LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Truckee’s fly-by-night used car lots |

LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Truckee’s fly-by-night used car lots

Truckee is definitely changing before our very eyes, from the huge bridge being erected over Glenshire Drive to the large, steel-framed building going up on Donner Pass Road to the new subdivision going in down by the river.

I’m sure I am not the only one who drives around town amazed at how quickly our local landscape is changing.

But I have been thinking about a far more subtle change that hasn’t happened yet, although I foresee it happening in Truckee’s very near future.

As each empty dirt lot gets turned into a new bank plaza or office complex, I’ve been wondering what is going to happen to Truckee’s long-established system of buying and selling cars and vehicles.

I’m talking about those impromptu used car lots that spring up around town, usually in an empty dirt lot off a main thoroughfare.

Some may label these informal used car lots as eyesores. I view them as another quirky aspect of Truckee that is fast disappearing. After all, part of Truckee’s appeal stems from a reputation associated with things colorful, raunchy, and offbeat. As Truckee gets built up, all in the name of progress, will we be glad that we no longer have a fly-by-night place to sell a car?

All it takes is one car, placed on the empty lot, with a for sale sign in the window, and the next day you might drive by, and you’ll notice that a second car has joined the first. As a friend of mine likes to say, they breed.

It’s an instantly formed, unofficial used car lot that sometimes has to stay just one step ahead of the law, moving from spot to spot.

The current locations to sell your vehicle seem to be next to the Bank of America (across from Sizzler) on Donner Pass Road, and I think there is also a thriving used car lot up by the Best Western on Route 267.

I had a friend who thought that a great place to try to sell her older model Suburban would be the dirt lot by the high school exit, but it turned out that the school district is actively opposed to the idea. My friend parked her old blue Suburban with a for sale sign displayed for all high school drivers to see as they pulled out of the parking lot.

Ten minutes later, she arrived home to find a message on her answering machine asking her to remove her vehicle from school district property. That particular dirt lot now has “No Parking” and tow-away signs posted all over that explicitly warn anyone who might think about starting a used car lot there.

Another friend of mine who sold his Pathfinder, by moving it around to what he claims were five different spots around town, tells me that the big drawback to selling your vehicle this way is how smudged your car gets while it sits in the dirt lot. Apparently after leaving a washed and waxed car in one of those dirt lots for a day or two, you’ll come back to find hand marks and nose prints pressed into the coat of dust that now covers your car.

I’ve driven by these lots at night and seen prospective buyers checking out a car while beaming headlights onto the vehicle for sale. Okay, so maybe that’s not the best way to shop for a car. But those buying and selling cars in Truckee seem to accept the fact that an absentee owner of an empty dirt lot is not going to provide nighttime lighting.

I’ve also noticed certain business owners who take advantage of their high visibility spot on Donner Pass Road. They will strategically place their vehicle with a for sale sign in the window facing out to all who pass by.

“Now aren’t they lucky, ” I think to myself as I drive past, “they don’t need to worry about getting a ticket or a phone call to remove their vehicle from someone else’s property.”

My prediction is that it won’t be long before there will be a legitimate car dealership selling both new and used cars out by the bypass somewhere. All we will be left with are memories of those bygone days when people just drove up to any empty dirt lot and left their car out for sale.

I, for one, will kind of miss them.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.

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