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Make money from police auctions in 4 easy steps

Moneymagpie Team 25th Jan 2023 6 Comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are plenty of great bargains awaiting you at police auctions.

Anyone can attend a police or government-run auction where you can snatch up great deals on things like bikes, laptops and trainers (often paying less than half their market price).

Police auction off property that has been seized or handed in. When they are unable to find the original owner, you can bid for these products at bargain basement prices (it’s not uncommon to see £300 bikes go for around £20). You can then keep these goods or sell them on for profit.

It can be a creative and fun way to earn some extra cash.

Here is your step-by-step guide of how to make a profit from government and police auctions.

  1. Find out what’s on offer
  2. Find an auction
  3. Be careful
  4. Sell off the goods


Step one: Find out what’s on offer

Make money from police auctions in 4 easy steps

There are several different auction organisers that deal with different types of goods. Before you turn up to your closest auction, check that they are selling things you are interested in buying.

  • Government Surplus Auctions: For overstock stationery, ex-MOD and council vehicles, redundant hardware and school equipment, service machinery, etc.
  • Police Auctions: Sales of confiscated and stolen/recovered/unclaimed personal possessions looking for new homes. Bicycles, household items, jewellery, business equipment – and of course, a great many mobile phones.
  • HM Customs Auctions: Sales of seized and impounded articles from the effects of drug traffickers and racketeers.
  • Property Auctions: Government bodies, local authorities, receivers, executors, banks and building societies who have made repossessions, and many others, may sell property at auction. In some areas, prices can start from just a few thousand pounds.


Step two: Find police auctions

Make money from police auctions in 4 easy steps

Police auctions – Bumblebee Auctions

Police auctions are a great place to start. Check out Bumblebee Auctions, which is worth checking for updates on a regular basis. The site disposes of unclaimed stolen property; it’s a bit like a cheaper version of eBay, with buyers bidding until a deadline.

There are plenty of bargains – bicycles, in particular, go very cheaply. There are lots of electrical items that sell for much less than they’re worth, as well as tools and jewellery.

You can also sometimes pick up cars at Bumblebee Auctions – they tend to be in fairly poor condition but are often really cheap, so if you fancy putting in some work and cleaning a vehicle up, you could make a real profit.

There are basic descriptions of all items, including notes on condition. The current highest bid will be shown when you click on the item, so you can see how much it’s going for and decide whether you want to start bidding on it.

Items usually need to be collected from the police station’s property office. Smaller items can be delivered but the postage and packaging charges are pretty high (often around £10-£15), so you’re usually better off collecting them yourself from the station at no cost.

You can do a product search by town, so you can only see items that are accessible to you. To start bidding you need to set up an e-money account with Nochex, which is the only payment system Bumblebee Auctions accept. Once you’ve done this you can register online and get started.

If you’re successful in your bid you’ll need to give the station notice of when you will be picking the item up (usually 48 hours) so they can get the item ready for collection.

Other police auctions

Not all police forces are signed up to the Bumblebee Auctions site, but will dispose of property through traditional auction houses. Auction-Detective.com is also a useful site for finding current police auctions and it often has a selection of goods.

Other government auctions

Field Textiles sells off army surplus for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The prices are not particularly cheap, but the range of items available is quite amazing. The things on offer can include anything from army towels and mess tins to uniforms and camping equipment.

The MoD also uses online retailers such as Mod Sales, Genuine Army Surplus and British Military Surplus to liquidate surplus army clothing and equipment, ranging from combat boots and camo-pattern jackets to ceremonial tunics and sporrans.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) holds regular auctions at locations in different parts of Great Britain, selling personalised registrations.


Step three: Be careful

Make money from police auctions in 4 easy steps

Government and police auctions aren’t secret, so don’t waste your money on sites that want you to pay for information that you can get elsewhere for free. Police auctions are organised by each individual local police force, so contact your local station or check their website for information on where their next auction is going to be held. Some cursory web searches will also reveal civilian auction houses that receive items from various government services.

Do yourself a favour: check the retail price for any item you bid on and verify its condition. Most auctioneers will have viewings of all listed items shortly before they are sold. Faulty, damaged, or malfunctioning items will not always be listed as such, so inspect items carefully before placing a bid. You also need to know how much the item would cost as new to make sure you get a good price. If you’re selling it on, you need to be able to make a profit.

Also take into consideration that the amount of your winning bid will not necessarily be the same as the price you pay at checkout. Most auction houses charge a buyer’s premium – money redeemed by the auctioneer on top of the sale price. Premiums are subject to VAT, as are all purchases categorised as trades or business sales. Be sure you’re aware of all the numbers before the hammer falls, since they could add up to an additional 30% on the final price of any item.


Step four: Sell off the goods

The most popular online auction house is eBay, however Loot is another website worth researching. The site eBid boasts that they do not charge a listing or final fee, so this is a great site to start auctioning off your goods and retaining more of your final profit.

If you’ve bagged yourself a cheap car and you want to sell it on, at Best Car Buyer you can attain a free estimation of your car’s value just by entering the car’s registration number and mileage.

If you were lucky enough to find antiques or art pieces then auctioning your merchandise at Ewbank Auctions can be a good starting place.

See our guide to selling items on eBay for more information.


How much can you make?

It’s difficult to predict or even estimate exactly how much can be made, however police auctions offer the best money-making opportunities, with bikes worth over £100 regularly selling for £20 to £30.

Also note that many police auctions will list jewellery as ‘yellow’ or ‘silver-coloured’ because its substance is unknown. If you acquire some metallurgical knowledge or bring a jeweller with you to pre-auction viewings, you could make a big markup on resale.

It’s a tougher challenge to make a profit with the army surplus and personalised number plates as the prices are higher, however with a bit of research some speciality websites can be found.

Have you picked up a bargain at a police auction? Tell us about it in the comment section below. 

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kara mully
kara mully
11 years ago

BEWARE OF THE BUMBLEBEE SITE. I bought a necklace from the site because the photography was done in such a way it was made to look like a really nice piece- quality and robust. When it arrived it was clearly a piece of rubbish. And I paid hundreds for it. I wrote to the guy who deals with the site- Chris Leach, who couldn’t have been more unhelpful. Stock answer, after stock answer. Rude, aggressive, dismissive. Learn from me. Seriously, beware.

Danny Jones
Danny Jones
9 years ago
Reply to  kara mully

yeah chris leach is a real fool i wouldnt buy anything from them the police sieze counterfit goods and sell them via bumblebee clearly thats illegal

Annelle Tillberg
Annelle Tillberg
13 years ago

I apologize I can’t add more to it as I’ve no practical experience with real estate, but can you help me as you seem to be like a wealth of knowledge. I reside in united kingdom and My spouse and i have possession of a 1 bedroom flat. My partner and i would really like to acquire a more substantial property to reside in and lease my property. Is there any way of eliminating a buy to let mortgage and obtain the usual mortgage loan to assist me buy my house?

Dennis Helfgott
Dennis Helfgott
13 years ago

Great content, i totally agree with you. Definitely bookmarked :). Will come back tomorrow, gotta go to work now.

AuctionAuto Mover
AuctionAuto Mover
13 years ago

Lots of good information in your article. I live in the us, but still can use some of your information.

Christopher Sierra
Christopher Sierra
14 years ago

EPIC article! I am definitely looking forward to seeing more 😀

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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