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 are auctioning off property all the time 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.
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.
Police auctions – Bumblebee Auctions
Police auctions are a great place to start. Check out Bumblebee Auctions, which is regularly updated. 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 full 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. Larger items will 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
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 West Oxfordshire Motor Auction (WOMA) is an independent motor auction house that holds police vehicle auctions every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Police cars are stripped of any markings, sirens, and radios etc. Clearly they will have clocked up more miles than most cars, but they are also likely to have been serviced more than a normal car and kept in great condition in terms of tyres and oil.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) holds regular auctions at locations in different parts of Great Britain, selling personalised registrations.
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.
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.