If you’ve been in the law enforcement industry for any length of time, you likely know about the deeply rooted love of the Ford Crown Victoria. So it was no surprise when, in September 2023, fleet vehicle wholesale buyer and seller Haloid Fleet named the Crown Vic as the “Best Car of All Time.” The recognition is based on a thorough review of the vehicle’s performance, safety, reliability, and overall cost, according to Haloid.
Jeremy Alicandri, Partner at Haloid Fleet, told Government Fleet that Haloid looked at every police vehicle manufactured after 1990.
"We did not rank the other models because our award was based on overall utility and cost – and no vehicle came close," Alicandri said.
Though its production ended over a decade ago, Haloid's team said that the Crown Vic outranks today’s pursuit vehicles due to these factors:
- Performance – It maintained pursuit speeds with low-roll-over risk and superior handling; it also sustained only minimal damage when hitting curbs.
- Convenience – It offered a large trunk and cabin with ample space for police gear.
- Safety – Its heavy-duty body-on-frame platform kept the vehicle intact in the event of collisions.
- Reliability – The operating lifespan of a properly-maintained Crown Victoria easily exceeded 200,000 miles.
- Cost – Its plain features, reusable and readily available parts, and long production cycles meant it was inexpensive to buy and operate, costing nearly 70% less to own and operate than today's vehicles.
"Many industry observers will question our recognition,” Haloid spokesperson George Matinez said. “But if you consider the Crown Victoria in terms of cost, reliability, and utility, it's easy to understand why we chose it. It did the job at a much lower cost than modern cruisers. Many cash-strapped public safety agencies would love to buy these vehicles today."
Alicandri further explained the value of the Crown Vic, saying that it was the "car you couldn't kill."
"Its on body-on-frame platform meant it could be abused more than vehicles today. Many officers would hit curbs at high speeds without fear. Trying that same move in an AWD [PIU] might cause thousands of dollars in damage due to its costly AWD drivetrain. The Crown Victoria was tough — and when it did break, parts were cheap and readily available," he added.
Bob Martinez, who recently retired from his position as deputy commissioner of support services for the New York City Police Department, called the vehicle a “game-changer” for the NYPD. He noted that the Crown Vic was extremely easy to outfit, was roomy enough to hold all of the necessary police equipment, and had a trunk big enough to, “fit your mother-in-law."
He also said that the vehicle was able to easily outlive the lifecycle most departments had for police vehicles at the time.
Ford Pro's team responded to the accolade.
“We are proud to honor the great history of our police vehicles, especially such an important vehicle like the Crown Victoria," Ford Pro Police Brand Marketing Manager Lindsey Bertino said. "It created a new gold standard for police vehicles. At one time, we had over 70% share of market. It was a Built Ford Tough, reliable vehicle that officers knew would get them home to their families after a long day on patrol, which is why officers loved it. It was so important to our product pipeline, that Ford continues to use as a blue print on our Police Interceptor Utility and F-150 Police Responder today!”
More on the Police Interceptor Utility in a moment.
A Quick History of the Crown Vic
The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) was produced from 1992 through 2011.
When Ford announced the end of the production of the CVPI, Government Fleet reported that agencies like the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Long Beach, California, Police Department stockpiled CVPIs in their final production year, displaying the vehicles’ dependability.
The automaker sold its final CVPI to the Kansas Highway Patrol in 2011. The car was never used for patrol duties, though. Government Fleet reported that the vehicle was sent to Kansas Highway Patrol’s Troop J in Salina, where the agency runs its training academy and maintains a small museum. Now, the agency uses the vehicle for parades and other community events.
The agency was loyal to the Crown Vic, using it since the vehicle’s introduction, until it was no longer produced.
Further showing its appreciation for the vehicle model, when the agency celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012, it issued 14 historic-themed Crown Vics to troopers with a historic blue-and-gray color scheme and cherry beacon LED lights instead of a traditional lightbar. Those vehicles were used, the final CVPIs to patrol the state’s highways.
The uber popular model was replaced by Ford’s Police Interceptor sedan and the nation’s now-best-selling Police Interceptor Utility, as SUVs became a more popular choice for police departments. The F-150 Police Responder followed in 2017.
When the sedan debuted, Ford announced the cruiser would save taxpayer money because it achieved 25% better fuel economy than the Crown Vic, which got 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway in its final model year. Ford also noted that it hoped to replicate and improve upon the Crown Vic’s reputation of being highly durable with the Police Interceptor sedan.
Alicandri said that while the Ford PIU is a better vehicle than the Crown Vic in a number of ways, given its cost and utility, it can’t compete with a Crown Vic.
"You can have two Crown Vics on the street vs. one [PIU]. And those two Crown Vics are likely going to last longer and cost less to operate on one-to-one basis," Alicandri added.
Alicandri also believes it's hard to compare the Crown Vic and the PIU because, in his words, "the Crown Vic was purpose built — its DNA meant for it to be a police car. The Explorer and [Dodge] Charger are mass produced cars with a 'police version.' So no, I don’t think the love is the same."
Alicandri does believe that Ford, GM, and Stellantis are "doing the best they can" in the police vehicle market given the pressure they face to electrify.
Still a Place for Crown Vics?
Despite the retirement of the CVPI, there is still an entire subculture of Crown Vic enthusiasts who have supped up used Crown Vics, many of which still contain a spotlight, an homage of sorts to the vehicle’s past life.
Additionally, some departments still have — and use— CVPIs in their fleets. In November 2022, Bill McCarty, then-director of the Office of Budget & Management for Springfield, Illinois, told Government Fleet that the department still had 13 active Crown Victoria police vehicles in use, with the oldest being from 2008. The vehicles were still in use because the city’s 2021 vehicle order was canceled, which forced it to use older vehicles.
When Haloid announced the "best cop car of all time," Alicandri said that one police chief emailed him stating that while hius entire department drives PIUs, he personally drives a 2011 Crown Vic.
Social media posts from law enforcement agencies announcing the retirement of their final Crown Vic always bring comments from people far and wide about their love for the iconic vehicle.
When the Ocala, Florida, Police Department announced it was retiring its final Crown Vic in September 2023, it brought in comments like, “Great vehicle, drove many in my 35-year law enforcement career,” “best patrol/pursuit vehicle ever made,” and “a workhorse and a smooth ride at the same time.”
Two hours south, the Bradenton, Florida, Police Department announced it was retiring and auctioning its last Crown Vic in August 2022. After a tremendous public response to that announcement, the department questioned whether the agency really needed to let it go, realizing it might be a great tool for community engagement.
A Bradenton PD public information officer told Government Fleet in September 2023 that the department is keeping the vehicle in its fleet, saying they believe the car will be a draw for the generations of citizens who remember the "Crown Vic days," as well as the younger generations who will get to see the patrol vehicle. It will be outfitted with what the PIO calls some fun upgrades.
No Car is Perfect
Despite its reputation, the Crown Vic was not flawless. It had its share of issues, which Haloid Fleet noted. The RWD drivetrain allowed the vehicle to hit curbs at high speeds, but it also made traction difficult in slippery conditions. Furthermore, the vehicle's gas tank was vulnerable to exploding in rear-end collisions. Ford addressed this issue with its fire suppression system in 2003.
Emerging technologies like electric vehicles could pose similiar threats, Alicandri fears. He noted the South Pasadena, California, Police Department's decision to switch to an all-electric fleet. He said he worries the public safety market is not ready for all-electric vehicles.
"It’s unclear how these vehicles will handle high-impact collisions, especially given their spontaneous fire risks," Alicandri said. "EVs are still novel technology in an experimental stage. The Crown Victoria and others are tried and tested. I’m not sure police pursuits are a place for experiments."
Though many police departments would likely love to see the Crown Vic make a return, it's not likely.
Haloid noted that federal fuel mandates would make production of the Crown Vic impossible today. In a comment on a 2020 Government Fleet story about the California Highway Patrol retiring all of its Crown Vics, one commenter mentioned this, saying in part, “Crown Vics got really poor emissions and mpg vs. modern, especially electrified, vehicles.”
Still, as the prices of pursuit vehicles rise due to technological advances and more complex drivetrains, the Crown Vic leaves a “lasting legacy of low-cost and reliable automotive production that began in 1983,” Haloid stated.