The City of San Antonio, Texas, buys about 195 patrol cars annually and sells between 150 and 175 used patrol vehicles every year. Unlike simpler units, selling off police vehicles involves more than just sending it to the auction house.
Fleet Management has to make sure all equipment is taken off the vehicles before they’re auctioned — including light bars, push bumpers, decals, side lights, and computer equipment. San Antonio’s IT department and an outside vendor handle installation and removal of the radio and computer system, while fleet staff install and remove cages, lights, and push bumpers.
“We look at everything and see what can be reused for installation into the new units coming into service,” added Jorge Pérez, director of building and equipment services for the city.
Usually push bumpers and light bars can be used for one more cycle. Light bar bulbs are replaced and reconditioned, and push bumpers must be in good shape before they’re re-used.
The city buys mostly Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, and the auction house — which does both local and online auctions — sells them for about $11,000 to $12,000, Perez said.
The City of Dublin, Ohio, is still phasing out Ford Crown Victoria sedans out of its police fleet, and Darryl Syler, fleet manager, said he hopes to cycle out the last ones by the end of 2018. The city has about 250 assets, of which 46 are police vehicles. With a life cycle of five to seven years, or 90,000 to 120,000 miles, the city typically sells five vehicles per year.
Syler explained that the city removes decals and markings, but doesn’t repaint the asset. The fleet will try to reuse the equipment when possible, but if it’s not re-used, staff will sell the equipment to other agencies through its online remarketing partner, GovDeals.
Dave Johnson, fleet superintendent for the City of La Verne, Calif., doesn’t sell a lot of equipment. With a total fleet of 160 vehicles and a patrol fleet of 13 vehicles, he sells about three police units per year, usually after four years and at 90,000 miles. Like many others, he reuses light bars and other equipment when he can, but he has accumulated years of old sirens and light bars he hasn’t sold.
To dispose them, he put a lot of six light bars on GovDeals but was disappointed in receiving just one offer, which eventually fell through. Johnson knows a big part of auctions is timing — is anyone looking for a lot of light bars at the time his auction is running?
He knows movie studios, police officers, and smaller volunteer police departments will be happy to purchase the equipment. Johnson plans to put up another listing, breaking it into smaller lots. And he’ll take out the police restriction on the auction, taking out the blue lenses on the lights if the purchaser isn’t a police department.
The Disappearing Taxi Market
“We have found over the last few years that we tend to get more out of our assets by selling them completely decommissioned to cab companies,” Syler said. He makes sure to change key locks and make the Crown Vics as presentable as possible.
However, as the Crown Vics phase out and as taxi companies lose interest in the vehicle, those days may soon be over.
Perez recalls seeing many auctioned off Crown Vic patrol vehicles as taxis around town. Since the city’s transition to the PI Utility, he believes the majority of his units are going to other police departments. The city’s vehicles have lower mileage than other decommissioned police cars, and they’ve been well-maintained; in addition, the wear and tear from police work make the vehicle interior not as attractive to taxi companies.
Taxi services were also the main purchases of used Crown Vics for the City of La Verne. However, as these companies move toward hybrids and mini wagons, “we’re not getting as much money as we used to,” Johnson said.
In the past, repeat customers would specifically look for Crown Vics from the city — this isn’t the case anymore. Where a vehicle used to fetch up to $3,000, it’ll now sell for just $1,000. Because of this, fleet staff members are not making as much of an effort to make them presentable as they did in the past, Johnson said.
La Verne and the Dublin Police Department purchase the Ford Police Interceptor Utility. Once both agencies begin selling these newer units, they’ll have a better idea of who is buying their patrol vehicles.