Cop cars lead a brutally hard life, from stop-start beat work to high performance pursuit, but once off shift they receive the undivided attentions of the Police Vehicle Maintenance System. Buying one is an opportunity to buy a one-owner, well serviced car at a low price.
There is no such thing as the typical ex-police car. At the traffic police end, there are Ford Granadas, Vauxhall Senators and Rover 800s. There are also Jaguar XJ6s, Range Rovers and Sierra 4 x 4s, and, on the panda beat, reliable old plodders such as Escorts, Metros and Astras. A lot of forces, such as the City of London, have used BMWs; others have dabbled with Saabs and Alfa Romeos.
Most cars have manual gearboxes, though the Metropolitan Traffic division are predominantly automatic. Model inscriptions are removed; central locking usually remains, although most forces disconnect it. Luxury cars may lose their wooden dashboard trimmings and electric windows.
Plain clothes cars may have been bought second hand, or acquired by the force (sometimes stolen and recovered).
In simple terms, what you get is a car that has covered between 80,000 and 100,000 miles. Probably the most disappointing aspect is that you don't get any of the cop car kit. Off come the police decals and "flowerpots" (beacons) and out come the radios. Sometimes this can leave a mess. But traffic cars in particular often use removable gantries for the beacons.
As for the decals, a good valet can usually remove the adhesive - and in any case white is an easy colour to work with.
The upholstery on most cars is surprisingly hard wearing, though front seats can get shabby, and Pandas are likely to carry rear seat passengers, not all of whom go quietly.
The cars are serviced before sale and whatever needs replacing will be replaced - including gearboxes and engines. Records will have been kept but they won't necessarily come with the car.
Police cars are not sold direct to the public; they go to auction. Prices hover around 50 per cent of the normal trade price. Phone around to find what cars are going to be at which auction.
If you don't want to risk bidding at auction, try an ex-public service vehicle specialist such as Rex Adair, in Cornwall.
But whatever ex-police car you choose, may the force be with you.
Rex Adair: 01736 763231