Car Buying

Buying a Used Car: Is It OK to Buy a Former Taxi or Government Vehicle?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2015

If you're interested in buying a used car, you've probably noticed that vehicle-history reports or service records indicate that some models were formerly used by taxi services or government agencies. Are these cars OK to buy? Or should you steer clear of anything with previous history as a taxi or government vehicle? We have a few tips.

Depends on the Car

As is the case with most of the questions we get, our initial answer here is simple: It depends on the car. A well-kept, low-mileage Chevrolet Suburban with history as a government vehicle may have seen an easy life of highway driving and mild climates, while a high-mileage Ford Crown Victoria once used as a New York City taxi may have endured exactly the opposite experience.

Our biggest suggestion: Try to find out everything you can about the vehicle. Where was it used? How was it used? What kind of condition is it in? If the car was used in a harsh climate, it may have rust damage or other issues. If the car was used as a taxi or police vehicle, it may have been driven harder than a normal car -- and there may be scars inside and out that come from holes for antennas, computer equipment and light bars. Be sure to thoroughly examine the interior and exterior for any signs of such damage.

If you have any doubt that the car has been used harder than normal by a government agency or a taxi service, we strongly suggest getting it inspected by a mechanic before purchase. While this can sometimes cost well in excess of $100, the peace of mind is often worth the expense. And of course, try to speak to the current owner (if it's a private seller) or the dealer to learn as much as you can about the vehicle before pulling the trigger.

Buying From an Auction

If you aren't buying the car privately or from a dealer, you may be purchasing it from an auction. Government agencies are especially known to auction their vehicles when they've finished using them.

Although government auctions may seem appealing, the most discerning buyers will probably want to steer clear. This is because most government auctions sell vehicles "as is, where is," and don't allow mechanical inspections or even test drives. While these auctions are open to the public (unlike dealer auctions such as Manheim), government auctions differ in the sense that their purpose is to unload vehicles as quickly and efficiently as possible -- and that means sometimes buyers don't get to take the most thorough look at each vehicle.

As a result, picky buyers probably want to avoid government auctions -- but drivers willing to take a gamble can find some good deals, as there are usually a lot of cars available and fewer buyers than you'll find at a usual vehicle auction or car dealership.

Our Take

In the end, buying a used car with former government or taxi history can be a good choice or a bad choice, depending greatly on the car's condition and its previous history. If you're looking for a car that can last awhile, we strongly recommend a mechanical inspection -- even if it means steering clear of potentially great deals at a government auction.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Car: Is It OK to Buy a Former Taxi or Government Vehicle? - Autotrader