An armored car is a vehicle which has been reinforced with metal plate or composite materials to make it resistant to attack. Armored cars often have a range of other security features as well, ranging from the ability to become negatively pressurized in the event of a gas attack to having tires which will run when flat. Armored cars are produced on the stock lines of a few car manufacturers, but they are more typically made by reinforcing a regular vehicle.
There are a number of uses for an armored car. They are the vehicle of choice for diplomats, heads of state, and other high-profile individuals who may be at risk of attack. Some people like celebrities choose to use armored cars as a status symbol, since these vehicles imply a state of importance. In war zones, armored vehicles are standard, with military personnel and visiting state officials using armored cars and escorts to travel safely.
In the case of armored cars which are built as stock vehicles, the car company reinforces the car with heavyweight materials and installs bulletproof windows; often, the armoring is subtle enough that the car looks normal at a casual glance. This makes the car significantly heavier than a non-armored vehicle of the same size, forcing the manufacturer to install a more powerful engine to compensate. Stock armored cars may have tinted windows, remote starting keys, intercoms, alarms, heavily insulated fuel tanks to resist explosion, and other safety measures which are designed to make them resistant to all but the most determined attacks.
Many companies also offer armoring services, in which they will retrofit a vehicle to turn it into an armored car. In this case, high-end retrofitted armored cars have armored plates inserted under the “skin” of the car, so that the car does not appear different to the naked eye, while the windows are replaced with bulletproof glass and other security features may be installed as requested. In other cases, plates of armor may simply be bolted directly onto the outside of the car; this is more common in war zones, where it is more important to protect the occupants of a car than to worry about concealing the fact that the car is armored.
Armored vehicles are certainly not attack proof. Many of them are vulnerable to rockets or bombs, for example, and they can be stopped with the use of roadblocks and diversions. However, travel in an armored car is certainly safer than travel in an exposed vehicle, especially when the car is accompanied with an escort which may include decoys and more heavily armored vehicles with law enforcement or military personnel.