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(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503 636-1281 ext 105 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

“How many miles do you put on your cars before you get a new one?”


TREATGenerally speaking, when a police car hits 100,000 miles, it is rotated out and retired. Our used police cars are stripped of their equipment and that equipment is then reinstalled into a new car. Utilizing the previous light bars, cage, console, racks and radio dramatically lowers the cost of outfitting a new patrol vehicle. Markings on the old vehicle are removed and it is sold at auction to help recover some of the original cost.

While 100,000 miles may not seem like a lot of mileage in today’s day and age, there is another factor that contributes to the 100,000-mile limit for police vehicles, and that is idling time. The Ford Motor Company states that every one hour of idling is equivalent to driving approximately 25 miles. On a normal 10-hour shift, a patrol vehicle drives between 50 and 100 miles. During that same 10-hour shift, a patrol vehicle can idle for 3-5 hours, adding an additional 75-125 miles each patrol shift of additional wear and tear on the engine.

We are often asked why we have leave the vehicle idling. One of the reasons is that with the amount of electronics in the car — radio, radar, computer and video camera, etc. — the electrical demand on the system is constant. Without the vehicle operating, it would drain the battery and the electrical system could never keep up. Manufacturers have recognized this fact and now all new dedicated police vehicles come not only with an odometer, but with an additional “Engine Hour” display to be able to accurately determine the amount of use for the vehicle engine.

“Real” mileage of our current end-of-life-cycle patrol cars with the idle time added is closer to 200,000 miles.  

— Lt. Doug Treat

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