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Losing access to your car, whether for repairs or other reasons, is never fun. If you only have one car for the daily commute, you’ll have to figure out other transportation options. If your vehicle is impounded, you may have to wait even longer before it can be returned.

When your car is impounded, it’s taken to a tow yard or an impoundment lot. The car will remain there until it can be recycled, auctioned off, taken to a wrecking yard, or claimed by its owner. Getting your car out of impoundment requires time and money, but knowing what to do beforehand makes the process easier.

Reasons your car may be impounded

In most cases, your car will be impounded by the police department or another government agency. If you have a pile of unpaid parking tickets, your car could get towed to an impoundment lot. Sometimes, your vehicle may even be towed off an unauthorized parking space without advance notice.

Police can also seize your car if there is evidence that it was involved in a crime. If they search your car and find weapons or drugs, the vehicle is considered hazardous to other drivers and will be taken from the owner. Police will also consider the car unsafe if the driver does not have a license or if the license is suspended. 

The impoundment procedure

Two cars getting towed by a tow truck
Two cars and a tow truck | via Getty Images

Once the police department or municipality receives a grant of authority, they are legally allowed to tow your vehicle to an impoundment lot. This grant is usually given out by a court. They will locate your vehicle and send an impounding agent to take it away from wherever it’s parked. They are not obligated to consult with the owner at any time during the impoundment procedure, so don’t bother trying to persuade them to leave without your car.

If you leave your car in an impoundment lot for too long without attempting to reclaim it, your vehicle will likely be placed in a government auction. These cars are usually available to anyone in the general public and will not come with a warranty.

How to get your car out of the impound yard

Cars in an impound lot
Cars in an impound lot | via Getty Images

The process of getting your vehicle back may seem challenging, but it’s totally possible. Your first priority should be to find where your vehicle is being held. You can do this by calling your local government office or by checking online. Keep in mind it may take some time for the towing lot to update their registry to include your car.

Once you find the location of your vehicle, call the impound lot directly. Ask them to verify that they have your car and get their hours of operation. Impound lots won’t let you just come by and pick up your vehicle without some sort of paperwork or form of payment, so make sure you’re prepared to give them the appropriate information.

Impound lots typically require you to present proof of car insurance and a valid driver’s license. If you do not have insurance, you will have to get enrolled in a policy before your vehicle can be returned. You will only need the state’s minimum required insurance.

The towing lot needs to be reimbursed for towing and storage fees, so have some money set aside to pay them. The exact amount you need varies depending on the state. On average, you can expect to pay around $150 for towing, plus an additional $50-$80 for each day the vehicle is kept in the lot.