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Can auctioneers sell [decommissioned] police cars/trucks? Fire trucks? Ambulances? Auctioneers do sell these types of vehicles and it’s an excellent way to raise funds for states, cities, townships, and the like for unneeded rolling stock. However, are there issues? There are considerations.

For one, the logo or insignia is likely copyrighted by the prior public entity. For the new owner to use without removing any such branding might require special permission. Too, special lighting, spotlights, sirens, light bars, etc. might also be regulated by a state — in that they can remain on the vehicle — or would have to be removed — if used on public roads.

Largely otherwise, it would seem the context of use would matter. When this police car is out on the roads, is the new owner portraying himself as a police officer, or does the public perceive he’s a police officer — when he’s not? Or, it is being used only for private events or parades, for example, where the public would not typically expect the use to be by a genuine police official?

The key issue appears to be, for auctioneers and bidders/buyers, to have the seller make clear if logos, insignias, etc. have to be removed or can remain. Having such conditions in writing and giving the buyer that documentation would be prudent. Auctioneers selling these types of items with no such documents would likely not be maximizing net proceeds due to a lack of necessary and reasonable disclosure.

Alternately, some public entities ready such stock by removing any logos, insignias, light bars that are not permitted, so that the vehicle, whether police, fire, or an ambulance is ready for the buyer to use as he wishes. Relatedly, there are some states’ laws regarding antique (collectible) rolling stock, in that it can remain intact regardless of use.

Speaking of disclosure … we noted two Nobel Prize winners held that with more disclosure bidders bid more, regardless if that disclosure is “good” news or “bad” news: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/providing-as-much-information-as-possible/.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.