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Here’s a Quick Way to Tell a Civilian Ford Explorer From a Police Car

If you’re like me, you lament that the Ford Explorer has replaced the Ford Crown Victoria as the most common police car. The Crown Victoria was tremendously easy to spot on the road, as it was purchased almost solely by police departments. The Explorer is harder to spot — it’s not just a popular police vehicle, but a popular overall vehicle. They’re everywhere.

So you see a white Ford Explorer driving down the road and you wonder: Is it a police Explorer — the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, in Ford speak — or a civilian model? How do you tell them apart?

As it turns out, there’s an easy way: Check the roof.

No, I don’t mean check the roof for police lights — although that’s an obvious way. The problem is that many civilian Explorer models have ski or bike racks on the roof, and they can be confused for police lights at night. And many police Explorer models are undercover cars, which have no light bar at all. So just looking for a light bar isn’t a fool-proof method.

Instead, check for roof rails. Those are the rails that run along the edge of the roof, from the windshield to the tailgate, on which you can mount bike racks or ski racks or other roof racks. Civilian Explorer models almost always have them, and police-grade Explorers don’t.

So that’s an easy way to tell them apart. Forget looking for a light bar or any other giveaway. Instead, look for the rails. Roof rails mean it’s a civilian model, and no rails means it’s a police car.

And slow down so you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff in the first place. Find a Ford Explorer for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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