What happens to cars seized by police in the UK?

Every other day many vehicles, commonly cars, are seized by police here in the UK. Police usually take possession of stolen or salvaged vehicles. When the owner is unable to claim his vehicle, such vehicles end up in junkyards.

Sometimes, good quality cars or vehicles are seized by the police and sent for auctions. And you could use this opportunity if you’re looking for a bargain on your new car. Learn more on this topic in our article: Police repossessed cars for sale in the UK.

There could be several outcomes of a car seizure but let’s first talk about when the can police seize a car. 

UK Policeman stopping a car in traffic

When can police seize your car?

Police can seize a car when it is used in the commission of a crime, such as driving without insurance or when it’s been used to transport goods or people illegally.

When cars are seized by the police, the registered keeper will be sent a letter giving them seven days to reclaim the vehicle. If the vehicle is not reclaimed within this period, the police can dispose of it as they see fit.

Although you may think fast or rash driving can get you in trouble, it’s not the only thing. Police legally have the authority to seize any vehicle or car even if it’s mildly linked to a crime. A car that is somehow linked to evidence comes under the same criteria.

It means you don’t even have to drive your car for the police to seize it. Police can seize your vehicle even on the basis of doubt. If your car, in a way, is a public threat or causes any kind of harassment to the general public, you, may get a seizure notice pretty soon.

However, a police officer commonly sizes a car if:

  • You don’t have proper documents like a driving license or car insurance 
  • You have left your car abandoned
  • You were driving carelessly causing a threat to people’s life
  • You have parked your vehicle illegally

Please note that in the UK you don’t have to carry with you your car insurance or the driver license. It is not compulsory to have these on you but you have to prove their existence if asked. However, it’s a good idea to always have your car insurance and driver license with you, in case of an emergency. You never know when someone might ask for proof!

Usually, cars are abandoned due to some major issues, maybe an engine failure where repairs are costly than buying a new car. Or there could be some accidents which may lead to an abandoned car. However, police have the right to remove cars or vehicles which are either parked illegally or are an obstruction.

And in such cases, it doesn’t matter whether or not the car is stolen.   

UK Police asking for driver and car documents

What happens to your car when the police seize it?

The worst thing that could happen to your car when the UK police seize it is

  • It will be crushed and scrapped.
  • It will be auctioned off to the public.
  • It will be stored in a police compound.

Regardless of the reason behind the seizure, police will tow your car to the nearest local police station, which acts as an on-site impound. If, for example, you were there at the time of seizure, the police will issue a seizure notice and will let you know where your vehicle or car will be taken.

From the day of seizure, you’ll get around seven days to produce documents that prove you’re the owner. It’ll help you reclaim your vehicle. And you’ll then get seven more days to completely recover your car from their custody. If you can’t reclaim your car, the police might auction it off.

It is not just cars that the police seize. You could also find yourself on the wrong side of the law if your motorcycle is seized.

Car seized by UK Police sent to scrap yard

What documents do you need to reclaim your seized car?

You can legally reclaim your vehicle but only with strong documents. You’ll also have to show up on time which is within seven days of seizure. However, you’ll have another seven days, which makes it a fourteen-day period. If you don’t show up, this will happen:

  • The car will be auctioned off to the public or to a licensed car dealer
  • You will have to pay storage and removal fees

You’ll need valid proof of identity. A passport or even a driving license will work. You’ll also need motor vehicle insurance to get your car back from the authorities. One last thing you need is a full Vehicle Registration document which has your address on it. This doc proves that you’re the sole owner of the vehicle.

Can you reclaim your care for free?

Well, No! You cannot get away with a car seizure for free. The police commonly charge around £200 as a release fee and a storage fee too. The storage fee is charged per day or per half day. So, if you wait for too long, you may end up paying somewhere around £500 or more. And this is the last thing you would like to do.

What if you don’t show up even after 14 days?

In case you fail to or choose not to show up to reclaim your vehicle, something worse will happen. The police officials will dispose of your car. What will exactly happen to your or someone’s car depends on the condition it was found in. 

If the car was found in a pretty bad condition or was beyond repairs, officials will get it scarped or crushed. And, if the car is in pretty good shape, perhaps stolen, will go to some auction house for sale to the local people.

Wrapping up!

Don’t think that if you have an expensive car, the police will not send it to the scrap yard. Regardless of the car’s value, if you are caught without insurance, and the police confiscate your vehicle, and you do not show up to pick it up in 14 days, there are maximum chances to find it in the form of a pile of crushed iron.

Now that you know what happens when police seize a car make sure it never happens with you. Even if it does, you know how to reclaim it from the authorities. If you were just curious about the information, here’s a secret: you can find good cars at auction centres at affordable prices. A common go-to place for car auctions can be RAW2K.