The end of the white police car

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By Karl Mansfield

The white police car is becoming a thing of the past as its popularity plummets amongst motorists. The traditional white squad car is being phased out by forces across the country as silver becomes the new trend and adds more than £500 onto the re-sale value. Some areas are even testing red, blue and yellow marked cars including Kent.
Around 30 per cent of the country’s 43 forces are trialling silver including Wiltshire and the Metropolitan police.
Steve Botham, Chair of the National Association of Police Fleet Managers, said: “Silver is the new white for police cars. The silver or metallic colour is being used because of two reasons: firstly the public associates white with municipal vehicles which puts them off buying a white car and lowers the re-sale value of the vehicle, secondly, some manufacturers such as Honda and Audi are discontinuing white vehicles.
“A few years ago laws surrounding car buying and selling changed allowing fleet managers to plough money from sales back into purchasing more vehicles.
“Although it costs £200 to £300 extra for a silver vehicle the residual value is a minimum of £500 to £600 compared to white vehicles.
“White was quite a popular colour in the 1980s and that is why most police cars were white.”
Around 30 per cent of Wiltshire’s 200 marked police cars are silver. But police cars could be any colour according to Mr Botham.
“Essex police force were using blue Mondeos and Volvos but the base colour of a marked police car could be any colour due to the amount of highly visible and reflective markings on the cars,” added the fleet and services manager for Wiltshire police.
Around 74 per cent of the Metropolitan police’s 1,450 marked police cars are silver. The force first introduced the silver cars in November 2001.
Stuart Middleton, director of transport services for the Metropolitan
police, said: “The residual value is a lot better for silver cars than for white ones. But not all of our vehicles will be changed to silver. Our station vans – Ford Transit vans with a prisoner cage in – will stay white for now as white vans are still cheaper to buy.
“However, this will have to be followed closely as there is an increasing number of silver vans on the road. Our special escort motorcycles, which accompany such people as the Royal family, will stay white but most of our motorcycles will be replaced with silver.
“There is a specific market for ex-police cars – we use a lot of auctioneers to sell the vehicles.”
A spokesperson for the Met said: “The Metropolitan Police Service introduced the silver vehicles as part of the MPS transport strategy. MPS has had difficulty in procuring white vehicles.”
The Met also has red marked police cars which are used for diplomatic protection.
All police forces in the country have a contract with British Car Auctions to sell old police vehicles.
BCA’s Director of Customer Affairs Tom Madden said: “While colour is a critical factor for new car buyers, our research shows it doesn’t rate nearly as highly with used car buyers.
“BCA’s annual Used Car Market Report shows that when motorists chose their last used car, make/model was the key factor (58 per cent), with ‘low mileage’ the next most important, with 37 per cent citing this.
“The colour of the car was only deemed important by 10 per cent. Colour preferences also depend on the type of car. Larger saloon and executive models look better in sober metallics, whereas smaller hatchbacks can carry-off brighter colours with ease.
“In the wholesale market, however, whatever the age and mileage may be, the most important factors are condition, specification and presentation.”
Kent police has 288 battenberg marked police cars.