By Clint Parker
Woodfin – Leasing instead of buying a vehicle is not a new concept. People do it all the time, but what about a police department leasing its patrol cars? That’s what the Woodfin Police Department is in the process of doing.
It appears that leasing police cruisers instead of buying will not only save money but also allow the department to keep its fleet equipped with more modern and mechanically sound vehicles, according to Woodfin Police Chief Michael Dykes.
In an interview with the Tribune, Dykes explained how the idea for the department to lease its vehicles originated. Dykes said the catalyst for the new course came at a North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police conference in January of this year.
“Enterprise [Rent-A-Car] did a presentation during one of the sessions talking about their fleet leasing program. [They] said it was a cost-saving measure, helps make sure vehicles are replaced on a timely schedule,” said Dykes. “Kinda piqued my interest.”
Dykes said that he later went to an open house event in South Carolina that featured vendors who supplied emergency service equipment. There he spoke with representatives of Enterprise about their program and obtained more information. “When you look at the cost on it, it’s pretty close to what you’d pay for buying them outright except you will get the vehicles replaced on a timely basis and a higher resale on your vehicles when you turn them in,” he explained.
He then scheduled a meeting and obtained more information and did some number crunching to see what the savings would be. Dykes described the current department model costs of securing loans and finding vehicles versus the lease program. While the “first year’s costs were just slightly more,” he said, “every year after that we end up saving money, just in the outright purchase portion of it. Then we got into the next part of it with a presentation they did for us about how much we would save a year, once we got all the vehicles in the police program.”
According to Enterprise’s numbers, the department, once all vehicles are in the program, should save about $18,000 per year. On top of that, vehicles would be replaced at 70,000 to 80,000 miles instead of more than 100,000 miles, something that should help cut maintenance costs.
“Estimated maintenance is about $24,000 per year, that’s what we allocate, about $25,000, which this past year we went well beyond due to using older vehicles — having to get those roadworthy,” he described. In the new program, replacing the cars on a regular schedule, Dykes said the program should cut that number down to about $13,000 per year.
According to Dykes, the cars would be leased for five years, after which the cars would be turned back in following the removal of police equipment from the vehicle for use in other cars. The vehicles are leased with a 15,000-mile limit which can be changed and will only impact the resale value of the car and not change the cost of the leasing agreement.
“We give it back to Enterprise who will sell it on our behalf. Whatever money they make from that they take out a commission fee of around $400, but any money they make past that credits to our account,” explained Dykes. He also said that Enterprise works with all the major suppliers of law enforcement vehicles and so there won’t be an issue in the selection of makes.
Dykes said that the agreement is in place and they look to take possession of the department’s first vehicles before the end of the year. He also said that the town public works department is also taking part in the program.