Impounded car insurance

If your car's been seized and impounded by the authorities, you'll need impounded car insurance to retrieve it. Here's what you need to know.

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of UK car owners have their vehicles seized by the authorities for offences such as parking dangerously or driving without insurance. Even if an offence was unintentional, this knowledge will do little to soothe frayed nerves when you discover your car’s doing time in the local impound. On top of car release fees, plus any penalty points or fines for the offence itself, you’ll probably also need to buy a special form of insurance known as “impounded car insurance” to free your car. Here’s why regular insurance often won’t be enough, and how you can get the cover you need.

What is impounded car insurance?

Impounded car insurance is a type of insurance that provides cover if your car has been seized and impounded. If this is the case, you’ll need proof of valid insurance in order to get your car released. A few regular car insurance policies might include cover for impounded cars as standard, but most don’t. If your existing policy doesn’t include this cover, you’ll need to add it to your policy (if your insurer allows this) or take out a specialist impounded car insurance policy on top of your existing cover.

What are the reasons that cars are impounded?

Local authorities, the DVLA and the police all have the right to seize vehicles and take them to an impound if certain offences have been committed. Reasons for your car being seized can include the following:

  • Illegal parking – particularly if your car is parked dangerously (blocking the road, for example)
  • Failure to have appropriate car insurance
  • Failure to pay vehicle tax where it is required
  • Driving your car in a way that causes danger or distress
  • Your car being driven by someone without a licence
  • Abandoning your car (after a breakdown, for example)

How is impounded car insurance different to regular car insurance?

Regular car insurance cover is designed to give you protection to drive and park your car on public roads. It’s a legal requirement to have at least third party car insurance, which covers any harm you might cause to other people or their property.

However, regular car insurance isn’t primarily intended to cover cars that have committed an offence that results in them being impounded. As a result, many standard car insurance policies won’t include cover for cars that have been impounded.

If your policy doesn’t include this cover, then dedicated impounded car insurance can fill the gap. You’ll need to show evidence that you have appropriate cover in place, valid for at least 30 days, in order to retrieve your car from an impound.

Who might need impounded car insurance?

You might need a dedicated impounded car insurance policy if your car has been impounded, typically for one of the reasons outlined above, and your existing car insurance policy doesn’t provide impounded car insurance.

In some cases, your car might have been impounded because you didn’t have insurance for it in the first place (perhaps because you accidentally missed a renewal date). If so, then you’ll almost certainly need a specialist policy to get it released. You’re likely to find it much harder to take out a regular policy if your car is already impounded.

What does impounded car insurance cover?

Impounded car insurance specifically covers one thing: the ability to get an impounded car released and drive it out of the impound. This is often not covered by regular car insurance.

In order to get your car released, you’ll need cover for at least 30 days.

Once you’ve left the impound, a specialist impounded car policy will also allow you to legally drive on UK roads for the remainder of the policy term. However, it’s worth noting that many short-term impounded car insurers only provide third party cover.

Are there any restrictions for impounded car insurance?

To take out a specialist impounded car insurance policy, you’ll need a valid driving licence. You’ll also need to be the owner and registered keeper of the impounded car.

Policies may also have age limits. For example, some insurers won’t let under-21s take out cover.

Are there different types of impounded car insurance?

There are a few different forms of impounded car insurance:

  • Included in an existing car insurance policy. Some regular car insurance policies may include cover for impounded cars as standard. If yours doesn’t, and your car is impounded, some insurers may let you add impound cover to your policy (for an extra fee).
  • Temporary impounded car insurance. A number of short-term insurance providers offer 30-day impounded car insurance. Most impounds will only accept insurance that covers at least 30 days. Many short-term policies only offer third party cover, so won’t protect you against damage to your own car.
  • Annual impounded car insurance. Some specialist providers offer a full year’s worth of insurance that includes impounded car cover. These will cover you to get your car from the impound and drive for the rest of the year, often with a choice of third party, third party fire and theft or comprehensive cover.

A full year’s worth of specialist cover is unlikely to be necessary if you already have a standard policy with plenty of time left before renewal. But if your car was impounded because you were previously driving uninsured, or you only have a short time left on a current policy, it could be worth comparing the cost of a full year of specialist cover against buying short-term impound insurance and then switching to a standard annual policy.

How do I know if my regular car insurance includes cover for impounded cars?

Check your policy documents. If impounded car cover is included, it should be stated clearly. If you can’t lay your hands on your documents or the wording isn’t clear, ask your provider directly.

How do I get impounded car insurance?

If cover for impounded cars isn’t included in your existing car insurance, it won’t hurt to call your provider and ask if it can add this cover to your policy. Even if it can (and some may not offer this cover even as an add-on), it’s still worth getting quotes for standalone, specialist policies too, as they may work out cheaper.

Many price comparison sites don’t offer a comparison service for impounded car insurers, so you’ll need to get quotes from a selection of specialist insurers and brokers directly. Unlike regular insurance, you may be unable to complete the quote process online. Many specialist insurers request a few basic details, after which they’ll call you back for more information.

As well as the other information you need to supply to any car insurer (such as your age, driving history, location and details of the car), you may be asked to supply details of where the car is impounded and the reasons for it being seized.

Is impounded car insurance expensive?

We’re not going to lie. Unless you’re lucky enough to have it already included in your regular policy, it’s unlikely to be cheap. Drivers whose cars are seized and impounded tend to be considered higher-risk drivers because of the reasons that cars are typically impounded for (such as driving without a licence or driving dangerously), and this pushes premiums up.

Beyond that, the cost of cover is likely to be influenced by the same things that affect any insurance. These include your age, where you live, the car you drive and your previous driving record.

Unfortunately, though, if you want your car back, it’s a price you’ll need to pay. As always, your best bet is to shop around and compare quotes.

Can I get a temporary insurance policy for my impounded car?

Yes. There are a number of providers that specialise in temporary policies for impounded cars. In many cases, this will be the best – or sometimes the only – viable option to allow you to release your car from the impound.

Temporary impounded car insurance policies invariably last 30 days, as this is the minimum time you need your insurance policy to have left in order to get your car released.

How can I retrieve an impounded car?

If your car has been seized and impounded by the authorities, you’ll likely want it back as soon as possible.

If you don’t know exactly where it’s been taken, the first step will be to track it down. If it has been impounded for failure to pay vehicle tax, contact the NSL. This organisation is contracted by the DVLA to seize untaxed cars. Otherwise, contact your local police force by calling 101.

Once you’ve uncovered the location of your car, pull together the documents you’ll need to provide in order to get it released, including the following:

  • Your driving licence
  • Proof of ownership of the car (such as your V5C logbook)
  • A valid MOT certificate or proof of a pre-booked MOT test
  • Valid insurance documents that show proof of cover for an impounded car.

You’ll also need to pay a fee to release the car from the impound lot. The fee can vary. If you retrieve your car promptly, it’s likely to be between £100 and £200. If your car isn’t taxed, you may also need to pay a surety fee of £160. This is refundable if you buy new vehicle tax and contact the NSL to confirm this within 15 days.

What happens if I don’t retrieve an impounded car straight away?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

If you don’t need your car urgently, you might be tempted to give yourself a few days’ grace to sort out appropriate insurance and get the money together for the release fee.

However, dawdling could cost you. If you’re able to retrieve your car within 24 hours, the fixed release fee may be lower – £100 rather than £200, for example (depending on the circumstances). And, after the first 24 hours, you’ll pay a daily storage fee on top of this (around £20 per day). So, after a week, what could have been a £100 fee might have turned into a £300+ fee.

You are legally required to go to the impound within 7 working days of the date on the seizure notice or notice letter to reclaim your vehicle. Miss this deadline, and after 14 days, there’s a good chance your car will be disposed of or destroyed.

What should I do if my car is clamped?

Depending on the reason for the authorities to take action, you may find that your car is clamped rather than being impounded. This can apply for failure to pay vehicle tax, for example, but obviously not if your car is parked dangerously.

If this is the case, call the number on the back of the leaflet that will be left on your car. As with impounded cars, you’ll need to pay a fee to release the clamp. If applicable, you’ll also need to either have already bought new tax or pay a surety that you will do so.

Bottom line

Having your car impounded is likely to come as a shock. If this happens to you, the key thing is to act quickly to avoid charges building up and the risk of your car being disposed of. Having appropriate insurance in place is essential to reclaim your car. Regular car insurance often won’t cover the release of impounded cars, so many people will need to take out a temporary impounded car insurance policy from a specialist provider.

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