What happens to cars seized by police in the UK? How much does it cost to get your car out of a police impound? And can you buy a seized car at a police auction?
We’ve got answers to all those questions (and more) below. Let’s dive in.
When can police seize your car in the UK?
There are several reasons why the UK police might seize your vehicle:
- If they believe your car is being used in a way that causes distress, alarm, or harassment (such as careless driving), you could be pulled over and have your vehicle taken away.
- Or if your car has been stolen (and found by the police), implicated in a crime (for example, used as a hiding place for stolen goods), or abandoned after an incident involving the police, it may be impounded.
- Meanwhile, under Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, cars that are “dangerously, illegally or obstructively parked” can be removed by the police.
- And under Section 165A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, you may be pulled over if an officer suspects the car is being driven by someone who does not have a proper licence or insurance.
Whatever the reason for your vehicle’s seizure, it will be loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to an on-site impound lot — usually located at the nearest police station.
If you’re present when your vehicle is seized (or you’re to blame for its seizure), you’ll be issued with a seizure notice. If you’re not present, this will be posted to you. This notice outlines where your car is being taken and the steps you need to take to recover it (more on that next).
How do you reclaim a vehicle that was seized by police?
Once the police have seized your car, you’re legally required to go to the police pound within seven working days of the date on the seizure notice to reclaim your vehicle.
You’ll need the following documents to prove you’re the legal owner of the vehicle:
- Proof of identity
- Valid driving licence
- Proof of ownership (you’ll find this in your vehicle registration logbook (V5C), showing you as the registered keeper. Bring this along with proof of address to match the registered address in the logbook)
- Valid car insurance
- Valid MOT
Note: You won’t be able to drive your car out of the pound without the correct insurance and an up-to-date MOT. However, if you want your car back, you’ll still be tasked with removing it from the pound, which will require hiring a specialist vehicle recovery service at your own expense.
The Metropolitan Police also suggest doing the following when reclaiming a seized vehicle:
- Bring an extra set of keys, just in case you didn’t leave the keys with the vehicle (or they were lost when it was stolen).
- Bring valid replacement number plates if your vehicle doesn’t have the correct plates (for example, if a thief swapped them or they were damaged or lost in a collision).
- And if you’re unsure if your car is roadworthy following a theft or an accident, have it collected by a professional recovery operator and taken to a garage for a full safety check.
What if you can’t collect your vehicle in person?
If you cannot attend the pound in person, you can ask someone else to collect your vehicle on your behalf.
To do this, they’ll need to take the documents listed above along with the following:
- A letter signed by you giving the person the authority to collect your car
- A copy of your passport or driving licence to verify the signature on the letter
- A valid insurance certificate showing that they’re legally allowed to drive your car
How much is it to get your car out of police impound in the UK?
It can cost around £200 to release your car from a police impound. However, the charges vary depending on the weight and condition of the vehicle. You can find full details of the charges here (they’re set by the government, not the police).
You’ll also be charged a storage fee of £20 for every day or part day your vehicle is impounded. The daily storage charges start from midday, the day after the vehicle was seized.
You must make your payment in person. You cannot pay over the phone.
Note: There are no storage or removal charges to pay if the vehicle is left at the pound for disposal.
How long can police keep your car in the UK?
The police will keep your car for a total of 14 days. You have seven days to produce the relevant documents proving you own the vehicle, and a further seven days to arrange for its collection.
If your vehicle goes unclaimed after the 14-day period, it will either be destroyed or sold at auction, depending on its condition and reason for seizure.
What if you don’t want to reclaim your seized vehicle?
If you don’t want to reclaim your vehicle, you don’t have to. But you’ll still need to go to the pound with proof of identity and proof of ownership and sign a disclaimer.
You may also have to pay a disposal charge (£96 for cars and light vans, or £64 for two-wheeled vehicles), but you won’t have to pay the outstanding removal and storage charges. You’ll also still be liable for any penalty charges issued for parking offences (if this was the reason for the seizure).
Once you’ve signed the disclaimer, your vehicle will be disposed of, either by scrapping or by sale at auction.
Can you buy seized cars from police in the UK?
Yes, you can. If a car hasn’t been reclaimed after 14 days, and it’s in good working order, it can be sold at auction.
Police auctions can be a great place to grab yourself a bargain. These vehicles may have been involved in a crime, abandoned, or towed and impounded (with the owner unable to pay the fines), meaning they’re available at a fraction of the price of a new car.
You can read more about the process and benefits of buying seized vehicles at auction in our ultimate guide to police auctions.
Can police destroy a seized car?
Yes, they can. If a car hasn’t been reclaimed after the 14-day period, and it’s deemed no longer roadworthy, it will be scrapped for parts or crushed, depending on its condition.
You can read more about what happens when a car is scrapped here.
To recap, what happens when police seize your car in the UK?
Whether you’ve been pulled over for careless driving, caused an obstruction with your parking, driven without insurance, or had your car stolen (and found by the police), once the authorities have seized your vehicle, you’ve got a total of 14 days to reclaim it.
Within those first seven days, you must produce documents proving that you’re the vehicle’s registered owner. You’ll then have a further seven days to arrange to have the vehicle collected from the police impound lot.
It can cost around £200 to release a car from the police pound, and you’ll also be charged a £20 per day storage fee.
If you fail to recover your car in time (or you simply don’t want to reclaim it), the police will arrange to have your vehicle sold at auction or destroyed.
Did you know that one of the most common reasons cars are seized in the UK is driving without insurance? Over half a million vehicles have been seized by the police for this offence alone since 2018.
Make sure you’re not next! Get your car insurance quote here.