You are currently viewing How to Buy a Lien Sale Car From a Tow Yard

Have you ever wondered about the hidden gems that might lie within the confines of a tow yard? With careful research and preparation, you can snag a vehicle that perfectly fits your needs without breaking the bank. From practical sedans to powerful SUVs, lien sales offer a diverse selection that caters to all preferences and budgets.

But what are the essential tips and tricks to navigate this unique buying experience successfully? What legalities should you be aware of? And how can you ensure you’re getting the best deal possible? From the expertise of seasoned auction-goers to the wisdom shared by car enthusiasts, we’ll guide you through the entire process.

In this article, we will unravel the secrets of buying a lien sale car from a tow yard and how you can seize this opportunity to own a remarkable vehicle at a fraction of its market price.

What is a lien sale car?

A lien sale car is a vehicle that has been towed and impounded by a tow yard due to various reasons. The tow yard then holds a lien sale auction to recover the costs incurred during towing and storage. As a result, these auctions offer potential buyers a chance to purchase vehicles at a fraction of their market value.

Reasons for Lien Sale Cars

Lien-sale cars end up in tow yards for several reasons. The most common reasons include vehicle owners abandoning their cars, being unable to retrieve them due to financial constraints, or facing legal issues that prevent them from reclaiming the vehicle.

Benefits of Buying a Lien Sale Car

One of the primary advantages of buying a lien-sale car is the potential for significant cost savings. Since these vehicles are sold to recover towing and storage costs, they often sell for substantially lower prices compared to traditional car purchases.

There is a potential for finding a car with low mileage. This is because some people abandon their cars after only a few years of ownership, so it is possible to find a lien-sale car with relatively low mileage. This makes them appealing options for budget-conscious buyers.

Potential Risks and Challenges

While lien-sale cars can offer great deals, they come with certain risks. Buyers need to be cautious about hidden mechanical issues or undisclosed damage. Additionally, the car’s history might not always be transparent, making it essential for buyers to conduct thorough inspections before making a purchase.

How to Find Lien Sale Car Auctions

Start your search for lien sale car auctions by checking with local tow yards and auction houses. Many cities conduct regular auctions where towed vehicles, including lien-sale cars, are sold to the highest bidder.

In addition to local auctions, various online platforms host lien sale car auctions. These platforms allow buyers to participate in auctions from the comfort of their homes, widening the range of available options.

Bonus: Ready to buy a Lien Sale Car? check out this article on what to look for when buying a used car for a seamless car buying experience.

Factors to Consider Before Bidding:

  • Type of Car: Different auctions may specialize in specific types of cars, such as luxury cars or SUVs. Choose an auction that aligns with the type of vehicle you’re interested in.
  • Car Condition: Inspect the cars at the auction carefully, as their conditions can vary significantly. Determine if any cars need significant repairs before making a decision.
  • Price Range: Auction prices can vary widely. Set a budget to avoid overspending and ensure you get the best deal possible.
  • Auction Rules: Familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the auction you plan to attend. Be aware of any minimum bidding requirements or online bidding options.

Preparing for the Auction

  • Set a Budget: Before participating in a lien sale car auction, set a realistic budget to avoid overspending during the excitement of the auction. Factor in the cost of the car, auction fees, and potential repair expenses to avoid overspending.
  • Inspect the Cars: Carefully inspect the cars you’re interested in to identify potential issues or problems.
  • Research Car Values: Research the value of the cars you’re interested in to avoid overpaying.
  • Be Prepared to Walk Away: If a car doesn’t meet your expectations or exceeds your budget, be prepared to walk away. There will be other opportunities in future auctions.

Participating in the Auction

During the auction, employ smart bidding strategies. Avoid getting caught up in bidding wars and set a maximum bid limit to stay within your budget.

Each auction may have specific rules and procedures. Familiarize yourself with the auction rules to ensure a smooth bidding experience.

Winning the Auction

If you win the auction, promptly pay for the car using the accepted payment methods. Most auctions require immediate payment, so be prepared.

Securing the Necessary Paperwork

After payment, obtain all the necessary paperwork, including a bill of sale and any other documentation required for transferring ownership.

Taking Possession of the Lien Sale Car

Arrange for the towing or transportation of the car from the tow yard to your desired location. Once you have possession of the car, ensure it is roadworthy. Perform any necessary repairs or maintenance before hitting the road.

Handling Legal Aspects and Title Transfer

Handle all the legal aspects of the purchase, including completing paperwork for title transfer and registration. Transfer the title to your name and register the car with the appropriate authorities to make it legally yours.

Troubleshooting Post-Purchase Issues

In case you encounter mechanical problems after purchase, consult a qualified mechanic to address the issues promptly. If you face any title-related issues, seek professional advice to resolve them efficiently.

Additional Tips for Lien Sale Car Buyers

  • Be Patient and Thorough: Patience and thoroughness are key when buying a lien-sale car. Take your time to research, inspect, and understand the process before making any decisions.
  • Consider Getting Professional Assistance: If you’re uncertain about the process or feel overwhelmed, consider seeking assistance from a professional who has experience with lien sale car purchases.


1. How can I find lien sale car auctions at tow yards?

To find lien sale car auctions at tow yards, you can follow these steps:

  • Check local government websites: Many cities or counties maintain online databases with auction information for lien-sale cars.
  • Contact tow yards directly: Reach out to local tow yards and inquire about upcoming lien sale car auctions.
  • Visit impound lots: Some tow yards hold physical auctions, and visiting their impound lots can provide auction schedules.

2. Are lien-sale cars sold as-is, and what should I consider before buying one?

Yes, lien-sale cars are typically sold as-is, meaning they come with no warranties or guarantees. Before buying one, consider the following:

  • Vehicle inspection: Thoroughly inspect the car’s condition, or if you lack expertise, bring a mechanic to assess it.
  • Title and ownership transfer: Ensure that the tow yard provides a clear title and assists with the ownership transfer process.
  • Research the vehicle’s history: Check the car’s history report to know about any accidents, salvaged status, or previous ownership details.

3. What payment methods are accepted during lien sale car auctions?</h2>

The accepted payment methods during lien sale car auctions may vary between tow yards, but common options include:

  • Cash: Some tow yards prefer cash payments for the auctioned vehicles.
  • Credit or Debit cards: Certain yards accept credit or debit card payments.
  • Cashier’s checks or money orders: These secure payment methods are often allowed.

4. Can I drive the lien-sale car right after purchasing it?

In most cases, no, you cannot drive the lien sale car immediately after purchasing it. Here’s what to consider:

  • Towing arrangements: Arrange for proper towing to your desired location as the car might not be in running condition.
  • DMV requirements: Complete all necessary paperwork and registration at the DMV before legally driving the vehicle.
  • Insurance coverage: Get insurance coverage for the car before taking it on the road.
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Buying a lien sale car from a tow yard can be an exciting and cost-effective way to acquire a vehicle. By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the auction process successfully.


  • Justin Smith

    Justin Smith is a highly skilled freelance writer with over three years of experience in content editing, writing, and SEO. Specializing in the automotive industry and car trade insights, she delivers valuable and engaging articles. With a passion for cars and a focus on keyword ranking, Justin Smith's expertise empowers readers to navigate the complexities of buying and selling vehicles. Choose Justin Smith as your trusted author for authoritative car trade insights.