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Guide To The Police Car

Police cars are a common sight in many communities in the UK, although less frequent then before. These vehicles are essential to the day-to-day operations of the Police and serve as mobile offices for police officers. Similar to Police motorbikes, Police cars have been used for decades and have become an iconic part of Policing. 

While some people may associate police cars with standard white and red models, the newer cars now offer a variety of colours, trims, and features on their fleet of vehicles.

We will now look into the history of the police car and common questions asked about police cars today in the UK. 

History Of The Police Car

Police officers have been using cars for nearly a century. The first police car to be in existence was used in America in Akron, Ohio, back in 1899. Many of the design features of this car are still present in modern-day American police cars.

One of the first Police vehicles in the Uk was the 1920s Daimler, it was used in the Greater Manchester area and was purchased by the force in 1925. But to keep up with the increasing amount of criminals on the road, the vehicles needed an upgrade.

By the late 1950s the Police were using the 2-seater MG-As before moving onto the triumph T4. During the 1970s the more iconic Ford Granadas and Ford Capri were used by officers.

As technology rapidly developed the UK Police continued with their love of Ford and Vauxhall into the 2000s before acquiring Peugeot and BMW vehicles for the forces. The colour and markings of the vehicles have changed over the years with the Police opting for more brightly covered vehicles and Battenberg patterns.

What Cars Does The UK Police Use?

British police forces use a variety of cars; some of the most common models include the Vauxhall Vectra, Ford Focus, and the BMW X5.

Vauxhall Vectra 

The Vectra, in its sixth generation, was first introduced in 2001. It is a family car with a spacious interior, available all-wheel drive, and a range of engines that can vary from fuel-efficient to powerful.

As a result, the Vectra is a very reliable vehicle with low running costs and an affordable purchase price. In addition, the Vectra can handle various weather conditions, making it a versatile car for police forces.

Vauxhall astra marked Police car

Ford Focus 

Ford’s Focus has been a popular car for years, and the model used by police forces is no different. The Focus is one of the most fuel-efficient cars available, and it comes equipped with several safety features.

In addition to being used by Police in the UK, the Ford Focus is also popular in the US, and it has been the best-selling car in America for several years.

Ford Focus marked Police car driving around corner


The BMW X5 is a popular choice for police vehicles for several reasons. Firstly, the X5 is a highly capable off-road vehicle, which is important for officers who need to respond to emergencies in rural areas.

Second, the X5 has a powerful engine that provides ample power for pursuits and other high-speed activities. Third, the X5 has various advanced features that can be useful for Policing, such as built-in gun safes and ANPR systems. Lastly, the X5 is highly durable and can withstand a great deal of wear and tear.

The X5 has a spacious interior that can accommodate all of the gear that an officer needs while on duty. Ultimately, the BMW X5 is an ideal choice for police forces that need a versatile and reliable vehicle to help them protect and serve the community.

Marked bmw x5 police car with blue lights activated on road

Police Car FAQ

What Are Unmarked Police Cars Used For?

Unmarked police cars are used for various tasks, including traffic control and surveillance. These vehicles are often black, grey, or white, making them less noticeable than traditional police cars. This can help officers complete their tasks more discreetly.

Unmarked police cars can also be used during high-risk stops, such as drug busts or pursuit. Since these cars are not marked, they are less likely to draw suspects’ attention.

Why Do Police Use BMW Cars?

For many years, BMW has been one of the most popular vehicles for police forces. The company’s extensive lineup of models, including the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series, make it easy for departments to choose the right vehicle for their needs.

BMW vehicles are stylish and feature-packed, with advanced safety features, excellent handling, and a luxurious interior. The company’s vehicles also have a strong reputation for reliability, which makes them a good choice for police.

Are Police Cars Allowed To Speed?

Yes, police officers can speed when responding to an emergency call or pursuing a suspect. In these cases, officers may break the speed limit to travel to a location more quickly.

When an officer travels above the speed limit, the blue light and siren notify other drivers of the emergency vehicle.

Are police Cars Manual Or Automatic?

While some police departments in the UK allow officers to choose between automatic and manual transmission, most older vehicles are manual.

Recruits generally prefer automatic transmissions because they are easier to operate, but manual transmissions give officers more control over their operation and speed.

Police officers in the UK use automatic or manual transmission cars. Unfortunately, no statistics are available for the number of manual versus automatic transmissions used by police in the UK, but manual transmissions are standard in many countries. Read our guide about Police boats or Police Helicopters to discover more about Police vehicles.

Tom Brook

Tom Brook

I am a former Police Detective with years of knowledge and experience in investigating serious crimes across Scotland, working with communities and keeping the public safe. I aim to give back to the Policing community with this site!
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