Can the police impound my car for no insurance?

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Chris Harrigan
Former Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Dec 14, 2017

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Key takeaways...
  • If you’re ever caught driving without insurance, a law enforcement officer can issue you a ticket or worse
  • In most states, officers can’t pull over a vehicle just because it’s uninsured. There must be another reason for a traffic stop
  • Since driving without insurance is a crime, the officer may arrest you or have your vehicle towed
  • If your vehicle is towed, you may not be able to get the vehicle released to you if there’s a mandatory order for impound
  • If your car is impounded, you’ll have to pay for the tow, storage, and impound fees to get the car released

You can only break a law for so long until you’re caught. Years ago, when police officers used antiquated systems in their squad cars, drivers could easily get away with driving without insurance with some invalid documents in their car.

Now, an auto insurance ID card isn’t enough to trick an officer into thinking that you have coverage.

If you’ve ever driven without insurance in the past, you need to know what some of the newer consequences are for violating the law. Since being insured is part of the vehicle code in most states, driving an uninsured vehicle is a misdemeanor in most courts of law.

Not only can you be cited for an infraction, you can also lose your car for a limited period of time.

Avoid the consequences of breaking the law! Find the car insurance that’s right for you by using our free comparison tool above.

Here’s what you need to know about police impounds:

How can police officers see if you have any insurance?


It’s just protocol for a law enforcement officer who’s pulling you over for a routine traffic stop to ask you to hand over the following:

  • Your license
  • Your registration
  • Your proof of auto insurance

While some states don’t have electronic database systems in place, most of them do. So if you hand over an invalid evidence of insurance, you could land yourself in more trouble.

Most states have some type of electronic database tool in place that all officers have access to while they are on-duty in their police car.

To use these systems, all the officer has to do is type in the license plate number to see if insurance is reported on the car. Since companies are required to report real-time, the information will be up to date.

Can a police officer pull you over for no insurance?

Officers may have the upper hand now when it comes to determining if a driver has insurance, but in no way does that mean that it’s okay for the officer to pull someone over just because they see a car with expired insurance in the computer system.

Driving without insurance is a secondary violation. This means that the officer must have a valid reason to stop the vehicle before the driver is cited for having no insurance. It could be a moving violation or suspicion of criminal activity.

If law enforcement pulled someone over just because of the insurance violation, the charge would be thrown out.

What happens when you’re pulled over and you don’t have insurance?


When you don’t have valid insurance it doesn’t bode well for you with the police. Some officers who are feeling friendly might let you go and send you off with a stern warning, but since the states are cracking down on uninsured drivers, this isn’t common anymore.

It’s more common to be issued a ticket where you’re ordered to show proof of active insurance in court when you arrive for your mandatory appearance. In addition to having to appear in court, you’ll be ordered to pay a stiff fine.

Fines range depending on the state that you live in and how many times you’ve been caught without insurance.

Sometimes states require officers to tow vehicles when the driver has no insurance. This makes sense because the officer would be sending you off to violate the law once again. If your car is towed, you’ll have to find a way home and pick your vehicle up.

Your car won’t be released to you until you can pay the fees and show that you have insurance.

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Under what circumstances will your vehicle be impounded after a traffic stop?

The uninsured motorist rate is nearly 13 percent nationwide. In some states, more than 20 percent of the drivers don’t have insurance. It’s the states with the higher rates of uninsured vehicles that are enforcing new protocols to thwart people from violating this important law.

One of the new protocols that has been passed in some states like Alaska is to assess a mandatory impound when a car is being driven without insurance.

Second-time offenders will have their vehicle impounded for at least 30 days in Alaska. Sometimes, the mandatory impound is assessed after the first offense for more than just 30 days.

What do you have to pay for when your car is impounded?


A vehicle impound can cost you a fortune. Some people have to pay so much to get their car out that they will let it sit there because it’s not worth the total amount due.

Some of the costs you’ll have to pay to get your vehicle released include:

  • Hook-up charge
  • Towing charge per mile
  • Storage fee at the lot
  • Impound fee assessed by the police
  • Fine for being cited for driving without insurance
  • Cost to enroll to complete community service (if it’s required)

Your Car May Be Impounded For Suspended Plates

If impounding the car isn’t mandatory in your state, it still could happen. In many states, the DMV will actually suspend your license plates for failing to respond to a letter asking for proof of your insurance.

If this happens, a simple traffic stop could turn into a long encounter with the police.

In most cases, your car will be towed away to the police state or an impound lot when you don’t have valid tags. You can’t immediately go and pick up the car because you’ll have to straighten everything out with your car first.

This means that you need to get insurance and then reinstate your plates.

If you need to insurance to comply with the law, you need to act now. Get online quotes via the world wide web and you can instantly compare quotes from several carriers at the same time.

Make sure to choose the right coverage options and thoroughly review each quote to bind the best coverage through the best carrier. Get started right now!

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