So Your Car Was Impounded in Canada: How Do You Get It Out?

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Article Contents
Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated on May 21, 2024

Visit author page
Picture of By <span>Aren Mirzaian</span>
By Aren Mirzaian

Updated May 21, 2024

Visit author page

6 minute read

Article Contents

Getting your car impounded anywhere can be a problem, especially if you need the car for work or other important purposes.

Car Impoundment in Canada at a Glance

  • To get your car out of impound, you need to fix the cause of the impoundment and pay any outstanding fees.
  • Car impoundment can affect your auto insurance rates negatively.
  • Different provinces have different rules for vehicle impoundment.

Generally speaking, if your car is impounded, then you need to work with the local authorities to retrieve it. However, the procedure for getting your car out of impound differs by area. For example, if your car was towed in Toronto, you can call the Toronto Police Service’s non-emergency line for the next steps.

What happens if your car is impounded somewhere other than Toronto? How does impoundment affect your insurance rates? To learn more about those, let’s dive deeper into vehicle impoundment in Canada.

Understanding Police Impoundment in Canada

So, what happens if your car is impounded by the police? If your car is impounded by police, you generally need to wait until its mandated impounded period expires. Then, you can pay the associated fees to get your vehicle released. Remember that the procedure and process may differ depending on your location.

The infographic below outlines the steps one should take if their car has been impounded by the police:

What to do if police impound your vehicle

How Impoundment Affects Your Car Insurance Rates

Unfortunately, impoundment does negatively affect your car insurance rates. Some reasons for impoundment, like stunt driving, may get you marked as a high-risk driver, which similarly increases your insurance rates.

It’s best to drive safely and ensure your car doesn’t get impounded in the first place to keep your auto insurance rates from jumping.

Navigating Car Impoundment Differences in Different Provinces

Different provinces treat car impoundment differently. Let’s take a look at four Canadian provinces and how impoundment works in each one:

In Ontario, your vehicle can be impounded if you drive with a suspended driver’s licence, no matter what vehicle you drive. This also extends to people driving vehicles they don’t own, so make sure you don’t lend your vehicle to anybody without a valid driver’s licence.

Here are some other reasons for vehicle impoundment in Ontario:

  • Getting arrested while driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Having too many unpaid parking tickets
  • Committing traffic violations and can’t provide proof of insurance or if your vehicle registration is expired
  • Leaving your car unattended in a public area for a long time

Your vehicle impoundment period is usually determined by why your licence is suspended. Let’s take a look at common impoundment periods and their related offences:

  • 7 days: Highway Traffic Act offences like having a blood alcohol concentration at or above the legal blood alcohol limit in the province of 0.08.
  • 14 days: Street racing or stunt driving, which includes excessive speeding, using illegal car modifications, and driving recklessly. Check our guide to stunt driving in Ontario for more details.
  • 45 days: Criminal Code convictions like driving while impaired or leaving the scene of a collision.

Fortunately, you can appeal a vehicle impoundment in Ontario for a refund on its towing and storage costs. If your vehicle was stolen at the time of impoundment, you can make an appeal. You can also appeal if your licence is still active or if losing your car can result in exceptional hardship.

British Columbian police are obligated to impound vehicles driven by:

  • People with suspended licences
  • Excessive speeders
  • Street racers
  • Certain motorcycle offenders
  • Unlicenced drivers
  • Alcohol-affected drivers

Your impoundment period in British Columbia will differ depending on the offence and how many infractions you have on record. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 7-day impoundment for your first infraction
  • 30-day impoundment for your second infraction
  • 60-day impoundment if you have three or more infractions in the past two years

If you’re found with blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or more than 0.05, here’s the breakdown:

  • 3-day impoundment for your first infraction
  • 7-day impoundment for your second infraction
  • 30-day impoundment for three or more infractions in the past five years

Police may impound your vehicle for the first and second infractions. However, they must do so for the third. You’ll also get a mandatory 30-day impoundment if your BAC is equal to or greater than 0.08 or you refuse a breath test.

The good news is you can apply for an early release for your impounded vehicle in British Columbia. You can do so if you have compassionate or economic reasons, like if your spouse or business partner needs it for work and not having that vehicle would cause hardship.

You can also apply for an impoundment decision review if the impoundment lasts more than seven days and fulfills one of these conditions:

  • Your vehicle was used without consent.
  • Your vehicle was stolen.
  • You need the vehicle to avoid economic hardship.
  • You, as an unlicensed driver, have a new driver’s licence.

You can submit a review application at any ICBC driver licensing office. Then, ICBC will submit it to RoadSafetyBC, and a review will be scheduled afterwards. For more details, you can check the official British Columbia page for vehicle impoundment.

In Quebec, your vehicle can be impounded for 7, 30, or 90 days if a peace officer witnesses you committing certain Highway Safety Code offences. 

Some reasons for vehicle seizure in Quebec include:

  • Driving with a licence under penalty
  • Driving without a licence or one of the wrong class
  • Driving while impaired by cannabis or other drugs 
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Disobeying the order of a peace officer without a reasonable excuse
  • Excessive speeding
  • Driving the vehicle in a street race
  • Driving with a car surfer on board
  • Offering remunerated transportation without having the appropriate licence or qualification

You can apply for an early impoundment release if you weren’t driving if:

  • You didn’t consent to the driver using your vehicle.
  • You didn’t know the driver’s licence was invalid or under penalty, despite trying to find out.
  • You didn’t foresee the driver driving under the influence, speeding excessively, or refusing to provide a breath sample.

If you were driving when your vehicle was seized, you need to prove that you didn’t perform the offence or were unaware of it to get an early release.

Note that you only have ten days to claim your vehicle from the end of its impoundment period in Quebec. You’ll receive a recovery notice if you don’t recover it within ten days after the deadline. If you still ignore it, your vehicle will either be transferred to the pound custodian or sold, depending on its value.

Alberta has two different vehicle seizure programs which serve different purposes:

  • Immediate Roadside Sanctions (IRS): A program for seizing drivers operating vehicles while impaired.
  • Suspended Driver Vehicle Seizure Program: A program for drivers operating vehicles with a suspended or disqualified licence.

The IRS has several program categories for different driving offences. Let’s take a look:

  • IRS WARN: This penalty applies when your BAC is between 0.05 and 0.079 or when you fail drug and alcohol sobriety tests. Depending on the number of offences committed, you can face up to 7 days of impoundment, among other penalties like fines and licence suspensions.
  • IRS FAIL: This penalty applies when your BAC is 0.08 or above, or you fail or refuse to test. Depending on the number of offences on your record, you can face up to 30 days of impoundment, fines, and a potential lifetime driver’s licence suspension.
  • IRS ZERO: Novice: Alberta has zero tolerance for alcohol and drug use by novice drivers. Offences will be met with a 30-day licence suspension, a 7-day vehicle seizure, and fines.
  • IRS ZERO: Commercial: Depending on the number of offences committed, commercial drivers found using alcohol and drugs can face up to 30 days of licence suspension.
  • IRS 24-HOUR: You may be subject to a 24-hour licence suspension if you’re suspected to be impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other conditions.

Some other details to remember about vehicle impoundment in Alberta:

  • Vehicles are seized based on what the driver did during the incident. This means the vehicle doesn’t need to belong to the driver.
  • The registered vehicle owner at the time of seizure is responsible for all costs incurred.
  • Information on your vehicle seizure is listed on the seizure notice.
  • All seizure costs are payable upon its expiry or termination.

Main Reasons Your Car Might Be Impounded (Infographic)

The below infographic provides an informative overview of the common reasons your car might be impounded in Canada.

Reasons your car might be impounded

Are you interested in knowing how unpaid parking tickets may impact your insurance rates? Visit our article to learn more.

Key Advice from MyChoice

Now that we’ve learned more about vehicle impoundment and its consequences, here are some top tips to keep in mind:

  • Your vehicle can be impounded even if somebody else is driving it. Always ensure that whoever you lend your vehicle to has an active licence and won’t commit traffic offences.
  • Getting your vehicle impounded raises your car insurance rates. Therefore, keeping your vehicle from the impound lot will help you save money on car insurance.
  • Different provinces have different rules about vehicle seizure and impoundment. Familiarize yourself with the rules in your home province to ensure you don’t get confused if your vehicle gets impounded. This also applies to any province in which you regularly drive your car.

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