Nobody wants to find themselves sitting in a police car. That is, of course, unless they own that police car. But believe it or not, that is a possibility for the average driver.
When police agencies upgrade to new cruisers, they don't just ditch their old ones on the side of the highway. Instead, they sell them to places like Copcarsonline, where for 24 years, Florida-based Jon Woodhouse has been refurbishing and selling former law-enforcement vehicles.
Most of Woodhouse's buyers are smaller police agencies that can't afford new cars, he said. But about a third of his inventory is sold to the general public, stripped down with no decals or lights.
People want old police cruisers for a number of reasons, Woodhouse said. Some just enjoy the idea of having one. Others like parking them in the driveway so it appears as though an officer — presumably armed — lives in the house. Even without the markings, a cop car still has a certain look, he said.
Yet a number of buyers simply want to get their hands on vehicles that are built differently than the ones found on a regular car lot. Maybe they're looking for a modified suspension, alternate rims, or Kevlar bars in the roof and doors.
Woodhouse said some of the features found in old police cruisers simply make people feel safer. For instance, even if you haven't broken the law, you've probably been in the back of a Ford Crown Victoria.
"Cabbies drive them all the time," he said.
Old cop cars are fairly affordable because many come with high mileage, and there aren't a lot of bells and whistles. On top that, there's a fairly good chance the car was once used in a high-speed chase and pit maneuvered a stolen truck into an oak tree — which is to say that police cruisers tend to get roughed up.
But resellers fix the bumps and scratches before the cars are sold. And at the end of the day, you can drive away with a decent car that was otherwise likely well maintained.
But are they a good investment? Jay Leno spoke with automotive valuation expert Donald Osborne to find out. Watch the video to see how three different police cruisers have appreciated over time.
Each week, Jay Leno shares his thoughts about hot topics in the auto industry. Tune in to "Jay Leno's Garage" Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC.