If you’ve ever driven down the highway and an unmarked police car drives by, you might not even notice the difference between that and a civilian car. Even though unmarked police cars definitely do their part, they also make some things more difficult. For example, you should stop when getting pulled over, but what if you can’t tell if they’re legitimate? Let’s discuss these vehicles and how you can tell the difference.

Unmarked Police Cars: What to Look For

License Plates

To begin, if you have the opportunity to see the license plate of a vehicle, check it out. Any South Carolina state issued car will have a license plate that reads “PERMANENT” across the top. The plate itself will look similar to that of a civilian car. In North Carolina, they will be orange with “PERMANENT” across the bottom. Even though they are unmarked police cars, they will still have these license plates.


Most unmarked police cares will have lights in the grill, the dash, and behind the headrests of the backseat for the back window. If the car pulling you over does not have legitimate blue and red lights, it might not be a real police car. These police cars may not have the spotlight above the driver’s side mirror. The spotlight is usually an obvious indication that it is a police car, so many unmarked cars will go without the built in spotlight.

Vehicle Color

The color of the vehicle is usually an indicator. If a brightly colored car pulls up behind you with lights flashing, it’s unlikely that it is a legitimate police officer. Most unmarked police cars will be neutral colors. These usually are white, black, and gray.

To maintain your safety, you do not need to pull over and stop until you feel comfortable. However, you will need to show your intent to pull over. This should include slowing down and putting your turn signal on. Remember, it is a punishable offense to evade a police officer. If you are facing a traffic stop due to one of the unmarked police cars, remain calm but alert