We’ve all heard the claims of cars selling for $100 at police auctions, but what’s behind the claims? Did you ever wonder where the seized property and vehicles sold in a police auction or government auction comes from?

Almost every state has what are called “seizure laws”. These laws allow law enforcement agencies to seize property that was used in the commission of a crime or was bought with money that was gained by the commission of a crime. This means that if a drug dealer is arrested, law enforcement can logically conclude that their assets were purchased with illegal drug money. That allows the police to seize cars, trucks, boats, homes, and even jewelry and clothing. This includes property given to family members and friends. If the purchase of the merchandise can be traced back to the offender, it can be seized. If the person is convicted, all of this property will eventually end up in a police auction. The seizure law is a helpful tool for law enforcement agencies, especially against organized crime and drug dealers.

Other merchandise that shows up in a police auction or government auction comes to them via helpful citizens who abandoned property and turn it into the police hoping they can find its owner. If the rightful owner doesn’t show up to claim it in a certain amount of time, it goes into the auction.

Another source of merchandise is evidence collected when the police make an arrest. Occasionally law enforcement will arrest a thief or an organized ring of thieves who have warehouses where they store stolen merchandise for later resale. Sometimes, especially in the case of chop shops, which are places where luxury cars and trucks are dismantled for their parts, it is impossible to determine the rightful owners. After all, one car stereo looks pretty much like another. While every effort is made to return this merchandise to its rightful owner, there is always some of it left unclaimed. Sometimes, entire warehouses of stolen merchandise and the building can be seized by law enforcement and sold.

Some vehicles that show up in police auctions and government auctions are vehicles that have been towed by the police or their authorized representatives for various reasons. Some have been involved in an accident and need to be removed from the street and some are towed for illegal parking. A small percentage of these vehicles are never claimed. After legal procedures to return these vehicles to their owners fail, the police may put them up for auction.

How do you buy these cars, trucks, and other merchandise? Every day, hundreds of state and local police departments hold these police auctions. Fortunately, there are web sites that list. A membership with one of these sites allows you to purchase this seized, surplus, and abandoned property up to 90% off market value.