Can My Car Get Impounded for Not Having Insurance?

In many states, the answer is yes

A tow-truck operation hooking up a car to his truck.

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If you’re an uninsured motorist, you could face serious consequences, including paying for any injuries you cause to other drivers and repairing their cars. Being an uninsured driver could also mean losing your license and car registration. However, in some states, not having insurance could also lead to your car being impounded or towed to a lot by local or state police.

To avoid the impound lot, auto insurance is essential protection. Read on to discover the situations that could lead to your vehicle being impounded or even sold at an auction, the steps and expenses associated with getting your car back, and how to prevent such losses.

Key Takeaways

  • Yes, your car can be impounded in some states if you don't have insurance.
  • If your car isn't impounded, you might still receive a warning or citation, or have your registration and license plates removed.
  • Always be prepared to show proof of adequate insurance.

Can Police Impound Your Car for Not Having Insurance?

Yes, the police can impound your car in some states. The circumstances required for impoundment may depend on the state, county, or city laws, as well as the officer’s discretion. Officers may even have the right to impound an uninsured car they see parked in a lot or being driven on a public highway. In some cities, any vehicles without insurance must be towed to the impound yard and won’t be released until insurance is active again.

Occasionally, a car may be towed to the impound lot for a lack of insurance combined with other factors. For example, perhaps you don’t have insurance, plus:

  • You were in a car accident
  • Your driver’s license was revoked or canceled, or you don’t have a license
  • You were arrested
  • You were driving recklessly

In some states, the officer can tow a vehicle if the driver or the state database can’t prove the car meets the minimum liability insurance requirements. But the officer isn’t always required to impound the car. They can consider special situations, such as a sick or older driver, poor weather conditions, whether the driver is from out of state, or whether there are small children or animals in the car.

A car may also be impounded if its registration was suspended by the state’s department of motor vehicles due to a lack of insurance. In some states, insurers report any lapse in liability auto insurance to a state database. Police officers can check your insurance status during a traffic stop or after an accident.

If the officer doesn’t immediately tow your car, they might also:

  • Issue a warning
  • Issue a citation
  • Remove your registration and plates

Some states may require you to carry mandatory liability insurance on vehicles other than cars, such as golf carts, mopeds, and motorcycles.

Which States Will Impound Your Car for Lack of Insurance?

To find out whether your car could be impounded for lack of insurance, call your local police department or branch of the department of motor vehicles (DMV). You may also be able to find the information online, but make sure you’re checking a reputable source.

For example, in California, Oregon, and Louisiana, your vehicle may be impounded if you don’t have auto liability insurance, and you may also face fines and license suspension.

In Utah, Georgia, and Connecticut, cars can be impounded if registration was revoked due to an insurance lapse. And in Ohio, your license plates and certificate of registration can be impounded, which makes driving your car a minor misdemeanor.

How To Prevent Your Car From Being Impounded

Always be prepared to prove you have insurance. In some states, if you’re pulled over, you must immediately show that the car is insured. In other states, you may be issued a citation, but you can then prove that insurance was in effect at the time of your encounter and have the citation canceled.

Digital insurance cards are accepted in most states, but remember that if you let a friend or relative drive your car, they won’t have access to the digital insurance card stored on your phone. Keep your proof of insurance in the car at all times so whoever is driving the vehicle can prove that it’s insured. The glove box or console are good places to keep it.

In addition, respond promptly to any mail from your state’s DMV inquiring about your auto insurance status. In states where insurance companies report lapses or new insurance policies directly to the DMV or another state insurance database, you’ll want to ensure the system reflects the most recent and accurate information.

If you don’t plan to drive your car at all or will “garage” the vehicle temporarily, don’t simply cancel your insurance coverage. First, determine if you live in a state where you can de-insure your car, or whether you must carry the required minimum insurance.

How To Get Your Car Out of Impound

Your car is likely held at a lot, which may be operated by a private business or a government entity such as a county or city law enforcement office. You may be able to check the impound lot’s website to find the requirements for getting your car out of the yard, or you might need to ask the police department for assistance. You can also call the lot holding your car to find out what forms, documentation, and payments you need to provide to retrieve your vehicle.

You’ll probably need to bring a variety of evidence, such as:

  • Proof of active insurance in your name
  • Registration for the car
  • Picture ID
  • Proof of ownership
  • A valid in-state motor vehicle operator’s license
  • A release letter from your state’s DMV office or local law enforcement
  • A SR-22 form from your insurance company

To prove that you’re operating the car within the state’s financial responsibility requirements, you’ll need to show either:

  • An insurance policy for the car with an insurance company, including policy dates and the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the impounded vehicle
  • A bond, self-insurance, or an alternative form of financial responsibility

A car may also be impounded by a business or institution, such as a university. Once again, read the requirements—you’ll probably be required to show proof of insurance to retrieve your car.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to get a car out of impound?

Costs to get your car out of impound include towing, impound, and daily storage fees, as well as insurance reinstatement fees. You’ll also have to pay for your car’s insurance policy, although you can ask to break up your payments into monthly installments.

For example, impound fees could cost:

Storage fee $30 x 3 days $90
Towing charge $75 per hour $75
Reinstating insurance fee $100 $100
Total $265

Before going to the lot, make sure you understand how to pay the bill, such as whether you can pay by credit card or are required to use cash or another form of payment.

What happens if you leave your car in impound?

If you leave your car in impound for more than 30 or 45 days, it may be considered abandoned and the towing company may seek ownership of the vehicle. If you haven’t yet paid off your car, the titleholder (such as a lender or dealership) may reclaim it, or the state may auction it off.

How do I get impound fees waived?

In some cases, you’ll be able to have impound fees waived if you file an appeal with supporting documents. Ask your DMV for more information.

If my car was put in impound for a reason other than non-insurance, do I have to show proof of insurance?

No matter the situation that led to your car’s impoundment, you will likely have to prove your car is insured to get it out of the impound lot.