If you need a cheap set of wheels for not a lot of money, cheap police cars might be for you.
Law enforcement demands a lot from their vehicles with constant idling, multiple hard accelerations day in and day out, and little regard for keeping body panels as dent-free as possible.
As a result, car manufactures make pursuit-rated vehicles engineered and optioned-out specifically to handle the rigors of heavy duty police work.
To equip officers with the best possible tools and to give them best chances in the line of duty, police retire vehicles after a set amount of miles or years.
Sold at a discount, these police vehicles are ripe for the picking for car shoppers, like you, looking for cheap wheels.
And it’s not like all police vehicles have led a hard life, a good chunk are used for administrative duties.
Add the fact that many police departments are phasing out the Ford Crown Victoria for larger and more capable Ford Explorers and Dodge Chargers, police vehicle auctions can’t get cars out the door quick enough.
But cheap police vehicles aren’t exactly advertised for sale like regular cars, you’ll need to do some homework.
Here are the best places to find a cheap police vehicle.
State Highway Patrol auctions
Depending on which state you live in, State Highway Patrol Auctions are an excellent place to find a cheap police car.
State Highway Patrols have some of the largest fleets in the country and hold auctions regularly.
For example, here in California, the California Highway Patrol has an ongoing weekly auction with up-to-date listings, including Ford Crown Victorias, Pursuit Explorers, Dodge Chargers, and Harley Davidsons.
As of this writing, COVID restrictions are a thing and the CHP has a modified bidding process you have to follow.
Despite that, I’ve seen several police vehicles up for auction gone just as fast as they’re listed, so it’s working.
City & County department auctions
Your local city and county-wide police department will auction off police vehicles when needed and not necessarily on a schedule or as organized as state highway patrols.
You will need to look up your city and county’s police vehicle auction protocol.
While some smaller cities and counties might carry out their own auctions, larger cities will often use a third-party auction site.
For example, here’s a listing for a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria from Spokane County, Washington.
And it looks like the Los Angeles police department contracts with Nationwide Auto Sales to conduct auctions of police vehicles.
Colleges, public institutions, and other large academia
An often overlooked source of cheap police vehicles is the surrounding colleges and universities near you.
They all have police forces with police cars they’ll eventually auction off.
For example, did you know Michigan State University’s police has an annual police car auction?
Here’s a sample of what they were auctioning off in January.
United States military bases and Federal Government instillations
There are over 5,000 military bases in the United States and, multiple times more government institutions with their own police leets.
According to one airman driving a Ford Crown Victoria I talked to at Travis Air Force Base, he snagged his CV at a base auction. A quick google and it looks like if Travis AFB’s police needs to sell fleet vehicle, they’ve got an on-base auction just for that purpose.
For regular civilians without on-base access, many bases and government institutions funnel their police vehicles through the aforementioned third-party websites listed in cities and counties above.
There are over 2.85 billion Facebook users and, with Facebook’s attached marketplace, it’s an easy way to find former police vehicles on the cheap.
Often they’re second or third owner police vehicles from sellers who’ve had their fun and just want to get rid of them.
Obvious keywords to search for include “police car,” “police vehicle,” “Ford Crown Victoria,” and “Pursuit vehicle.”
Check out how many police vehicles popped up within 250 miles of me after a quick search.
An advantage, buying a cheap police vehicle off FB Marketplace (or equivalent like OfferUp and Criagslist) is it’s not an auction and you already know the price.
Word of mouth
This might sound like a cop out (no pun intended) but it’s honestly the best way to find a cheap police car.
You’re going to come across someone driving a former police car and, when you ask, “Hey, where’d you get that (insert “Crown Vic,” “Dodge Charger,” etc?) they’re going to tell you. I guarantee it.
Hopefully now you have a good idea where to being your search.
Do you have any other sources for cheap police cars? Let me know your tips in the comments below!