Why was my car impounded?

Many of us rely heavily on our cars from day to day. Whether we use them to commute to and from the office, visit friends, family or customers, drop the kids off at school or do the weekly shop, we depend on our vehicles to get us from A to B – and back again.

So, it can be seriously inconvenient (not to mention frustrating) when something goes wrong. The car doesn’t start, you get a flat tyre, or you break down during a journey. While proper maintenance can help prevent the risk of these things happening, you’re never 100% protected against motoring mishaps. Which is a very good reason to make sure that you have quality car insurance to get you back on the road as quickly as possible if something goes awry.

Impounded cars

However, there’s another type of issue that may not be covered by your average car insurance policy. Impounding is when a car is seized and taken – or towed – away. This can happen for a number of reasons, which we’ll explore more in this guide. But in any scenario, returning to your car to realise that it’s no longer there is extremely stressful, especially if you’re not close to your home at the time.

Your immediate thought may be that it’s been stolen, but it may have just been impounded and if so, the task falls to you to track it down and get it released.

One thing you might have to do if you find yourself in this situation is arrange impounded car insurance in order to get your vehicle back. This is something the Insurance Factory is happy to help you with.
By searching our panel of carefully selected insurers, we can provide you with our best priced impounded car insurance that matches your individual circumstances.

We can provide cover for 30 days, which is plenty of time to allow you to release your car and cover you on the road for a month. When the temporary Impound policy is due to expire, we’ll get in touch to offer you a full annual policy.

Why might a car be impounded?

If you return to a car that’s no longer there and suspect that it has been towed away, this could have been for a number of potential reasons.
As the RAC explains, your car can be seized and towed away if:
  • Your current car insurance is no longer valid – the police have the power to impound any car, van or bike that isn’t covered.
  • You parked the car illegally – both local councils and the police are able to remove cars and other vehicles which are illegally parked on roads as well as public land, or if they are causing an obstruction (including vehicles that have broken down).
  • Your car isn’t taxed – the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has the power to tow or clamp your car if you fail to tax it.
  • You have unpaid penalty charge notices or other types of outstanding debts (this applies everywhere except Northern Ireland).

Who can tow cars?

There are several different organisations that are able to tow away your car or clamp it. We’ve touched on some above, but the full list includes:
  • The DVLA
  • Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
  • The police
  • Local councils
  • Fine enforcement officers or bailiffs, in the event that the owner of the car has unpaid penalty charge notices (PCNs) or outstanding debts owed to the local council.

What to do if your car is towed away

If you’re sure that your car has been towed away, then no doubt you’ll be keen to get it back. It’s worth pointing out here: while it’s a situation no-one wants to find themselves in, what will make it worse is if you get angry with the organisation responsible for towing it away, or refuse to comply. Sure, it’s a bit of a pain, but being calm and following the steps will hopefully mean that you’re united with your motor in no time at all.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Find out where your car is

As the Gov.UK website explains, the first thing you need to do if your car has been removed is find out who has it. To do this, you can either ring your local police station on 101 and ask for your local police, or phone NSL to find out where it is.

The number for NSL is: 0343 224 1999.

If you’re in London, there’s an extra service that can help you to track down your car. You can simply text ‘TRACE’ and your car’s registration number to 66663 to confirm whether or not it’s been sent to the pound.

Act fast

By law, you must go to the pound within seven working days of receiving the notice of it being seized. If you fail to get your car back within 14 days, then it’s possible it could be either destroyed or sold on.

Gather the relevant documents

You’ll need to take several documents with you when you visit the pound to get your car back. These include:
  • Proof of car ownership
  • Photo ID
  • A valid driving licence
  • Proof of vehicle tax
  • MOT certificate or evidence that you have booked an MOT. If you fail to have a valid MOT certificate you may be liable to have your car seized by the police. 
  • A valid motor insurance certificate (here’s where you will need your impounded car insurance certificate from the Insurance Factory)

Pay the fees

Unfortunately, getting your car back is going to cost you. The fees depend on several factors, such as which organisation took your car away, and how long you leave it in the pound.

If a council or the police seize your car, then you will be required to pay a £150 fee to get it released, together with any outstanding debt. The pound will also charge a storage fee of £20 per day.

If your car was towed away due to unpaid tax, then you’ll need to tax the car and pay what’s known as a surety fee, of £160. This will be refunded to you provided that you get your car taxed within 15 days.

If you go to the pound to collect your car within 24 hours, then you will need to pay a release fee of £100. After that, the release fee rises to £200, on top of the daily £20 or so storage charge.

All this highlights the importance of acting fast – you could save a serious amount of money if you make an effort to retrieve your car the moment you realise it’s been impounded. Not to mention, getting it back quickly will mean minimal disruption to your daily life.

You can pay the fees in person at the pound, online or over the phone – whichever option suits you best.

Can another person collect a car on your behalf?

If you’re the legal owner of the car but can’t go the pound, the Met Police website explains that someone can collect it on your behalf.

In order to do that, they will need all the relevant documents listed above plus an authority letter signed by you. This letter should give the person authority to collect your car. They will also need a copy of your passport or driving licence (to prove your signature on the letter), as well as a valid insurance certificate.

Collecting property from the car

Sometimes, drivers want to get belongings from their impounded car but not the car itself. If this is the case, then you still need to provide proof that you’re the owner or registered keeper (either with a V5C or V5C/10 document).

Again, if another person is collecting your possessions for you, then you’ll need to write and sign a letter of authority, plus give them a copy of your passport or driving licence so that they can confirm the signature is yours.

If your car has a prohibition notice

It could be that your car has been issued a PG9 prohibition notice. If so – or the car won’t start or is deemed not roadworthy – then it will be down to you to arrange for a fully trained, insured and equipped vehicle recovery operator to come and get it for you. And at your own expense.

Pounds don’t allow for cars to be fixed at their site – this includes things like changing flat or damaged tyres or repairing windscreens. But it might be that staff on the site will help you to jump start the car if necessary – you will need to sign a jump-starting declaration form beforehand though.

Things to consider when you visit the pound

  • Don’t forget your keys!
  • If your car was impounded because it was involved in an accident and you’re not sure that it’s roadworthy anymore, then you should think about getting it recovered by a professional operator.
  • In the event that your car was impounded because it was stolen, it’s a good idea to take it to a qualified garage where they can give it a safety check.
  • The staff at the pound, as well as the police, can advise you on whether they believe your car is roadworthy or not.
  • If you don’t want to reclaim your car (known as ‘disclaiming’) then you’ll still need proof of ownership and identity when you go to the pound. You’ll have to pay a disposal fee (if it applies) but you won’t pay for outstanding storage and removal charges.

So, why doesn’t standard car insurance cover impounded cars?

Impounded car insurance is needed if your car has been seized and you need evidence of insurance so that you can get it released.

The majority of insurers don’t cover you to get your car or van out of the pound. This is down to the fact that there are specialist policies on the market which enable the release of a vehicle at competitive prices.

The problem is that you need insurance to get a car released, but your standard policy may not cover that, which is why you need specialist cover.

Could you ever be wrongfully towed?

It’s worth bearing in mind that there are certain situations where it’s actually illegal to have your car towed away or clamped.

For instance, it’s against the law for a private operator in England, Wales or Scotland to clamp, tow, immobilise or block your car in if it’s on private land. If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of this type of illicit activity, the private operator responsible could face an unlimited fine if the case is heard by the Crown Court, or pay up to £5,000 if they end up in a Magistrates Court.

If you can, try to take photos to show where your car was (or is parked) and make sure you include nearby parking enforcement signs, if there are any. You’ll need to gather other relevant documents – like proof of car tax – and get in touch with the person or company who you believe has illegally clamped or towed your car.
Despite your best efforts, if they still refuse to release your car, the best thing to do is contact your local Citizens Advice service for more information. They’ll be able to guide you on what steps to take next.

Impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory

Rest assured, if you are ever in a situation where your car has been seized, we can help you to get back on the road with as minimal hassle as possible.

We’re able to range temporary cover for 30 days, giving you time to get your car from the pound plus cover on the road up until the end of the policy. Having this policy is crucial, because you need proof of insurance to get your car back.

Take out a policy with the Insurance Factory, and you’ll receive documents to use as proof when you visit the pound.

Having your car impounded is never going to be a pleasant experience, but we’re here to make that load a little lighter. With impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory, you’ll be back in the driver’s seat in no time.

Get a free, no-obligation quote today.