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
|Total number of vehicle seizures
|Number of destroyed vehicles
|Number of vehicles sold at auction
|Number of vehicles returned to their owners
|Avon & Somerset
The West Midlands saw the highest number of vehicle seizures with an impressive 24,514 vehicles possessed by the police force in 2022.
While 65% of these vehicles were returned to their owners, one in three of these vehicles were destroyed and 274 vehicles were sold at auction.
According to Crimerate, the West Midlands is the second most dangerous region in England. The overall crime rate in the West Midlands in 2022 was 98 crimes per 1,000 people and vehicle crime accounted for 7.7% of the total crime statistics. In fact, 22% of their seized vehicles were reported as stolen vehicles in 2022.
The second region with the highest number of seized vehicles is West Yorkshire with 19,635 vehicle seizures. 7% of these vehicles were re-sold at auction, the highest sold-at-auction figures in the UK, while nearly three quarters of police possessed vehicles were returned to their owners.
October 2022 saw the highest number of police vehicle seizures in West Yorkshire, while February had the highest number of destroyed vehicles.
Lancashire ranked in third, with 14,744 seized vehicles. Vehicle crime accounted for 1.3% of the total crime statistics in Lancashire.
The most common reasons for vehicle seizures
|Road Traffic Collision
|Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)
|Road Traffic Collision (life altering)
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.
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 2022, 54,726 vehicles were impounded for having no insurance or licence, with the highest volume in the West Midlands with 8,010 vehicles seized in the 12 month period.
The second most common reason is road traffic collisions with 47,031 incidents leading to vehicle seizures. Dundee had the highest number of incidents with 8,012 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 2,007 vehicles were seized in this period due to serious or fatal accidents.
Over 20,000 cars were impounded by the police in 2022 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 Bedfordshire had the highest number of stolen vehicles in the country.
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.
- 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, 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 and Wales replied to our Freedom of Information request with data on vehicle seizures in 2022, as of October 16th 2023.