How to get your car out of impound without insurance

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Several scenarios can cause your car to get impounded. You might get caught driving without any registration or a valid driver’s license. Or perhaps you just parked illegally. No matter the reason, if your car gets towed and impounded, you usually have to show proof of insurance to get it back.

If you do not have car insurance, it will be extremely difficult to get your car out of impound, and you may not be able to reclaim your car until you buy coverage. To drive off the tow lot, you legally need to have a valid car insurance policy, plus you will have to pay certain fees before your vehicle is released.

What happens when your car is impounded

Your car may get impounded for lots of reasons. If you get pulled over for a serious traffic violation, such as driving without insurance or a DUI, a law enforcement officer will likely have your car towed. Once impounded, your vehicle can usually remain in the tow lot for up to 30 days, but it depends on the state. You must get your car out of impound within that period, or the towing company might be legally allowed to sell it or scrap it.

Reasons why your car might be impounded

There are a variety of reasons why your car might get impounded. In most cases, your car can get impounded if you get pulled over, and the officer decides that you should not be driving or cannot legally drive based on a law you violated. Here are a few potential situations that can lead to your car getting impounded:

  • Parking illegally: If your car is parked illegally or parked in a spot blocking traffic, it may get towed to an impound lot.
  • Not having car insurance: Car insurance is a legal requirement to drive in almost every state. If you get pulled over and do not have an active car insurance policy, your car may get towed and impounded.
  • Not having a driver’s license: Every state requires you to have a valid driver’s license to drive. If you get caught driving with a license, your car will likely be impounded.
  • Driving an unregistered car: Your car needs to be registered with the DMV in your state for you to drive legally. If you get pulled over driving an unregistered vehicle, it is possible that your car could get impounded. Note that having no registration is not the same as having an expired registration, which will typically result in just a ticket.
  • Driving recklessly: If you get pulled over for driving recklessly, which includes speeding at a much higher rate than the posted limit, your car may get impounded.
  • Driving under the influence: Drivers who get pulled over for a DUI/DWI will usually get their car impounded. Getting your car out of impound after a DUI/DWI can be especially difficult because you may lose your driving privileges.

Can I get my car out of impound without car insurance?

Getting your car out of impound without car insurance is extremely challenging. It is highly possible that you will not be able to get your vehicle back without insurance coverage. Legally, you would not be allowed to drive off the tow lot without insurance in most states anyway.

Unfortunately, there are not many ways around this. However, it is possible that the lot your car is being held in will not ask to see proof of insurance. You can contact the lot attendant and ask if you need to show proof of insurance to reclaim your car. But even if evidence of coverage is not required, keep in mind that you still need to have insurance to drive your car home legally.

Can I get car insurance while my car is impounded?

In almost every situation, car insurance is a requirement to get your car out of impound. The only exception is for drivers who live in New Hampshire or Virginia, where car insurance is not mandated. Even still, drivers in these two states may need to show proof of financial responsibility, like a deposit with the DMV, to get their car back.

Fortunately, you can get car insurance while your car is impounded. Many insurance providers allow you to shop for a policy, purchase it and download ID cards online in just a few minutes. So, if you need to get your car out of impound, you can buy insurance quickly, even on the weekends.

However, you should still make a smart decision about what insurance policy and how much coverage to purchase. If you are short on time, you might want to consider using an insurance marketplace to purchase a policy, which will help you find and compare the cheapest car insurance in your area.

Many insurers also have a mobile app that includes digital ID cards and proof of coverage. That way, there is no need to print the required documents before heading to the tow lot. You could even purchase a policy on the spot at the impound lot if you need proof of insurance to get your car back.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance company?

The best car insurance company is different for every driver. It depends on where you live, your budget, what type of coverage you need, which discounts you qualify for and more. To find the best company for you, be sure to shop around and compare insurers using your personal criteria.

If my car was repossessed, what should I do with my car insurance?

If your car gets repossessed, meaning it has been seized by your lender, you may be wondering what to do with your insurance. If you are not planning to purchase another car, you can cancel your car insurance policy. On the other hand, if you are planning to purchase another car or pay to get your current car back, you should keep your policy active to avoid a coverage lapse.

Will my car insurance cover damage from my car being towed?

The towing company’s insurance should cover it, because the damage would technically be their fault. If the towing company or their insurance will not accept responsibility, your car insurance could cover the damage to your vehicle if you have full coverage car insurance, which includes collision and comprehensive coverage. If you have liability-only car insurance, your insurance would not cover damage to your vehicle.

How much does car insurance cost?

Car insurance premiums vary based on many factors. Your state, age, claim history, driving record and the make and model of your vehicle can all impact your rate. For reference, the average cost of car insurance in the United States is $1,674 per year for a full coverage policy. Your rate for similar coverage may be higher or lower based on your circumstances.

Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth has two years of experience writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others. In addition to auto insurance, Elizabeth regularly writes about home insurance, renters insurance and life insurance. She also covers industry trends and general insurance education.
Edited by
Insurance Editor