Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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City regularly auctions off police-directed towed vehicles

By June Watanabe


Question: I’ve been looking for a while for a car to buy and was curious what kind of cars are sold at a police auction. How could I find out when and where these are held?

Answer: The Honolulu Police Department hasn’t held an auction since 2003, when it began shipping unclaimed seized items to the mainland to be auctioned off by Property Bureau, an online auction company based in California.

The reason is the costs to store the cars, mo-peds, bikes, jewelry, tools and other goods, as well as the time and personnel needed to organize and hold the auctions, said HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

HPD continues to work with Property Bureau — see, she said.

The city netted about $28,800 from Property Bureau in the 2011 fiscal year, with proceeds going into the city general fund.

While police auctions no longer take place here, there are two other options to bid on city-auctioned vehicles.

The Motor Vehicle Control Section auctions unclaimed police-directed towed vehicles and unclaimed abandoned vehicles monthly, with notices published only in the Star-Advertiser’s Classified Legal Section. There is no set schedule or specific day.

For the 2011 fiscal year, the city collected $142,230 for the general fund from these auctions.

Meanwhile, the city holds online auctions, generally once or twice a month, for all types of equipment that are no longer economically viable or usable, including Handi-Vans, buses, refuse trucks, utility vehicles, even firetrucks, said Jim Fulton, executive assistant to Mayor Peter Carlisle.

“Police vehicles that are at least 10 years old, or that need costly repairs, are also sold at auction,” he said.

In the last fiscal year, about 100 police vehicles and 100 other vehicles were auctioned off, netting about $190,000 for the general fund or applicable department.

You can review surplus items, including vehicles, at Click on “Public Access” on the right, then “Business Opportunities,” then “Search for Surplus Auctions.”

Another option is the federal General Services Administration’s online auctions,, for used furniture, cars, vans, trucks, boats and airplanes.

When we checked the site Monday, typing in Hawaii and clicking “all categories” of items for sale, bids were being taken for 39 items, including 26 motor vehicles.

The state generally doesn’t hold auctions for its vehicles or other property.

Vehicles are either bought new or obtained used from the federal government and basically driven until they’re no longer operable, said an official with the Procurement Office. Other items, such as furniture, are offered to nonprofit groups or other licensed or approved organizations.

Question: I was looking into bidding at the city’s abandoned-vehicle auctions but have a few concerns: 1. If a car has back taxes due, am I responsible for paying them? 2. If there is a stopper on the registration, what do I need to do? 3. If there are tickets on the car that were sent to a collection agency, do I have to pay the collection agency in order to register the car? 4. Are there any other “hidden” fees/costs that I could be stuck paying for?

Answer: The unclaimed vehicles sold by the city are not charged delinquent taxes, but will be charged fees to bring the vehicle to a current status, assuming that the vehicle obtains a current safety inspection, said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division. That would include registration fees, for example.

All vehicle stoppers (unpaid citations, civil fines, etc.) must be cleared by the agency that placed the stopper on the city’s motor vehicle computer file in order for the transfer of title to be processed, he said.

He said anyone who has the license plate number and vehicle identification number for a vehicle may inquire about its registration status and stoppers, if any, by going to or by calling 532-4325. Essentially, it is buyer beware.

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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