Due to the various governmental units that supply the vehicles for auction, there's no single reason for vehicles being brought to auction. Some of the vehicles are confiscated due to the former owner's involvement in drug dealing, smuggling, or fraud, while other vehicles were simply just abandoned. On exception, separate auctions will sometimes be held for very large seizures.
Bidding fee auction, also known as a penny auction, often requires that each participant must pay a fixed price to place each bid, typically one penny (hence the name) higher than the current bid. When an auction's time expires, the highest bidder wins the item and must pay a final bid price. Unlike in a conventional auction, the final price is typically much lower than the value of the item, but all bidders (not just the winner) will have paid for each bid placed; the winner will buy the item at a very low price (plus price of rights-to-bid used), all the losers will have paid, and the seller will typically receive significantly more than the value of the item.
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At times, customs may decide to not only seize goods but detain the passenger as well. This can happen for a number of different reasons. One reason is if, as mentioned above, a passenger has not declared the item(s) or if they have been declared falsely. Another reason would be if an individual carried with them over 200 grams of tobacco or a very large amount of alcohol.