In its simplest terms, an impounded object or animal is a piece of property that is legally appropriated by state or federal authorities because the owner has either given it up willfully, has not paid the proper taxes on it, allowed it to roam in an area that requires some sort of restraint (e.g., leash laws), and/or has committed a crime that demands recompense that cannot be paid with current available funds. In short, if you have abandoned it, didn't pay your taxes on it, let it run free, or you've committed a crime with it, the police can take it from you and sell it.
Impound auctions are usually held once a month by local county, city, or state officials. During these auctions you can purchase items and even livestock that have been seized by the police. Depending on the type of auction, you might be able to purchase a car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or even a horse.
In the case of automobiles, most vehicles that are offered during an impound auction are those that were towed away because they were either abandoned on the side of the road. The police took some when they found that the owners were drunk while operating it, or they discovered that the driver had a suspended license. The rest will most likely be the result of a drug bust.
Since these vehicles are usually taken by force they may have some damage. It might be a minor ding or scratch on the paint, or the ignition switch may be impaired from someone who tried to hotwire the car. Regardless of what is explained to you at the auction, it's probably a good idea to take the car to a mechanic straight away to have it inspected.
With agricultural impound auctions, you have the option of buying animals. The selection is almost always comprised of horses, cattle, sheep, and other large animals that were seized by Animal Control. These animals often come from backgrounds of cruelty and/or neglect. They may need medical attention and extra care in order to get them accustomed to their new homes. Some might no longer be fit for work due to illness or injury. Therefore it is important to listen to anything the auctioneer imparts regarding any animal that goes up on the auction block.
At some impound auctions you can even purchase homes. These houses are often the result of drug busts. Other reasons may be foreclosure, non-payment of property taxes, or simply the liquidation of property that was taken for evidence during a court trial. In any case, the property will have been inspected and any major repairs will either be made or put down on paper for the next owner.
If you are interested in attending an impound auction in order to buy a car, a cow, or even a cottage, check the website of your city or county's police or sheriff station. You can also look up auctions by entering the name of your city, state, and the type of auction you want to visit. There you can get the times, dates, and addresses of the auctions as well as find out what funds they take (cash, check, credit cards, etc.) Just remember to listen carefully to the auctioneer, bring enough money to pay for your purchases, and settle up straight away.