Looking for a bargain? Police auctions might be a great place to start.
At a police auction, you can buy stolen goods and unclaimed lost property that’s been handed in, found, or seized by the police. Not many people know about them, which means they can be a great place to pick up a deal.
Here, we share everything you need to know about police auctions, from how they work to the websites you can use to find them.
How do police auctions work?
The police come into contact with a lot of stolen goods — it’s part of their job. Whether they’re investigating thefts, frauds, or break-ins, it’s common for them to handle the objects at the centre of the crime.
But in some cases, the objects they retrieve can’t be reunited with their original owners. So what happens then? Typically, these objects are sold to the general public.
That’s what police auctions are for. They’re places for the police to sell the objects that they can’t hold on to anymore. Then, the money raised is typically donated to police causes or local charities and organisations.
While you can get some real bargains, you have to be a bit lucky with the items you find. These change every day, and can range from cars to watches to shoes. In fact, you can find pretty much anything at a police auction if you’re willing to put in the time.
The items can be so cheap because they typically don’t have a reserve price. However, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be in perfect condition or that you’ll get the best price. Before you buy, it’s always worth checking to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.
How do you buy things from the police?
Anyone is welcome to join a police auction and you can bid on anything you want.
Most of the auctions take place online — on specialist auction sites or through official police eBay accounts — but you can also attend auction houses in person. Typically, the auctions are organised by the police forces themselves, so they’ll likely be based locally.
Let’s talk through your options for buying from police auctions in more detail.
What is the best police auction website?
Dedicated websites are the most common way to bid on police auctions. All you need to do to start buying is to sign up and then you’re ready to go.
Try some of these:
- Bumblebee Auctions: This is the best-known police auction site. It’s the national website for these types of sales, so even if the site looks a little basic, trust that you’re in the right place.
Bumblebee also has a Twitter account where they share items for sale. It can be a good one to follow to keep an eye on what’s on offer.
- John Pye Auctions: Alternatively, the police use standard auction sites such as John Pye to host their auctions, too. This website provides a platform for vehicle, property, and general auctions, while offering dedicated pages for police auctions and insolvency auctions (i.e. when a company’s assets are sold to pay its debts).
- Wilsons Auctions: A similar site to John Pye, Wilsons Auctions also offer a range of different types of auction — both online and in person. They work with over 40 police forces in the UK to manage their auctions for them.
There’s just one thing to bear in mind if you’re bidding on an online police auction: make sure you check the location of the items you’re buying.
Typically, you’ll have to collect the items from the police station or local area where it’s being sold. So, if you’re based in Cardiff and the sale’s in Carlisle, it might not be very convenient.
How to find police auctions on eBay
The police also often use bidding websites such as eBay to flog the items they’ve seized or found.
The main difference here is that while a site such as Bumblebee Auctions brings lots of police auctions together onto one site, on eBay different police forces have their own auction accounts. That means you’ll need to track down each individual police force.
One way to do that is to search for your local police force online, check out their website, and see if they sell on eBay. There are many of them out there doing it, including Sussex Police, Leicester Police, Cheshire Police, and Thames Valley Police.
Just like the websites above, what you find is very much luck of the draw. You can see everything from cameras to bikes and trainers, and a whole lot more.
One piece of good news, though, is that on eBay the police sellers often offer delivery. So, if you see something you like, you don’t need to be close to the police station to buy it.
Auction houses and local police auctions
A third option to see and bid on the items that police have on sale is at a physical auction house.
Just like online, these in-person auctions are typically run on behalf of a police force by a local auctioneer. Often, in fact, the same companies — such as John Pye or Wilsons Auctions — manage the live auctions, too.
Unlike the online auctions, though, these are a little more difficult to track down and the details of the auctions will differ depending on your area. You can do some sleuthing on your local police force’s website, or dial 101 to speak to someone directly.
Expect to see vehicles for sale, alongside machinery and household items ranging from mobile phones to clothing.
Is a police auction worth it?
Police auctions can be a great way to get a good deal. But remember that you might not find something you want every time you visit the auction websites or police eBay accounts.
Ultimately, the police are selling what they have in their hands at any given moment. That means that one day they might be offering a bike and on another day a laptop or a watch. There’s no regularity to it, so it can often be a matter of spending the time to browse what’s on offer.
Is that worth it? That’s up to you!
Is it legal?
While you might think you’d be on the wrong side of the law if you sold or handled stolen goods, when the police do it it’s a different story. Police auctions are perfectly legal.
That goes for cars that you can buy at auction, too. These will be cleaned up, checked for damage and maintenance issues, and will be entirely legal for you to drive once you’ve bought one. (Don’t forget that they’ll need to be insured before you drive out of the station. Take a look at your car insurance options here.)
What if you see something that belongs to you at a police auction?
It’s totally possible that, when you’re online looking for a bargain, you find an item that looks surprisingly familiar. If you think that something for sale on auction actually belongs to you, then you should immediately reach out to the police force or auction house that’s selling it.
The police will have done their best to reunite any items with their rightful owners before they put them on auction. However, this won’t be possible every time.
If you do see something that belongs to you, the police can take it off auction and return it to you. It’s even worth getting in touch if that item has already been sold. The police may be able to help retrieve it.
Quick summary: Find a bargain at a police auction
In this guide, we’ve shown you how police auctions can be a great place to get a deal on items ranging from cars to clothes. There’s just one catch — everything on sale has been stolen, lost, or seized.
That said, it’s perfectly legal and, if you can commit the time, it can be a real opportunity to find a bargain.