What To Do If Your Car Is Towed

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First, don't panic.

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You get back to your parking spot and your car is gone. You panic, worrying that it may have been stolen, or that it was too ugly; but the truth is almost as disheartening - someone towed your vehicle. You can get it back, so it isn't quite as bad as theft, but there are plenty of pitfalls to overcome when it comes retrieving it. Just thinking about where it might be, or how to find out if it was actually impounded can cause a pit to form in your stomach. Luckily, this guide is designed specifically to help you understand your rights and give you tips on how to get your car back with the least fuss.

Reasons a Car Might Be Towed

There are many reasons for your car getting towed. Here are just a few to be mindful of and try to avoid:

  • It is obstructing traffic
  • It is obstructing access to a roadside fire hydrant
  • It is parked in a tow or no-parking zone
  • It is double parked
  • It is blocking a tunnel, driveway, or intersection
  • It is parked in a handicapped space
  • There is a moving violation or unpaid parking tickets registered on the vehicle
  • It has been abandoned for a lengthy period of time
  • The license plates are not properly attached or registration is out of date
My Car Was Towed freepik.com

What to Do if Your Car Gets Towed

It is all too easy to panic when you go outside only to find your vehicle is suddenly missing, or to lose your temper when you see the workman hooking it up to their tow truck. Instead of losing your cool, follow these steps on what to do if your car gets towed:

  • Who you should call: If you live in the US, don't call 911 to inquire about towed cars. If your car was parked illegally, there is usually signage containing information about what number to dial. If there isn't, call your local police precinct. Some US cities also have toll-free numbers that you can call to find your car.
  • What documents are needed? To get your car back, you must produce your driver's license, the car's insurance card, and title, and proof that you have paid any outstanding judgment debts.
  • How to find a towed vehicle: If you were illegally parked, the signage should also state where your car has been towed. It will vary by city, but the procedure also depends on whether a sheriff or marshal (unpaid judgment debt) or the police towed the car (illegal parking).
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Towed Car freepik.com

How Much Will it Cost to Get Your Car Back from the Impound Lot?

The towing fee for a large sedan such as a Chrysler 300 may be more than that of a small car. Storage of the towed car is charged per hour. There might be an additional charge per day, a charge per mile that the car was towed away, and a release charge. If your car was towed due to unpaid fines, you cannot retrieve it without paying them first.

How Towing Will Affect Insurance Rates

If your car was rightfully towed, you cannot make an insurance claim. It won't be covered. You pay these charges yourself and your insurance rate remains unaffected. However, if you have several unpaid tickets for moving violations or get towed a lot, your insurance company may up your rates because of your repeat-offender status reflecting bad driving habits.

What if a Car is Towed Away Wrongfully?

If you are convinced that your car has been wrongfully towed, document the scene and take photographs of any signs around the place your car was parked. Lodge a complaint with your local authority and keep receipts that prove you have paid for your parking. Before leaving the impound lot, take photographs of the exterior and interior of the car to document its state and condition and to be sure that any damage caused by the tow truck is accounted for.

Does Car Insurance Cover Damage from Towing?

If you drive a financed car, it is required to have full insurance coverage, including liability, collision, and comprehensive, so you can work with your insurance company to pay for the damage. If the towing company is at fault for the damage, their insurance company should pay for the repairs.

How to Stop a Tow Mid-Progress

If the tow truck has not yet started to move off, you can request that your vehicle be released. The tow-truck operator must release it but will require that a binding agreement be made in which you consent to pay the release fee. This can only be done if you can produce your driver's license, title, registration, identification, insurance, and the keys of the vehicle.

How to Get Your Belongings out of the Towed Car

Here are a few steps you can follow to claim any property that might have been left in the vehicle:

  • Request a property release
  • An owner must supply a notarized letter for property removal when sending a non-owner
  • Proof of employment is required in the case of a business vehicle
  • There may be a window period, so call the impound lot as soon as possible

Conclusion

To ensure that your car is never towed, make sure it's roadworthy, your license is up to date, and any outstanding tickets are paid. Always take a good look around before parking to ensure that you don't illegally park your car.

Parking Meters unsplash.com

FAQs

When I find my towed car, do I need insurance to get it out of the impound lot?

Yes, proof of insurance is required, along with your driver's license and the title to the car.

May an impound lot refuse to release my vehicle?

Yes, there may be several valid reasons. In NYC, for example, receiving more than five summonses in a single year forfeits your right to retrieve the vehicle without further legal action. Each city has different regulations and laws.

How do I find my car after it has been towed?

Examine the signage for a number to call. If you can't find any, you can try calling the police. You should never call 911 since it is definitely not an emergency, though it may feel like one to you.

What can I do if my car has been towed wrongfully?

Properly document the scene, collect useful evidence, and take photos. The authorities will reimburse you if it can be proven that it has been wrongfully towed.

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