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What should you do if you hit a parked car?

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It’s dark and you’ve just unknowingly hit a parked car, reversing out of a tight spot. Whether you are distracted or your visibility is bad, it’s all too easy to bump into another car, but even if no one is around, it’s important you own up to your blunder. Find out how to manage this sticky situation, without breaking the law or encountering problems with your car insurance, by reading our comprehensive guide. We also explain how you can still get get cheap car insurance in the future, and what to do if someone hits your own parked car.

Hitting parked cars is one of the most common car insurance claims in the UK and can easily happen when reversing or pulling up beside other vehicles. You can also inadvertently hit a parked car if you or one of your passengers opens a door too quickly.

Steps to take if you hit a parked car

If you accidentally scratch or hit a parked car, don’t panic. Follow these steps to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law or your insurance company:

  • Don’t drive away: Whether you’re in a car park or driving down the road when you hit a parked car, the number one rule is not to drive off and abandon the scene. It might only be a minor bump or a scratch, but Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act states that you must stop if you are driving a car that damages another vehicle or property, or injures a person or animal. Park or stop your car as safely as possible and put your hazard lights on if you are causing an obstruction in the road
  • Leave your contact details: If you have just hit a parked car, you must inform its owner. It’s generally best to talk in person, but if the owner isn’t around and it’s not practical to wait, then you must leave a note. Under the windscreen wiper is usually a secure spot.  Make sure you include your name, registration number and your address, as well as your phone number if you hope to talk to the owner. Whether you manage to chat to the car’s owner or have left a note, it’s always best to start with an apology. If there were any witnesses to the incident, it’s helpful to get their contact details too. Leave the scene without any attempts to inform the owner and it could be considered a ‘hit and run’
  • Make some notes: In case you are asked to provide any more information about the incident, it’s a good idea to take note of the location, the time of day, as well as the weather. You might also want to take note of the other car’s make, model, colour and registration number for your own records. If you have your phone on you, photos of the damage will be helpful too
  • Tell the police you have hit a parked car: According to the Met Police, if you hit a parked car and have successfully managed to exchange contact details with its owner and nobody was hurt, then there is no need to contact the police. However, if you either left the scene, or were not able contact the car’s owner, then you must report the incident within 24 hours. The easiest way to do this is to call the police by dialling 101 (the non-emergency number for the police), or you can report it in person at any police station. You will need to provide your name and contact details and provide information about the accident, where it happened and when
  • Phone your car insurer: Even if you are not making a car insurance claim, you should still inform your insurer. Failure to report an accident could potentially invalidate your cover. It’s also helpful if your car insurer already has information about what happened before the other driver makes a claim on their car insurance.
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What happens if I hit a parked car and left?

If you hit a parked car and cause any damage, you are required under section 170 of the Road Traffic Act to get in touch with the owner and provide your contact details and vehicle registration number.

The penalty for failing to stop after an accident depends on the seriousness of the case, and in a worst case scenario could result in disqualification from driving and a prison sentence. If you accidentally hit a parked car in a car park and drove away, you can typically expect to pay a fine and get five or six penalty points on your licence. However, you could get as many as 10 points if there are any aggravating circumstances, such as drink driving.

If you hit a parked car, it’s also important not to assume there’s no evidence of what happened. There could have been witnesses you didn’t see who reported the incident, as well as CCTV or dash-cam footage.

There could also be ramifications for your car insurance if you hit a parked car and drove off. 

If your insurer finds out that you hit a parked car and left, there is a risk your own cover will be invalidated. Similarly, if you end up with points on your licence, you will need to declare those to your insurance company when you renew your cover or arrange a new policy, which means your car insurance costs will go up.

There’s no need to panic if you did hit a parked car and left without leaving a note. You can stay on the right side of the law by reporting the incident to the police (call 101 or pop into a police station) within 24 hours.

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What to do when someone hits your parked car

If you arrive at your parked car to find it has been hit or damaged in some way, the first thing to do is check if anyone is around who might have witnessed the incident.

You should also check whether a note has been left – normally under the windscreen wiper – and appraise the damage. Take photos and make a note of the location, date and time of day.

If a note has been left, you can get in touch with the driver who hit your parked car. You should also contact your car insurer.

In many cases, the other driver will agree to foot the bill, especially if the damage is minor and it avoids an insurance claim. However, even if neither of you are submitting an insurance claim, you still need to report the incident to your insurer, otherwise there is a risk your policy will be invalidated.

If there isn’t a note, you need to report the incident to the police by calling 101. You should also call your insurance company. Again, even if you decide not to claim, you will still need to tell your insurer to avoid the risk of your policy being invalidated.

In the absence of a note or witnesses, it’s worth keeping an eye out for CCTV cameras. You can often find them around car parks or affixed to buildings if the accident was in the street. If you’re lucky, you might find footage of the incident and, if a registration number can be seen, it could help track down the driver that hit your parked car.


Unfortunately, if you hit a parked car, it’s likely that your car insurance will go up when you renew it. Any claim is likely to increase your costs, including claims for non-fault accidents.


Even if neither party makes a claim on their car insurance, your costs will normally go up after an accident. This is because you will be regarded as a higher risk driver by your provider.

How to get cheap insurance if your premium goes up after hitting a parked car

If you’ve seen your premiums go up after hitting a parked car, there are a number of steps you can take to cut the cost of your car insurance after making a claim.

  • Always shop around with a price comparison service – don’t auto-renew with your existing car insurer
  • Pay annually – although paying monthly might help you budget, you will pay more for your car insurance overall
  • Consider black box insurance – telematics or black box policies monitor your driving and can help careful drivers reduce the cost of their car insurance
  • Rebuild your no-claims discount – the longer you can go without claiming, the bigger the discount you will get. This means it sometimes makes sense not to make small claims, if you can afford to pay the bill yourself

Frequently asked questions about what to do if you hit a parked car

Yes. If you hit a parked car and drive away without leaving a note, you could be prosecuted for failing to stop after an accident, as it is a form of ‘hit and run’. You are likely to get a fine and between five and 10 points on your licence for hitting a parked car, depending on the circumstances and the severity of the incident.

If you don’t tell your insurance company about an accident, there is a risk your policy will be invalidated. This applies even if you, or any other parties involved, don’t make a claim on your car insurance.  

Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurer, and you will likely find the requirement to inform it of any accidents detailed in the terms and conditions of your policy.

Although it might feel unfair, you are likely to lose some of your no-claims discount if somebody hits your parked car. As far as insurance companies are concerned, a claim is a claim and, for the purposes of no-claims discounts, it doesn’t matter who was at fault.

If somebody hits your parked car and causes damage to it, you need to decide whether or not to make a claim on your car insurance. This will normally come down to the level of the damage and the size of your repair bill. 

When you submit a claim, you are likely to lose a portion of your no-claims discount and your premium will likely go up when you renew your policy. This means that if it’s only a small claim, it may make more financial sense over the long term to foot the repair bill yourself.

Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act only stipulates that you need to report the accident if you have caused damage to the car. That means if the car’s owner is not going to be out of pocket as a result of the collision, then there is no obligation for you to take any action.

However, it’s worth being aware that somebody may have witnessed the accident and reported it to the police or left a note for the driver themselves, with your car’s registration number on it. It’s also important to note you might not be able to spot damage in a poorly lit car park or at night. For that reason, it still makes sense to leave a note if you hit a parked car and cannot see any damage. You can also take photos as evidence that your car didn’t leave any damage to the other vehicle.

Most dash-cams will only record footage while you are driving and the engine is switched on. However, there are some more advanced dash-cams that have a parking setting, which could enable it to record footage of another hitting it while it was parked. This footage could help support an insurance claim.

Molly Dyson


After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.