple strategies that can help you buy impounded cars successfully. We will explore how to find these vehicles and the necessary steps to acquire them, ensuring you make an informed and valuable purchase.

By understanding the process of buying impounded cars, you can take advantage of these cost-saving opportunities and potentially find your next great vehicle.

What are Impounded Cars?

Definition and Causes

Impounded cars are vehicles that have been confiscated by authorities for various reasons, such as legal issues, unpaid fines, or abandonment. These cars are often sold at auctions to recover costs. If you’re wondering how do car auctions work, it’s essential to know that these vehicles are sold to the highest bidder during auction events.

Benefits of Buying Impounded Cars

  • Cost savings: Impounded cars are usually sold at prices below market value.
  • Well-maintained vehicles: Many of these vehicles are well-maintained and can offer excellent value.

Risks Involved

  • Hidden damages: Cars are sold “as-is,” without warranties.
  • Unknown history: It can be challenging to obtain complete information about the vehicle’s history.

Finding Impounded Car Auctions

Finding impounded car auctions online is a straightforward process with the right resources. Here are some of the most popular websites where you can find listings for impounded car auctions:

CopartOne of the largest auction houses for impounded and salvage vehicles, offering both public and dealer auctions.
AutoBidMasterOffers a vast selection of salvaged and used vehicles with easy online bidding options.
GovDealsA marketplace for government surplus, including impounded cars from various state and local agencies.
ManheimA leading provider of vehicle remarketing services with regular auctions.
IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions)Specializes in total-loss, donated, and fleet lease vehicles, including impounded cars.

Additionally, check out Auction Your Autos, a detailed guide to the Top 12 Online Car Auction Sites in the U.S. [Updated for 2024], which can help you find the best sites for buying cars online.

Local Government and Police Departments

Many police departments and local governments hold auctions for impounded cars. These auctions can often be found by visiting the official websites of local police departments or government agencies, or by contacting them directly. They usually provide details about upcoming auctions, the types of vehicles available, and the auction process. This can help you understand how to buy from auto auction settings effectively.

Auction Houses

Local auction houses that handle impounded vehicles are another excellent source. They often hold regular auctions and have detailed information about the available vehicles. Some well-known auction houses include:

  • Manheim: A leading provider of vehicle remarketing services.
  • IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions): Specializes in total-loss, donated, and fleet lease vehicles, including impounded cars.

By leveraging these resources, you can easily find and participate in impounded car auctions, giving you access to a wide range of vehicles at competitive prices.

Preparing for the Auction

Researching the Auction

Find the auction schedules and locations, and understand the auction rules and requirements. Many auctions require pre-registration and may have specific requirements for bidders.

Inspecting the Cars

It’s crucial to inspect the cars before the auction. Many auctions offer preview days where you can examine the condition of the vehicles. Pay attention to the engine, bodywork, and interior to identify potential issues. Knowing how to go to auto auction events and inspecting vehicles is critical.

Bidding at the Auction


To participate in an auction, you usually need to register in advance. This may include providing identification and a security deposit.

Bidding Process

During the auction, you will place your bids against other bidders. It’s essential to set a maximum budget and stick to it to avoid paying more than planned. If you are new, understanding how to buy a car from an auto auction will be beneficial.

Payment and Documentation

After winning an auction, you need to pay immediately or within a specified period. Make sure to understand the accepted payment methods and obtain all necessary documentation, such as the bill of sale and title transfer.

Licensing Requirements

Do You Need a License?

For public auctions, you generally do not need a license. However, for dealer-only auctions, a dealer license is required. If you’re wondering do you need an auction license to buy a car, the answer depends on the type of auction.

Obtaining an Auction License

If you plan to buy and sell cars regularly, you may need to obtain an auction license. Requirements vary by state but typically include completing a dealer training program and submitting an application along with the necessary fees. Understanding how to get auction license to buy cars is crucial for frequent buyers.

Related Considerations


After the purchase, you need to transport the car, especially if it is not in drivable condition. Plan ahead to ensure you can move the car safely.

Repairs and Maintenance

Impounded cars may need repairs. Find reliable mechanics and get quotes for any necessary repairs before making a purchase.

Reselling Impounded Cars

If you plan to resell the car, make necessary repairs and cleanings to maximize its resale value. Understanding the market can help set a competitive price.

Tips and Tricks: How to Buy Impounded Cars

Research Auction SitesStart by exploring reputable auction sites like Copart, AuctionZip, GovDeals, Manheim, and IAA. Verify the credibility and user reviews of these platforms.
Attend Preview DaysAlways attend preview days if available. Bring a flashlight, OBD2 scanner, and a checklist to inspect the vehicle’s condition thoroughly.
Bring a MechanicIf possible, bring a trusted mechanic with you to the preview. Their expertise can help you identify hidden issues that you might overlook.
Know the Vehicle’s HistoryUse VIN lookup services to get a detailed history report of the vehicle. This can reveal past accidents, repairs, and ownership history.
Understand Auction FeesBe aware of all fees associated with the auction, including buyer premiums, documentation fees, and storage fees. Factor these into your budget.
Set a Firm BudgetDetermine the maximum amount you’re willing to spend, including auction fees and potential repair costs. Stick to this budget to avoid overbidding.
Bid StrategicallyDon’t jump in with the first bid. Observe other bidders and the auctioneer’s style. Place your bid confidently and know when to walk away.
Have Funds ReadyEnsure you have immediate access to funds for payment. Most auctions require prompt payment, often on the same day as the auction.
Plan for TransportationArrange transportation for your newly purchased vehicle, especially if it’s not roadworthy. Check for towing services or rental trailers in advance.
Understand Return PoliciesSome auctions have strict no-return policies. Make sure you understand the terms before committing to a purchase.

Utilizing these practical tips and tricks will enhance your experience and success rate when buying impounded cars at auctions.

FAQ: How to Buy Impounded Cars

Can You Buy Impounded Cars without a license? Yes, you can buy impounded cars at public auctions without needing a license.

How Much Can You Save on Impounded Cars? The savings can vary, but many impounded cars are sold at significantly below market value.

What to Do if the Car Has Issues After Purchase? If the car has problems, take it to a mechanic for a complete inspection and make the necessary repairs.

How to Find Repossessed Cars for Sale? Repossessed cars can be found at repossession auctions held by financial institutions and banks.

What is the difference between repo cars and impounded cars? Repo cars are recovered by financial institutions due to default, while impounded cars are confiscated by government authorities.

What Other People Also Searched For

How to Get an Auction License to Buy Cars?

To get an auction license, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Research Requirements: Each state has different requirements for obtaining an auction license. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or similar authority.
  2. Complete Training: Some states require you to complete a dealer training course.
  3. Submit Application: Fill out the application form and submit it along with any required documents, such as proof of business location and insurance.
  4. Pay Fees: Pay the necessary fees for processing the application and license.
  5. Pass Background Check: Some states require a background check for all applicants.

How to Find an Impounded Car?

To find an impounded car, you can:

  1. Check Online Auction Sites: Websites like Copart, GovDeals, and AuctionZip list impounded cars for sale.
  2. Visit Local Government Websites: Many local governments and police departments post information about their impounded car auctions online.
  3. Contact Police Departments: Call local police departments directly to inquire about upcoming impounded car auctions.
  4. Use Auction Houses: Contact auction houses like Manheim and IAA that handle impounded vehicles.

Can You Buy a Car from Auction Without a Dealer License?

Yes, you can buy a car from a public auction without a dealer license. Public auctions are open to individuals, and you do not need any special licensing. However, dealer-only auctions require a dealer license to participate.

How Do Car Auctions Work?

Car auctions typically follow these steps:

  1. Registration: Participants must register before the auction begins, which may involve providing identification and a deposit.
  2. Preview: Before the bidding starts, there is usually a preview period where potential buyers can inspect the cars.
  3. Bidding: The auctioneer starts the bidding at a specified price, and participants place bids until the highest bid is reached.
  4. Winning Bid: The highest bidder wins the car and must pay for it within a specified time frame.
  5. Payment and Documentation: The winning bidder completes the payment and receives the necessary documents, such as the bill of sale and title transfer.

Are Repo Cars Cheaper?

Repo cars can be cheaper than market value because they are sold to recover the balance owed on a loan rather than for profit. However, the condition of repo cars can vary, so it’s important to inspect them thoroughly before purchasing.

How to Buy Cars at Auction Online?

To buy cars at auction online, follow these steps:

  1. Register on Auction Sites: Sign up on reputable auction websites like Copart, Manheim, or IAA.
  2. Browse Listings: Search for available cars and read the detailed descriptions and condition reports.
  3. Place Bids: Enter your bids during the auction period. Some sites offer live bidding, while others use proxy bidding.
  4. Win and Pay: If you win the auction, complete the payment process as directed by the auction site.
  5. Arrange Transportation: Organize the transportation of your purchased vehicle, especially if it’s not in drivable condition.

What to Do After Buying a Car from Auction?

After buying a car from an auction, you should:

  1. Arrange Transportation: If the car is not drivable, arrange for towing or transportation to your location.
  2. Inspection and Repairs: Have the car inspected by a mechanic and make any necessary repairs.
  3. Register the Car: Complete the title transfer and registration process at your local DMV.
  4. Insure the Car: Obtain insurance coverage for your new vehicle.
  5. Maintenance: Perform any routine maintenance needed to ensure the car is in good working condition.

By addressing these commonly searched questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of the auction process and make more informed decisions when buying impounded cars.


Buying impounded cars can be an excellent way to save money and find unique vehicles. By understanding the process and preparing adequately, you can make an informed and valuable purchase. Start by checking local auctions and online resources to find your next car.

I'm Vinicius Balbino, passionate about writing and researching fascinating subjects. With a curious and restless mind, I constantly seek to explore new ideas and uncover inspiring insights.