If you parked illegally, are caught driving without car insurance, or got a DUI or DWI, the odds are good your car will be impounded. It isn’t easy to get your car out of impound, but it is necessary if you don’t want to lose your car for good.
If you leave your car in an impound lot for a certain amount of time, usually 30 days, the company will sell your car at auction to recoup the cost of storing your vehicle. To get your car back, it is important to take action as soon as possible.
How to get your car out of impound
There are several steps to getting your car out of impound, including:
Find out where your car is impounded: If your car was impounded at the scene of an accident or when police found out you were driving without insurance, they probably told you where your car is located. If your car was towed because it was parked illegally, you may have to do some research to find out which impound lot has your car. Start by contacting the people who had your car towed (the police if it was towed after an accident, etc.)
Call the impound lot: Before doing anything else, you need to call the impound lot and verify that they have your car. Once they have established that your car is in their lot, ask the attendant what information you will need to bring with you to pick up your car and exactly how much you owe. Make sure you know what payment options you have — it does no good to show up with a credit card if the impound lot only accepts cash or check.
Gather your payment, paperwork, etc.: The odds are good you will need your driver’s license and proof of insurance to get your car back. Depending on the laws in your state, you may also need a copy of your registration or other documentation. Whatever documentation you need, make sure you have it and that it is up-to-date. If you show up with an expired driver’s license or an old insurance policy they won’t let you leave with your car.
Pick up your car right away: Once you have everything you need, go pick up your car as quickly as possible. Impound lots charge daily fees, sometimes as much as $50 or more per day, so the longer you wait, the more it will cost to get your car back.
How to get your car out of impound without insurance
If your car has been impounded and you don’t have car insurance, getting your car back can be tricky. You can’t legally drive the car off of the tow lot without car insurance, which means you need to purchase insurance for your car before you drive it home.
If you have a little time, you can compare quotes from multiple companies to get the best rate on your car insurance and then buy a policy before you go pick up your car (typically, buying car insurance can be done in a single afternoon).
If your insurance recently expired, you can contact your insurance company to see if your prior policy can be reinstated. If it is outside of regular business hours, there are many companies that offer instant car insurance policies that can be purchased online in just a few minutes.
How to get your car out of impound without registration
Most of the time, bringing your vehicle registration to get your car out of impound is not necessary as long as you are listed as the owner of the vehicle. However, there are some situations where you may need to bring your registration or other proof of ownership with you to pick up your car.
For example, if you have had a legal name change since you registered your car, you may need to bring your registration and any documentation you have that proves your name has changed since the vehicle was registered.
How to get your car out of impound without a title
Similar to your registration, a title typically isn’t necessary to get your car out of impound, but there are some situations where not having it could cause problems picking up your vehicle.
For example, a lot of people are not diligent about getting the title of their vehicle transferred to their name right away when they purchase a used car. If you bought a car a few days before it was impounded and didn’t update the registration, you may need to bring a bill of sale, a copy of the original title with the ownership information filled out to you, or some other proof of ownership to be able to pick up your car from an impound lot. If this is an issue for you, make sure you ask the attendant at the impound lot what documentation they will accept as proof of ownership.
Why your car might be impounded — and how to prevent it
There are a number of reasons your car might be impounded, including:
Driving an unregistered car
Not having car insurance
Not having a driver’s license
Car was abandoned on the side of the road
In most cases, having your car impounded is completely preventable. Driving an unregistered car, not having car insurance, and not having a driver’s license are all easy to address.
For example, drivers who sometimes forget to pay their bills can set up automatic payments for their car insurance so they don’t have to worry about driving uninsured. Drivers who need help remembering when to renew their license can use automated reminders on their phone or computer to make sure they don’t let their license lapse.
If you had a breakdown on the side of the road and had to leave your car there, you have a limited amount of time before the police will have your car towed away. Drivers who want to prevent this from happening can purchase towing and labor cost coverage to help with roadside emergencies.
On the other hand, sometimes your car can be impounded due to negligent behavior like reckless driving or parking illegally. The easiest way to avoid having your car impounded is to drive carefully and make sure your license, registration, and insurance all stay up-to-date.