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The Real Difference Between Police Cars and Regular Cars

Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0

You are driving down the road without a care when you spot it. As you look in the mirror, the flashing red and blue lights indicate that you need to pull to the side of the road, hoping that you will get off with just a warning. Most people have found themselves in this situation at some point, but in spite of the fear of getting a ticket many of us are fascinated with police cars. If you can relate to that feeling, you are likely wondering how fast police cars go and how they are different from normal vehicles.

Patrols, pursuits, and suspect transportation are just a few of the things that police officers use their vehicles to achieve. When it comes to distinguishing features, the light bars, sirens, and bumper guards are the things that most people will notice first. The Police, however, make a lot of modifications to their cars to make them meet their needs effectively and efficiently.

Types of Police Cars

When you have your mind set on learning as much as you can about police vehicles, understanding the various types of cars and trucks that law enforcement officials use is a good starting point. As you travel along the freeway, you are most likely to spot a police pursuit vehicle, which is the most common type of vehicle. Manufacturers design these cars with speed and maneuverability at heart, and pursuit vehicles will quickly outrun most standard cars that you will find at the dealership.

Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0
Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0

In addition to pursuit vehicles, the Police also use several specialty vehicles for a variety of missions. This can include SUVs for traveling through harsh terrain or in dangerous weather conditions, allowing officers to maintain the safety of the public. Special service vehicles also include sports cars and armored trucks, and they are used for high-speed chases and raids. No matter the type of car or truck, police vehicles usually contain powerful engines that will outperform common vehicles without much effort. To transport suspects without endangering the officers, police vehicles are also equipped with special restraints and a divider.

Factors That Police Departments Consider When Choosing Their Cars

Each vehicle that the Police uses once started off as a normal car, but the modifications are what set them apart from the rest. When they want to have easy access to cars that will perform well, police departments turn to car manufacturers that specialize in transforming civilian cars into the versions that police officers find useful.

As far as cars are concerned, large sedans make the best fit because they offer a lot of room, making it simple for officers to transport their equipment, such as laptops, radar guns, weapons and more.

Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0
Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0

The Ford Crown Victoria is definitely the most popular choice of police cars. As its production was halted, we see a surge in newer vehicles, like the Chevrolet Caprice, Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Charger, RAM Special Pursuit, as well as the Ford Police Interceptor.

Not only do police departments use standard vehicle models for upgrades, they also use exotic vehicles when needed. If they require the ability to travel at high speeds, many agencies turn to Mustangs and Corvettes. The factors that officials consider when choosing a car will depend on the situation and the task at hand.

Most Important Difference Between Police Cars and Regular Cars

Most car buyers will agree that fuel economy, longevity and dependability are the factors on which they focus when buying a new car. The aim of a regular car owner is making the car last and perform at its peak for as long as possible. This allows the everyday driver to get the most from his investment.

By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Police departments, on the other hand, are looking for vehicles that can endure a lot of abuse and offer a lot of power. When lives are at stake, having a public safety vehicle that can be pushed to the limit is the only viable choice.

Chasing suspects is an important duty of the police. They will need cars that can rapidly accelerate, force other vehicles off the road, bump into them, but that can also just stay in place and idle for extended periods of time.

Because police load their cars with a lot of extra equipment, their cars are much heavier than standard vehicles –up to 1,000 pounds heavier. The primary goal isn’t power, it’s durability. With this in mind, let’s list some of the main differences between police cars and their regular counterparts:

  • The engines of police cars are always high performance engines, but with regard to the fuel economy, they strike a balance by having mostly V6 engines, with a few vehicles equipped with a stronger V8 engine.
  • The demands that the Police place on their cars can cause the engine to overheat, so they use upgraded coolers with larger radiators and fans to overcome the threat.
  • The seats are heavy duty and often feature an opening to accommodate gun belts and firearms.
  • The lights, radio, and other equipment that are in place require a lot of power, so police cars have powerful alternators to keep up. While an alternator of a regular car usually produces up to 100 amps of power, police vehicle alternators can crank up as much as 225 or more amps to keep everything running properly.
  • Most police cars are equipped with run lock ignition, which allows the car to keep running without a key in the ignition. If someone tries to steal the police car, the system will cut the engine as soon as the parking brake is disengaged.
  • Because of the extra weight, a reinforced suspension system and enhanced brake pads are also features that are likely to be seen in police cars.

There is a lot of extra work that goes into these vehicles to prepare them for the challenges that they will face.

Police Special Packages

Car manufacturers often offer special police packages that are specially tailored for Police Departments. However, not all police departments need the same equipment and upgrades, and even various agencies within a single police department might need completely different upgrades.

Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0
Source: Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0

This is why special police packages often include only partial upgrades and preparations. Such police package vehicles are then ready for further upgrades and modifications that are handled by the department directly.

Final Thoughts

Police cars are impressive vehicles, especially when you take a closer look at all the upgrades. With the largest engines and enhanced performance, police vehicles can keep us safe by enabling officers to outrun and outlast any culprit. Police cars are equipped with powerful cooling and electrical features to run at their best at all times, but are also able to withstand more abuse than your regular car. They might look similar to standard vehicles at first glance, but a closer look under the hood will show you that police cars are superior in every possible way.