Police have seized almost half a million cars from drivers in the last two years from offences ranging from driving without insurance to parking illegally.
Between 2019 and 2020 176,599 cars were impounded because their driver was found to either have no insurance or no licence - more than any other offence.
In 2020 alone, when traffic numbers were down, more than 93,000 cars were seized under Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act. This section gives police the power to seize a vehicle from anyone who can’t provide proof of at least third party insurance or who cannot produce their driving licence.
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As well as the risk of losing your car, driving without insurance carries a fixed penalty notice fine of £300 and six points on your licence. More serious cases can go to court where you can be hit with an unlimited fine and a driving ban.
For drivers caught without a licence or driving “otherwise than in accordance” with their licence the punishment is usually three to six penalty points and a fine of up to £1,000, as well as a possible ban.
A further 103,584 cars were seized over the two years after being involved in collisions. These seizures could be either because police needed to use the vehicle as evidence or simply because the car in question was no longer roadworthy. There was a significant difference between 2019 and 2020, with 12,000 fewer such seizures while the country was stuck in lockdown.
Stolen cars accounted for 48,440 of the 479,310 car seizures in the last two years, with police also impounding vehicles used in crime (36,389) and those found to be illegally parked (23,511).
The police data obtained from forces around the UK by Compare the Market also revealed the areas with the most offenders, with the heavily populated West Midlands top of the list of shame. Since 2019, police in the region, which includes the UK's second largest city, Birmingham, have seized more than 51,500 cars, ahead of West Yorkshire, where 45,000 vehicles have been impounded.
Surrey, Lancashire and Kent all had between 24,000 and 27,000 seizures each, with Kent recording the sharpest increase, with a 37 per cent jump in cases between 2019 and 2020.
Dan Hutson, head of car insurance at Compare the Market commented: “Though some instances of a car seizure are completely unavoidable, cars are essential to so many of us in our everyday lives we all want to avoid any chance of it being seized. As the most common reason for a car seizure includes driving without insurance, always make sure your car is up to date and fully insured.”