Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • You need a driver’s license and an up-to-date car insurance policy to get your impounded car back
  • It can cost anywhere between $100 and $1,000 to get your impounded vehicle back
  • You can search for your impounded car online with the VIN and license plate number

What happens if police impound your car? You’ll have to pay the necessary fees to recover your vehicle, potentially costing $1,000 or more. However, you may not be able to get your impounded car back immediately if you or the car were involved in a crime.

The police will tow a car if it is undrivable or suspected as evidence in a crime. They will also tow your vehicle after an arrest for DUI, driving without insurance, or reckless driving.

Getting your impounded car back starts with a call to the police station.

This guide covers everything you need to know about state impound laws and how much it costs to recover a car impounded by police. Keep reading to learn what happens to vehicles seized by police and how you can get your impounded car back quickly.

How do I get my impounded car back?

Figuring out the location of your impounded vehicle is the first step to getting it back. The police will note the towing company on your citation if they seize your car.

If you were not involved in a crime, you should still call the police station to find out if they impounded your vehicle. They will connect you with the impound lot or your local parking authority to help you find that information.

It can take up to 48 hours for paperwork to process, and you may have to wait that long to find your car. Even if you use an online impounded vehicle locator, you still have to wait a few hours before it appears in the database.

If the police or the parking authority can’t locate your car, call back every few hours. Once you confirm the impound lot, call them and determine what you need to get your vehicle back.

You must have your VIN and license plate number to find your impounded car. 

The police, parking authority, and impound lot all need your VIN and license plate to confirm the location of your vehicle. When you arrive to recover your car, you’ll need to provide proof of insurance and registration.

What do you need to get a car out of impound?

Bring the following documents when you recover your car from impound:

  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle title and registration
  • Proof of insurance

The impound accepts proof of registration in place of a title if you have a car loan or lease your vehicle. Impound lots will also accept rental agreements from car rental agencies. However, you may need to request a hearing and obtain a notarized power of attorney to get back your impounded car if the police arrested you at the time.

You cannot recover an impounded car without an up-to-date insurance policy. If police seized your vehicle for driving without insurance, you need to buy car insurance before getting your impounded vehicle. 

How much car insurance do you need? The impound lot requires drivers to carry the state’s minimum liability to retrieve their vehicles. However, they may require full coverage if you have a car loan.

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

Each state has different laws that dictate when a vehicle can get towed and how much it will cost. In most cases, drivers are responsible for paying the following:

  • $250+ for towing
  • $75+ for impound
  • $100+ per day for storage
  • $20+ per day for release

Most local towing companies charge different fees for different vehicles because the larger and heavier one is, the more it costs to tow it. You may also face mileage charges and flatbed fees. 

Release and storage fees also vary by city. For example, drivers in Chicago pay a max towing fee of $150, while drivers in Sacramento pay up to $180. So research your local laws and get an average cost estimate before heading to the impound lot to recover your car.

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What happens to cars seized by police?

The police can impound your car if you drive without insurance, get a DUI, get in a reckless driving accident, or if your vehicle is related to a crime.

Police will seize and impound your vehicle if:

  • The police arrest you for DUI.
  • You’re driving without insurance or a valid license.
  • Your vehicle is impeding traffic or public safety.
  • Your vehicle is undrivable.
  • You are involved in an accident with an injury or death.
  • You have outstanding felonies.

Once seized, police can search your vehicle and use whatever they find to build their case. In some cases, police will put an immobilization order on your vehicle, which means your impounded car cannot leave until you meet the terms of the order.

For example, if you have felony-level speeding tickets, you cannot get your impounded car back until you pay those fines. If you have a suspended license due to a DUI conviction, your vehicle might remain impounded until you get your driving privileges. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how long an impound lot will store your car. If you don’t claim your car or pay the fees on time, the impound will auction your vehicle.

How long does a DUI stay on your record? It depends on where you live and your offense level. On average, DUIs and most felonies remain on your driving record for three to five years.

Do car insurance rates go up if the police seize your car?

The only factors that raise your car insurance rates are behaviors that increase your risk as a driver. So if the police impound your vehicle for parking illegally, your car insurance rates would not go up, though you’d be responsible for towing and impound fees.

However, your rates will increase if police seize your vehicle for reckless driving or causing an accident. Your insurance rates may also increase if your car is stolen and you file a claim, even if it’s recovered. 

This table shows how much your monthly auto insurance rates can increase based on your driving record:

Average Monthly Car Insurance Rates by Company and Driving Record

CompaniesMonthly Rates with a Clean Driving RecordMonthly Rates w/ One Speeding ViolationMonthly Rates w/ One AccidentMonthly Rates w/ One DUI Conviction
American Family$224$252$310$361
Liberty Mutual$398$475$517$634
State Farm$235$266$283$303
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Even if you didn’t break the law, you are still responsible for finding your car and paying the fees to recover it from impound. If you have comprehensive car insurance, you can file a claim to cover some costs. However, filing a claim will raise your future auto insurance rates.

How to Get Back Your Impounded Car: The Bottom Line

Once the police seize and impound your vehicle, getting it back will be costly. The cost varies based on your location, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $1,000 to recover your vehicle.

Ensure you have the following documents to get back your impounded car:

  • Driver’s license
  • VIN
  • Vehicle title and registration
  • Proof of insurance

If the police arrested you and impounded your car, or if your vehicle was involved in a crime, you cannot recover it immediately. Police can issue an immobilization order on your car, requiring you to meet the order’s terms before getting it back. 

If the police impounded your vehicle for driving without insurance, you can’t get it back until you have new insurance. Unfortunately, reinstating a policy can raise your rates, so shop around with at least three different companies before buying car insurance.