After a recent auction trip, I received several questions about used service vehicles.
Why would anyone buy an old cop car?
They’re ridiculously cheap, reliable transportation. For example, a 2008 Crown Vic cruiser with 150,000 km may sell at auction for as little as $1,600-2,500, which is peanuts for a five-year-old car that originally cost $34,000. Or, if you want something really new, a 2011 model with similar mileage sells for $5,000-6,000. Police vehicles are well maintained and usually need little or nothing for safety certification. Though, with any used car, it’s buyer beware.
Be forewarned, entry dome lighting and interior rear door handles/locks/window switches may require servicing to re-activate.
Who uses them?
Taxi operators love them. Seniors do too. The powerful engines and heavy duty suspension/electrical/cooling systems, makes them great trailer haulers for Florida Snowbirds. Many ex-ambulances are used as contractor trucks.
Aren’t ex-cruisers bought by impersonators?
I had difficulty finding any Canadian reports of misconduct by used police car buyers. In any case, police are always on the lookout for improper driving regardless of the vehicle used.
Reports of arrested U.S. police impersonators show they often just put a magnetic “cherry” light into whatever model car they were driving. Other times, non-police vehicle models were made to look like police cars, including the civilian version of the Crown Vic and a black-and-white Acura (?) in one instance.
That said, anyone can buy a police vehicle at public auction.
Is police equipment included?
Street-legal items, such as a spotlight, antennas, or even a rear prisoner cage are often left on. Restricted police equipment and lighting are removed or disabled.
I’ve seen ambulances sold with a functional roof light bar painted white and a disconnected siren. (Siren in vehicle and red light are illegal.)
Oddly enough, removed decals often leave glue residue that still spells out “police,” and black-and-whites need not be repainted.
Basically, if you’re driving properly and have no unauthorized equipment, police should have no issue with you. And, if others drive more carefully when around a former police Crown Vic, Impala or Charger, is that bad? (Though, to be blunt, you’re equally likely to be mistaken for a taxi by other motorists.)
To quote a police officer from an online forum: most ex-cruisers are bought by perfectly sane, law-abiding people who just want an inexpensive used car.
More from Eric Lai:
Columns Everything you need to know about purchasing, maintaining and driving your car.
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