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Police auctions – how to legally buy stolen goods

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Buying stolen goods might sound a teeny bit dodgy but, through police auctions, it can help you make some big savings – and it's all completely legal.

burglar carrying tv and woman holding bidding card

Credit: Andrey Burmakin, rtsimage – Shutterstock

Ever wondered what the police do with all the stolen goods and lost property they recover if they can't return it to the owner? They sell it for cheap prices at police auctions, and if you know where to look, you can find an absolute steal.

Buying stolen goods at police auctions is completely legal. And the best part is that not many people know they exist, let alone that they're on eBay and other online auction sites. You can find some real gems with (hopefully!) little competition from other buyers.

Interested? Read on to find out more about this nice little money-saving trick.

If you haven't already, check out our guide to the best swap sites to exchange things you no longer want for things you very much do.

Best police auctions UK

Here are the best places to find stolen goods that are being sold in police auctions:

  1. Police eBay stores

    ebay logo

    A number of police forces have set up their own official eBay stores to sell stolen goods or lost property. For example, Sussex Police and Leicester Police have their own stores.

    The goods sold on these eBay pages will likely be collection only, but smaller items might occasionally have a delivery option. The selection of items on sale will vary all the time.

    To see if your local police force has an eBay store, check its website or give them a call.

    You'll need to bid for most items, but you'll sometimes see a 'Buy It Now' option – read our eBay buying tips to make sure you get the best deal.

    Visit eBay »


  2. Auction houses

    auction hammer

    As well as online bidding sites, some police forces use good old-fashioned auction houses instead. These are events where you physically go along to bid on items, like you may have seen on TV shows like Flog It or Homes Under the Hammer.

    You can find the details of any upcoming auctions on your local police force website or by searching online for police auctions in your area. Wilsons Auctions and John Pye Auctions are just two of the auction houses selling police-seized goods.

    Auction houses are perfect for selling larger items as the buyer can take the item away with them on the same day.

    What's more, some auction houses allow potential buyers to come in to view items the day before the auction is due to take place. This gives you the chance to suss out what you want to bid for in advance.

    You usually need to register with an auction house to be able to bid there.

    And keep in mind you'll have to pay a buyers' premium. This will vary depending on the auction house, but it could be over 20%.

What are police auctions?

auction hammer

Credit: Billion Photos – Shutterstock

Police often retrieve stolen goods from criminals or receive lost property from the public. If they aren't able to track down the original owner, they auction the items off and put the proceeds towards police initiatives or charitable causes.

The police don't have the capacity to store items (especially larger items like bikes) for long periods of time, so police auctions are an effective way of legally passing them on.

If you're browsing a police auction and spot something that you lost or was stolen from you, contact the police with evidence and you should be able to claim it back. But, as a buyer, bear in mind this means that auctions can sometimes be cancelled at the last minute if the original owner comes forward.

How to find police auctions online

While some police forces sell stolen goods in auction houses, there are actually a fair amount of police auctions online, too.

On eBay, for example, you can find a number of police shops that sell items that have been confiscated or gone unclaimed. We go into more detail on where to find the best police auctions above.

And, for specific details about where your local police constabulary sells goods, either online or offline, it could be worth giving them a call.

What can you buy at police auctions?

There's a huge variety of stolen goods for sale at police auctions. They can typically include cheap cars, bikes and other types of vehicles, as well as jewellery, designer clothes, house tools, cameras and pretty much anything else you can think of.

There often won't be a huge amount of info about each item at police auctions. But the listings should at least include a photo to give you an idea of the quality and condition of whatever you're buying.

Although items sold at police auctions are generally a lot more affordable than you'd find elsewhere, our main piece of advice is that you shouldn't automatically assume something is a good deal just because you've found it at a police auction.

Check online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Facebook Marketplace to see if you can get a better price elsewhere first.

Police auctions are something of a hidden gem when it comes to finding a bargain – just like secret sales sites...

Jessica Murray

WRITTEN BY Jessica Murray

As an Editor of Save the Student, Jessica Murray has written extensively on student money news and money-saving tips. She was co-host of our podcast, No More Beans, and is now a journalist at the Guardian. Her tips and insights range from fun guides for freshers, to information for graduates entering the workplace.
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