I was contacted several weeks ago, following the posting of my piece, “Navigating the Used Fire Apparatus Marketplace," by a reader, Billy Claunch with an offer of his expertise. Claunch is vice president of sales for Brindlee Mountain Used Fire Apparatus, the largest dealer of used fire apparatus in the United States.
When I set off to do this piece about what a department should consider in preparing its apparatus for the used fire apparatus market, I contacted Claunch to pick his brain.
What ensued was a revealing conversation about the workings of the used fire apparatus marketplace. For starters, I learned that unlike the used automobile marketplace, there is nothing like the Kelly Blue Book (KBB) that a prospective seller can consult to see what the fair-market value is for their used fire apparatus.
Unlike the automobile world where hundreds of thousands of new vehicles are sold each year in the United States, only about 4,000 new pieces of fire apparatus show up in fire stations each year. Likewise, about the same number of fire apparatus show up in the used apparatus market.
According to Claunch, the fair-market value for each piece of used fire apparatus has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. There simply are not enough data points to create a system like that of KBB, Edwards or any of the other organizations that create such data for used automobiles.
In our conversation, Claunch made an analogy using the housing market. A person may have purchased a wonderful custom-built home with all the bells and whistles that that person desired and he may have spared no expense to make his dream home a reality. However, when that original owner decides to put the dream home on the market, the challenge is finding a buyer who shares the vision of a dream home and who is willing to meet the asking price.
A department looking to sell its once brand new, "built just the way they specified it" fire truck, must also find a buyer who shares that vision of what a dream fire truck looks like.
So what can you as the prospective seller do to assist a used fire apparatus vendor in selling your fire apparatus? Here are some key points that Claunch and I discussed.
Provide a complete package of documentation showing clear ownership for the vehicle being sold, including copies of loan pay-off documents and a clear title. And provide a comprehensive and complete package of documentation about your vehicle that includes, but should not be limited to:
- A synopsis sheet of the original specifications for the vehicle. This should be part of the total specifications package that you received upon taking delivery of the apparatus.
- A complete set of records for all maintenance done on the vehicle, including preventive and scheduled maintenance recommended by the manufacturer, along with any other mechanical repair work that's been done by an in-house or third-party vendor.
- A complete set of records for any mechanical or physical repairs that weren't the result of normal wear and tear associated with regular operation such as a crash. Just as there is no KBB for used fire apparatus, neither is there a CarFax or similar report available. As previously mentioned, the used fire apparatus is relatively small and the fire service grapevine is well tuned, thus making it difficult for a seller to hide such information; it's better to be up front with this information.
It is also important to have a complete set of good photographs from all angles taken with a high-quality camera. In addition to photos of the apparatus at rest, take photos of it doing its job — a Type I engine pumping hose lines, an aerial device with the stick up, or a Type III engine working a fire line.
Also include photographs of the interior of the crew cab and all compartments. Photography is cheap these days, so take all the photos you can think of and let your reseller do the editing from their perspective. These photographs will provide your reseller with the material to create more effective marketing materials for you apparatus.
Real estate agents will tell you that well-taken photographs of the interior and exterior of a home will sell it to prospective buyers better than any words they can craft for a sales brochure or website posting. The same is true with used fire trucks.
Plan the sale
Create a timeline beginning with when the reseller can begin marketing your apparatus through when the reseller taking possession of the apparatus. In doing so, consider if the vehicle available immediately or if you must wait until the new apparatus arrives. Also consider if you need to keep it in operation until your personnel have been trained to operate the new vehicle.
If you provide a potential reseller with this information, you'll have given them the raw material necessary to realistically assess your vehicle's market value; create an effective marketing strategy to more quickly sell your apparatus; and develop a working relationship with you based on trust and mutual interests.
Once you've provided your reseller with the above information and they've assessed its marketability, have a conversation to arrive at a realistic asking price.
Navigating the used fire apparatus marketplace doesn't have to be complicated or frustrating. Follow this action plan and you'll greatly increase your potential to find that buyer who shares your vision of what a dream fire truck looks like.