Where to Buy Repossessed Cars

By Kristen May , last updated December 21, 2011

When lenders and car dealerships repossess cars, they sell them through one of several methods, depending on the lender. Buying a repossessed car can be an easy way to get a car for less than it is really worth because the lender is just trying to recoup its losses quickly.

Public Auction

The easiest way to buy a repossessed car is to attend a public auction. Auction houses typically host these, although large lenders sometimes have their own auctions. Find auctions in your area by looking in the yellow pages or by looking for ads on the newspaper pages that list used car classified advertisements. In addition, you can call banks or other companies that offer car loans and ask where their repossessed cars are sold. Sometimes the lenders will facilitate the auctions themselves instead of turning the vehicles over to an auction house and having to pay fees on them.

Private Auction

Some lenders sell the cars at private auctions, which are not open to the general public. Instead, car dealers and others who pay to attend can go and bid on the cars. If you want to get a car through a private auction, you will need to find a dealer who can attend the auctions. Describe the type of car you would like to get, including the make, model, year, mileage and condition. Also tell the dealer the maximum price you are willing to bid on the vehicle. The dealer will typically add a fee for the service of getting the car at auction, but the price will likely still be below what you would have paid to purchase a similar vehicle at a regular dealership.


Repossessed cars have sometimes not been maintained as well as other used vehicles because the owners were having a hard time making car payments and likely did not have money available to keep the car maintained as intended. Therefore, you should be careful when purchasing a repossessed car. If possible, test drive the vehicle before bidding on it. At the very least, look under the hood and take note of any obvious damage. Also check the interior of the car for stains or tears in the upholstery and odors from smoking.

Redeeming Your Car

If your car has been repossessed, you might be able to buy it back from the lender, also known as redeeming it, before it goes to auction. If the amount you owed on the car is well under its value, this might be the best option to replace your car quickly and at the lowest cost. When you redeem your car, you pay the full amount of the loan, plus interest and any fees associated with the repossession. Some ways to get money to redeem your car include getting a loan from a friend or family member, taking a cash advance on your credit card or getting a personal loan from a bank or credit union. Once you have the car back, you can look into refinancing the debt into a secured auto loan again.

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