Here’s an odd fact that you may not be entirely aware of: Anything bought with the proceeds of illegal activity may be seized by the federal government. And nowhere is this more common than when the government deals with drug pushers. One small problem, though; once they take all the stuff drug dealers have bought with their illicit profits, the government has to pay to store it. And once it’s no longer needed as evidence, it needs to go.
So it’s sold to the public at cut-rate prices since, really, the government couldn’t care less about how much the cars are valued for at market: They just don’t want to pay the garage fees.
One recent auction in Opa-Locka, FL, emphasized two things: One, that there are potentially lots of finds at police auctions and two, there are a few… well, let’s say … drawbacks to buying a car with a criminal previous owner.
For example, what if we told you that there was a sweet 2008 Ford Mustang GT available at this auction? And that it was available for a quarter of the price? Getting excited? Well, one small problem. It looks like this
Problem #1: Criminals have pretty much zero taste. It’s true. In fact, hideous vehicles like this tend to be the rule rather than the exception, as criminals tend to want to flaunt their wealth in about the tackiest way possible. Many police auction vehicles will have bad paint jobs, badly installed body modifications, and other problems that you’ll have to fix out of your own pocket. Unless you like having the ghosts of the undead on the side of your car. (Plus, try answering a question from the car insurance company on the color of this vehicle.)
Problem #2: Bullet holes, etc.. Sometimes cars that are no longer needed as evidence are sold off, so they might have a few… interesting challenges for your local body shop when you get them home. Granted that not all vehicles are like this: For example, at the Opa-Locka auction, amid the 1930s hot road and hideous paintjobs was a… uh… white Kia Rio from 2008. Many auctions will feature decent, anonymous cars pretty much designed to not attract police attention.
Problem #3: The interior condition can be less than ideal. The nature of the outside may also extend to the inside of the vehicle. The government takes no responsibility whatsoever for the condition or quality of the vehicle itself: All cars are sold strictly “as-is”, and most auctions will not allow you to take the vehicle for a test drive. You probably can check the VIN numbers on the car, however, so do that, and make sure that all the VIN numbers match. Criminals also aren’t necessarily noted for taking the best care of their cars, either, so understand that you will be taking a risk on buying a total lemon that looks cool.
Problem #4: No financing. Be prepared to pay up front: The government doesn’t really offer much in the way of installment plans.
All that said, there are definitely deals to be had at police auctions; just remember to do what any smart buyer does: Do your research beforehand, ask questions, kick the tires, and examine it as carefully as possible.
Also, avoid any car somebody died in. Haunted cars are a real pain on the resale market.