Displaying unsafe driving behaviour, such as excessive speeding, or committing certain driving infractions can lead to the immediate impoundment of the vehicle being operated. This provides an immediate impact on road safety as the vehicle will be off the road where it cannot be misused.
Police are required to impound vehicles driven by unlicensed, under-licensed, prohibited and suspended drivers; street racers and stunt drivers; excessive speeders; many impaired drivers; certain motorcycle offenders; and other unsafe motor vehicle operators. The impoundment period depends on the nature of the infraction and may escalate for vehicle owners with prior impoundments. For more information see:
The Notice of Impoundment and Term of Impoundment
If the police are having the vehicle you are driving impounded, they will issue you a Notice of Impoundment that contains all the details of the impoundment. A copy of this notice will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle if you are not the registered owner.
If the vehicle is being impounded due to a non-impaired driving infraction, the impoundment will be immediate and for at least seven days. The Office of Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is notified and staff review your driving record. If your driving record is unsatisfactory, the term of impoundment may be lengthened.
Non-impaired driving infractions
- 7-day impoundment for your first infraction
- 30- day impoundment for your second infraction
- 60-day impoundment for your third and further driving infractions within the last two years
Immediate Roadside Prohibition Impaired driving infractions – Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) not less than 0.05
- 3-day impoundment for your first infraction (at police discretion)
- 7- day impoundment for your second infraction (at police discretion)
- 30-day impoundment for your third and further infractions within the last five years (mandatory)
Immediate Roadside Prohibition Impaired driving infractions – BAC not less than 0.08, or for refusal to provide a breath sample
- 30-day impoundment (mandatory)
See also, Immediate Roadside Prohibition Penalties
Costs Relating to the Vehicle Impoundment
Costs related to vehicle impoundment are the responsibility of vehicle owner. In the case of stolen vehicles being impounded, owners may have their vehicles released from impoundment early after filing a stolen vehicle police report; however they are still responsible for paying the towing and storage fees to the impound lot. Registered owners whose vehicles are impounded while operated by other drivers may wish to recover costs from the driver by taking them to provincial court, with or without laying charges for theft.
Retrieving your Vehicle from the Impound Lot
Impoundment due to driving without a licence
If your vehicle was impounded because you or the person operating it was unlicensed at the time, your vehicle can be released once you or the person who operated it is issued with a new driver's licence. To receive a driver's licence a person must attend a Driver Services Centre. This option is not available if the driver was prohibited from driving. For further information, contact the Insurance Corporation of B.C.
7 Days or Less Impoundment Period — after the impoundment period ends, the owner of the vehicle will have to go to the impoundment lot to collect the vehicle. The owner will have to show their valid driver’s licence and pay all towing and storage costs before the vehicle will be released.
Over 7 Days Impoundment Period – After the impoundment period ends, the owner of the vehicle, will have to first go to a driver licensing office with their valid driver’s licence and the Notice of Impoundment. A Request for Vehicle Release form will be completed and the licensing office will fax it to the impound lot. Then the owner must go the impoundment lot , show their valid driver’s licence and pay all towing and storage costs before the vehicle will be released.
Note: If the date on your Notice of Impoundment says your impoundment ends on a weekend or holiday, you may complete the Request for Vehicle Release form on the last business day before the weekend. If the impound lot is open then you may pick it up on the release date.
Can’t collect the vehicle yourself? If you are the vehicle owner but unable to collect the vehicle from the impound lot yourself, you may authorize someone else to retrieve it from the impoundment lot. First you must get an Owner’s Authorization form from a driver licensing office to complete. The person you authorize must take the completed and signed Owner’s Authorization and the Notice of Impoundment to the impound lot to retrieve the vehicle. That person must show his/her valid B.C. driver’s licence to the impound lot representative and pay all towing and storage cost.
If the vehicle was stolen and impounded – In the case of stolen vehicles being impounded, owners may have the vehicles released from impoundment early after filing a stolen vehicle report with police; however owners are still responsible for paying the impound lot operator fees, including the cost of storage up until release.
If the vehicle is not reclaimed – When impoundment period ends and the vehicle is not retrieved, the company that impounded the vehicle may apply to the Superintendent to dispose of the vehicle. If the towing and storage costs are outstanding on the vehicle that was impounded, the vehicle owner may be unable to apply for a driver’s licence or insure another vehicle until this debt to the impoundment company is paid.
Early Release of the Impounded Vehicle
Someone with a valid B.C. driver’s licence who resides with the driver or is in business with the driver may request a review to have the vehicle released from impoundment early on compassionate or economic hardship grounds — for example, the vehicle is used by the driver’s family and it is required for work, school or medical appointments as there is no other kind of transportation available; or the vehicle is used by the driver’s business partner and for the partner to not have access to it would prove economic hardship to the business.
In the case of unlicensed drivers, the impounded vehicle may be released early once the driver is issued a new driver’s licence. There are application fees and release fees associated with these processes.
For procedure on how to apply for early release of a vehicle see:
Requesting a Review of the Impoundment
See Review of a Vehicle Impoundment and Early Release of a Vehicle on the Disputes, Appeals and Reviews page on this website.