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Car Seize How many cars get seized on Britain’s roads and which police forces seize the most?

Every year, police across the UK take control of thousands of cars, for all kinds of different reasons.

Whether they’ve been stolen or used in a crime, involved in an accident, abandoned by the side of the road, or even just because the driver doesn’t have tax or insurance, there are many reasons why the police can take a vehicle.

But which 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 Freedom of Information requests to each police force in the UK.

1. West Midlands

2019 car seizures: 26,681

2020 car seizures: 24,850

2019-2020 total car seizures: 51,531

Taking the top spot with the most car seizures in 2019 and 2020 is the West Midlands, with over 51,000 vehicles being impounded in this time period. It’s safe to assume that a large number of these seizures took place in the UK’s second city, Birmingham, which is at the heart of the area.

2. West Yorkshire

2019 car seizures: 23,703

2020 car seizures: 21,464

2019-2020 total car seizures: 45,167

In second place is West Yorkshire, with over 45,000 vehicle seizures in the last two years. West Yorkshire is home to a couple of major towns and cities such as Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield, so it’s perhaps not too surprising that it has one of the highest overall numbers of vehicles being detained.

3. Surrey

2019 car seizures: 14,236

2020 car seizures: 12,619

2019-2020 total car seizures: 26,855

The area which saw the third-highest number of car seizures was Surrey, where police confiscated over 26,000 cars in the last two years. The majority of these were from vehicles involved in RTCs (road traffic collisions), followed by ‘Section 165’ offences, which mean that the driver was driving without insurance or a licence.

1. No insurance/driving licence

2019 car seizures: 83,270

2020 car seizures: 93,329

2019-2020 total car seizures: 176,599

By far the most common reason that people have their cars seized in the UK is due to falling foul of Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which means the driver is uninsured or driving without a licence. Over 93,000 cars were seized under this ruling in the last year, up from 83,000 in 2019.

2. Road traffic collision

2019 car seizures: 57,637

2020 car seizures: 45,947

2019-2020 total car seizures: 103,584

Cars can also be seized by the police after being involved in an RTC (road traffic collision), whether that’s because they’re no longer in a roadworthy state after the accident, or perhaps to be kept as evidence by the police. 103,584 vehicles were detained for this reason in 2019-2020, with 7,526 of those being serious or fatal accidents.

3. Stolen

2019 car seizures: 26,593

2020 car seizures: 21,847

2019-2020 total car seizures: 48,440

Over 48,000 cars were impounded by police after being found to have been stolen. Again, police may want to keep hold of a stolen vehicle if it can be used as evidence, but ultimately they’ll try to get the car back to its rightful owner. That can be easier said than done though, as many of these vehicles are found abandoned and the vehicle may no longer be in a roadworthy condition.

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We contacted each police force in the UK via a Freedom of Information request, asking for the number of vehicles that they seized throughout 2019 and 2020, as well as their reasons for doing so.

Note South Yorkshire and Humberside provided fiscal year data which we used as a fair 12 month comparison.

Please note that each police force categorised their reasons for seizures slightly differently, which made it difficult to create a combined list of reasons, so bear in mind that there may be some overlap between the reasons for seizures.

The data could have been sourced from a live operating system, reflecting on a specific moment in time and is subject to change as incidents are finalised. In other words, car seizures may be initially recorded under a specific category but change with new information.  

Note that not all forces responded to our request, as of May 24th 2021.