Armored Cars in a Civilian Capacity

Armored Cars in a Civilian Capacity

Most of the time it is easy to recognize an armored car.  These are vehicles built specifically—to meet specific standards—for the purposes of safety and security.  The armor on these vehicles is, generally, ballistics-resistant, though some may be able to withstand even bigger blasts.

Sometimes, though, an armored vehicle on the road may not be so obvious, as is the case with civilian armored cars.


Civilian armored cars can be employed in a variety of faculties.  Of course, they are commonly used by governments for escorting elected and senior-level officials who may be at high risk for assault, assassination, and other criminal activity.  In high-risk parts of the world—like Afghanistan and Iraq, for example—even regular-level officials may be protected by armored vehicle escort. In addition, those on a diplomatic mission and those who carry private military contracts may also utilize armored cars instead of standard vehicles.

It is also common for a civilian armored car—particularly one carrying a high-profile government official—to be part of a larger motorcade.  A motorcade consists of several dozen other vehicles which can include:

  • Security
  • Police cruisers
  • Police motorcycles
  • First aid ambulance
  • Press vehicles
  • Route-clearing vehicles
  • Decoys


By function, there are two types of a civilian armored car.  The majority of armored cars on the road which is designed for civilian capacity (and not military) are vehicles which had been released by a manufacturer and then retrofitted with new safety and security features.  In some cases, these features may include obvious armor plating and protection. In many cases, these features can be hidden, as in a bulletproof glass.


Armored cars have to follow standards, of course, and there are several standards for basic non-military armored vehicles.  The most common are:

  • Ballistics Rating, or BR – Or European standard that certifies materials for transparent and opaque material standards with general guidelines on vehicle construction; covers 3 levels from 2 to 7.
  • VASG – Certification from the British Standard Vehicle Security Advisory Group for armored car testing and construction.
  • NIJ – Body armor certification and 5 levels of armored vehicle coverage as regulated by the United States National Institute of Justice.
  • VPAM can have many standards related to non-military armored vehicles and these subsets include
    • APR 2006 – General test guidelines for armored products.
    • PM 2007 – Cover materials used.
    • BRV 1999 and BRV 2009 – Certifies the whole vehicle has passed testing and not individual materials outfitted on the vehicle.
    • ERV 2010 – Certification for added blast protection.

Mia Frazier