Between police cars, fire trucks, dump trucks, construction equipment, and other staff cars, the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have nearly 5,000 vehicles in their combined fleet. Aging or damaged vehicles are sold off at auction twice a year, with the next auction taking place this Saturday.
Hundreds of newly washed cars and trucks stretch in rows across a gravel lot near the airport on Wilkinson Boulevard.
“This is actually an auction that’s already lined up and ready to go,” says Rex Dye, the city’s Asset Recovery and Disposal Supervisor. “It goes lot 1, 2, 3 and on down.”
He and his team sorted the vehicles by type. Rows of Police Crown Victoria’s, Chevy Cavaliers, and Ford Focuses are most prevalent, but many of the over 200 different kinds of vehicles used by the city and county are on display, including trailers, construction equipment, school and transit buses, and garbage trucks.
The city and county have approved a total of about 400 vehicles for sale, although not all of them will necessarily go on the block this time. The city’s Fleet Management Division determines when a vehicle is no longer worth repairing or maintaining, and should be sold at auction.
“We have point systems built in depending on class of equipment, so your pursuit cars have one threshold in there, fire trucks have another threshold,” says Chris Trull, the head of Fleet Management. “We maintain that piece of equipment for its life, from cradle to grave, and then, at the end of its life, we turn it over to the auction yard.”
There, it is buyer beware.
“There are no refunds. It’s sold as is, where is, without any kind of warranty,” says Dye.
Dye points to one miserable looking piece of construction equipment—a small, rust-bitten front-end loader.
“I’ll tell you this, you’d be surprised at how much people will pay for something like that,” Dye says. “We had a front-end loader a couple of auctions ago that went for $48,000. That’s the probably the one that kind of hits my mind.”
Not including county cars, Dye says the City of Charlotte made over a half million dollars off of about 140 vehicles last auction. This time, it could sell about double that.