Is Buying A Used Ex-Police Motorcycle A Good Or Bad Idea?

Is a used ex-police motorcycle a good or bad investment? In most cases, the answer is no, for the most part, this equipment has been worked very hard.  However, on the flip side police motorcycles typically are well serviced and maintained on a regular schedule. If you can find a motorcycle that, for whatever reason, has not been exposed to active police duty and includes its service history, then it would be worth considering.

As with all used purchases come prepared as possible, minimize the emotional input, and only believe what you see, read or can verify.  And as you would for any used purchase the goal is to buy as cheap as possible to offset any potential future repairs.

Police Motorcycle Mystique

Motorcycle enthusiast or not, at some point, you must have fantasized what it must feel like to ride with siren blaring, lights flashing, well above post speeds, with only passing acknowledgment of traffic laws. All on a powerful a machine that has “POLICE” written across the fuel tank!

Well, that exact scenario is unrealistic, since it is completely against the law for a civilian to do this, however it is possible to ride a machine that still retains a significant police “vibe”. While not an everyday occurrence, ex-police bikes are put up for auction and you can end up acquiring one for quite a bargain price as well. There are a few unique things to know about this way to buy a used motorcycle.

Is It a Good or a Bad Buy?

Moving straight to the question at hand, the very idea of buying an ex-police bike may sound fascinating at first, but this decision calls for closer analysis and exploring some of the pros and cons involved in the decision. These are some key differences to know when evaluating:

  • Overall visual condition and signs of rough service
  • is there a record, or indications the service issue, what was its job?
  • of course year and mileage
  • Be aware  – you do not get to hear the motorcycle, at auction the motorcycles are not started
  • Sales are typically as-is, no guarantees, no warranty
  • Inspect how the police-specific items were removed, was it done professionally or will this need a fix-up.
  • Are there any service records, or verification that service schedule has been followed.
  • How much do you value that it’s ex-police motorcycle? This is a premium that adds to the price, other buyers will be influenced by this also.
  • Was the bike issued to a law enforcement officer(s) for direct use, or did it belong to the general fleet? General fleet use is not as desirable of course.
  • Has the bike been configured & used for other than standard police duties, such as parades, escorts, funerals, etc? Any of these “light duties” makes the machine more desirable because it had a less stressful life.

Reasons for Buying a Used Police Bike

Being an ex-police bike there are set limits in years and mileage at which (on paper at least) it’s deemed not to be economical to keep maintaining or could potentially be unreliable during a critical situation, so it is not suitable for continued police duty. It’s important to note that a police force would set higher reliability limits than for everyday use, so must of ex-police motorcycles would not technically be at the end of the road, mechanically speaking.

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Police Options

All police duty motorcycles have been upgrades for more severe use than the civilian editions. Upgrades reflect how the machines are used and would be part of the package, they can include;

  • Heavy-Duty Electrical  – battery & upgraded alternator
  • Stiffer Suspension
  • Heavy Duty Driveline Components
  • Crash bars
  • Solo saddle
  • Racking, usually a rear flat rack
  • Additional lights (illumination)

Cost “Savings”

This is a highly debatable topic, that has very hard to gather statistics on. For sure any used purchase can turn out good or bad, it just depends on a lot of factors.  Going in expecting this to be the lowest cost option is not realistic. You will need to acknowledge the risk and fully anticipate spending more than expected on repairs.  At this point, continuing means your desire to own this type of special motorcycle outweighs any cost savings.

They are Well Maintained

Another very important factor that adds weight to the “for” side of the argument is that these police bikes have been kept well-maintained. Since it’s the department’s property and they want to maximize value in most cases maintenance is strictly followed. You can expect all “oil & filter” items have been done, as well as using genuine OEM parts when and if repairs were done.

I have read that smaller police forces may have relatively smaller budgets, so maintenance could have been compromised. For this reason, I would lean toward larger departments, that are well funded.

Reasons for Not Buying a Used Police Bike

Now let’s look at the other side of the argument and explore some of the reasons that could possibly make it a bad idea to buy a used ex-police bike.

Police Bike Minus The Police

Some of you, who maybe into a police bike because it’s a police bike, might be in for a slight disappointment as most of the visual flamboyance does not come with the bike. The blue-red flashing lights, the siren, the police radio, and any logos and “POLICE” lettering will have been removed. And be aware – laws prohibit you from riding on public roads using any such lights or symbols, this could lead to charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer. So yes, this also means not wearing a police jacket either (and certainly not in combination with a traditional white half-helmet and sunglasses!)  You will be hassled if you look too much like a cop, this gets pretty subjective too.

Different Use

Another thing, a low number of miles is only one indicator of overall motorcycle usage. Police motor units of all kinds spend a lot of time idling during normal police duties. A motorcycle’s cooling system is not designed for excessive idling with no airflow, and this is a bigger issue with air-cooled bikes like Harleys.

And you can imagine an officer in pursuit or engaged at the scene will likely be treating this equipment a lot rougher than in civilian use.  So, it would be wise to set aside some budget contingency for potential items like a top-end refresh and clutch work.

Most Common Models Used by Police

  • Harley Davidson FLH series – with a specific Police model
  • BMW R & K series
  • Honda ST1300 / ST1100
  • Yamaha FJR1300
  • Kawasaki Concours, 1300 & 1400

Final Thoughts

There are a few clear advantages as well as a few disadvantages to buying used ex-police bike, but it all comes down to how much you desire to ride an ex-police unit. It is possible to get a great deal and enjoy many trouble free miles, but there is also a risk you will spend far more than expected on repairs.

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The more you can find out about the bike’s history and use the better. This is usually not possible at auctions, but if you study up on the local departments use of the equipment and can spot a “parade bike” versus active duty all the better.

Another option, for those dead set on riding an ex-police bike, is to buy one from a private seller. They may have purchased at an auction or from another collector, but this route will allow you to hear it running and possibly go for a test drive. I’ve seen a lot of these collectors who have several units, so there is a depth of knowledge that could help you out and get you on the road in the unique style you want.

Buying from a private source will likely be more expensive, but you can reduce the risk by being able to take it to a mechanic first. And there those occasional sweet deals where the seller is truly motivated,  usually space, money or spouse issue. Do all the due diligence and more, that you would buy any used bike.

In a lot of ways, an ex-police motorcycle is like buying a classic ride, know what you are looking at, know the prices, the common problems, and do as much research as possible. Consult with an experienced friend or pro, to avoid “falling in love” with the wrong one and you will do as well as possible.

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