Thanks to TV shows and dashcam footage, we’ve all seen police car chases and winced as the pursuit vehicle crests a speed hump in a shower of sparks before turning the crook’s motor with a side swipe. So, having witnessed such a casual absence of mechanical sympathy, why would you buy an ex-police car?
Good question, but at the Ex-Police Car Centre in Brierley Hill, near Birmingham, they sell around 30 a month to people happy to do just that. Nicola Finney, who runs the business, reckons it’s the largest dealership of its kind in the UK.
“We’ve been selling ex-police cars since 1976,” she says.“There are so many bad used cars, why wouldn’t you buy one from a reliable source, with a good history and one former keeper?”
One former keeper, maybe, but multiple drivers – and not all of them enjoying a leisurely cruise. London’s Met Police has revealed that in the year 2018 to 2019, 105 of its vehicles were destroyed or written off at a cost of £656,000. Some will have been involved in the 1438 vehicle pursuits that it carried out, of which 27 included ‘tactical contact’.
“City cars do have a hard life,” admits Finney. “The best ex-police cars are from rural forces such as Devon and Cornwall. They do higher mileages but are in better condition.” By ‘higher mileages’ she means anything between 120,000 and 180,000, and often in just four years.
Still, at least the police, who self-insure their cars, won’t allow anything too damaged to be sold to the public. Gary Mallett, fleet manager at West Midlands Police, says its damaged vehicles are assessed by an independent engineer who awards them one of four writeoff categories – the same categories insurers use. The force then sells the cars to salvage companies who, depending on the category they fall into, will either crush or repair them or send them to public auction.