What to do if your car is clamped or impounded

When a car is clamped or impounded, most drivers are itching to get back on the road. However, it may take time, effort and money to get your car back, which can be very frustrating and inconvenient – especially if you think you’ve done nothing wrong.
Let’s look at when a car can be clamped or impounded, and what you should do to get back behind the wheel.

Why are cars clamped or impounded?

Clamping or impounding a car is a fairly time-efficient way of penalising drivers for breaking rules.

Rather than chasing down a driver, the relevant authority can just take or immobilise the vehicle, and wait for the owner to come to them.
One of the most common reasons for a car to be clamped or impounded is a lack of insurance. Vehicles must have valid insurance by law, and it is easy for the police to spot uninsured vehicles using their database.

The police run operations where they spend days at a time cruising around to find uninsured vehicles either parked or on the road, logging the registration number into a computer system to check the insurance details.
Being parked illegally is also a common issue. If you park in the wrong place on public land, or cause an obstruction, the authorities can clamp your car or tow it away.

This is the case even if the car has broken down. A vehicle which appears to be unsafe or a danger to other road users can also be clamped.
Financial problems can lead to vehicles being clamped or impounded. Unpaid debts or unpaid penalty notices can result in a car being towed, while unpaid fines for commercial vehicles can result in clamping.

Commercial vehicles can also be clamped if the driver has exceeded time limits for safe driving.
Failure to pay road tax may also result in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) clamping or impounding a vehicle.

Your insurance may be affected by your car being clamped or impounded – check the details of your policy to be sure.

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence, you may wish to take out convicted driver insurance from a specialist provider.
 A clamped car parked on the curb side of a road

Who can legally clamp or impound a car?

The law restricts those who can clamp or tow away a car.

The bodies able to do this include the police, local councils, the DVLA, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), and some bailiffs or fines enforcement officers where a debt is owed to the local council or there is an unpaid penalty charge notice.
You cannot usually clamp vehicles on private land. For example, even if someone parks on your driveway without permission, you are not permitted to apply a clamp to their vehicle.

In a few settings such as ports, railway stations or airports, local byelaws do allow private operators to use clamps or towing.
Of course, you are free to clamp your own car or agree to the vehicle being towed away, for example by a breakdown service.

What should you do to get a clamp removed?

The action you should take depends on who clamps or impounds your car, and the reason for it. When a car is clamped, an INF32 leaflet is left with the vehicle giving contact details and a reference number.
The most likely organisations you will need to contact are the local council or the police by calling 101.

In both cases you will likely have to pay a release fee of around £150 to secure the release of your vehicle, plus a pound storage fee. You may also have to pay a fine if necessary.

This system applies for relatively minor offences such as parking offences.
If you have been clamped due to unpaid car tax, you will need to either pay the outstanding tax to DVLA (online or by phone) or pay a surety fee.

In both cases, a £100 release fee is also payable. You may need to contact NSL, which enforces car tax payments on behalf of DVLA.
 Multiple road signs indicating no parking is allowed

What should you do if your car has been impounded?

You can find out if your car has been impounded by calling the police on 101, or NSL on 0343 224 1999.

In London, you can also text ‘TRACE’ and your vehicle registration to 66663 for automatic confirmation of whether your car has been towed.
You will need to attend the relevant pound within seven days of the seizure notice, taking proof of identity, ownership, insurance, car tax, MOT certificate/evidence of an MOT booking appointment with you. Check out our recent blog on whether the police can seize your car for no MOT, to find out more relevant info.
You will be required to pay any outstanding fines to get your car back.
You will also need to pay a daily storage fee of £20 and a £150 release fee, if the car has been impounded by the council. It is impounded for unpaid tax, a £100 release fee is charged in the first 24 hours, rising to £200 after that.
It is important to act quickly if your car is impounded – if you do not reclaim your vehicle within 14 days it may be sold or destroyed.

What if your car is clamped illegally?

As stated above, only certain organisations are allowed to apply clamps to cars.

If a car is clamped, towed, blocked in or otherwise immobilised on private land by a private operator in England, Scotland or Wales, the perpetrator may end up in Court facing a fine.
If your car is illegally clamped or towed, take photographs and gather any other evidence and request that the car is released.

If this does not work, it’s not always clear what to do next – taking legal advice may be advisable before you try to remove a clamp yourself.
 A private sign indicating no parking is allowed attached to the front gate of a house

How does convicted driver insurance help?

When you’ve been convicted of a driving offence, insurance becomes more expensive.

However, failing to take out insurance is against the law and could result in your vehicle being clamped or impounded.
Don’t run the risk of losing your vehicle – take out specialist convicted driver insurance from Insurance Factory.

Contact Insurance Factory for a convicted driver insurance quote today.