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From breakdowns to untaxed vehicles, crimes, abandoned cars and obstructions, every year police forces across the UK remove thousands of vehicles from our roads.

There are multiple reasons why the police can take a vehicle and the outcomes of this seizure can also vary; some vehicles are returned to their owners, while others are sold at auction and others are scrapped.

We wanted to find out what parts of the country see the most car seizures and what are some of the most common reasons that police take this step?

To find out, we conducted a Freedom of Information request to each police force in the UK for the number of impounded vehicles in 2022 and 2023. 

Top 10 regions with the highest number of car seizures

Top 10 regions with car seizures

Dundee saw the highest number of vehicle seizures with an impressive 23,344 vehicles possessed by the police force in 2023.

While 83% of these vehicles were returned to their owners, over one in six (17%) of these vehicles were either destroyed or sold at auction. There was an increase of 1,770 vehicles impounded in comparison to the previous year.

According to Statista, Dundee has a much higher rate of vehicle crime than the rest of Scotland. There were a total of 56.92 crimes recorded per 10,000 of the population in Dundee compared with the Scottish average of 21.32. In fact, 39% of their seized vehicles were reported as stolen vehicles in 2023.

The second region with the highest number of seized vehicles is the West Midlands, with 23,203 vehicle seizures in 2023. 30% of these vehicles were destroyed, 283 vehicles were sold at auction and 69% were returned to their owners.

The remains of a car frame from substantial fire damage

The overall crime rate in the West Midlands is 98 crimes per 1,000 people and vehicle crime accounted for 7.7% of the total crime statistics.

October 2023 saw the highest number of police vehicle seizures in the West Midlands, while June had the highest number of destroyed vehicles.

Greater Manchester ranked in third, with 22,317 seized vehicles. Vehicle crime accounted for 8.1% of the total crime statistics in Greater Manchester.

The most common reasons for vehicle seizures

The police can seize vehicles for a number of reasons, whether it has been used in a crime, abandoned, considered a nuisance or risk, or is untaxed.

Close up shot of blue flashing lights on police car roof

Our study revealed that the most common reason for a vehicle to be impounded was due to the driver having no insurance or driving licence, which means the vehicle does not abide by Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

You are required by law to hold a full, valid driving licence, with the only exception being learner drivers who hold a provisional licence and must be accompanied by a full licence holder. Additionally, under motoring law, anyone using a vehicle on the road or another public place must have valid insurance against third party risks. This includes vehicles which are merely parked on public roads and not being driven.

Drivers who don’t abide by these laws can face fines, driving bans and in the case here, see their vehicles seized.

In 2023, 56,707 vehicles were impounded for having no insurance or licence, compared to 44,290 in 2022. The highest volume of these cases were in the West Midlands with 7,339 vehicles seized in the previous 12 month period.

The second most common reason is road traffic collisions with 49,278 incidents leading to vehicle seizures, an increase of 8,973 incidents from 2022. Dundee had the highest number of incidents with 8,608 cars possessed by the police in that period.

In these events, the cars are typically seized because they’re no longer in a road-worthy state following the accident, or are being kept as evidence by the police. An additional 1,978 vehicles were seized in this period due to life altering accidents.

Over 20,000 cars were impounded by the police in 2023 after being found to have been stolen. When the police find a vehicle that’s been reported lost or stolen, they treat all vehicles as abandoned vehicles and move it to a police pound. This is done to protect the vehicle from further damage, ensuring it isn’t an obstruction or danger to other road users before contacting the registered vehicle owner in the hopes of returning it, if it’s in a roadworthy condition.

West Midlands, Dundee and West Yorkshire had the highest number of stolen vehicles in the UK.

Concerned your unused car could be considered abandoned?

An unused vehicle isn’t always considered abandoned, there is a certain criteria that classifies a car as abandoned by the letter of the law. The authorities typically run through the following checklist to see whether the vehicle is abandoned or not.

Abandoned and damaged car at the side of a road with hills in the background
  • The car has no registered keeper on the DVLA database, and is untaxed
  • The car has been stationary for a significant period
  • The car is significantly damaged, worn out or not fit for use on the road (including things like flat tyres or broken windows)
  • The car has been set on fire
  • The car is missing a number plate

As you can see, some of these are more extreme than others. It only needs one of these circumstances to be true of any motor for it to be considered abandoned.

If you have an unused vehicle that you wish to abandon, National Scrap Car will track down the highest offers for your motor from professional scrap and salvage specialists in your local area, wherever you are in the UK. We even let you choose a date and time for it to be collected from you at no extra cost.


We contacted each police force in the UK via a Freedom of Information request, asking for the number of vehicles that they seized throughout 2022 and 2023, what happened to those vehicles, as well as their reasons for doing so.

Please note that each police force used slightly different terminology to categorise their reasons for seizure, therefore there may be some overlap between categories.

26 out of 45 police forces in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales replied to our Freedom of Information request with data on vehicle seizures in 2022, as of October 16th 2023 and as of January 26th 2024.