First off, don’t worry. It can happen to anyone. Take a breath, and then follow these steps.
Stay calm and assess your surroundings. Maybe you accidentally parked in a no-parking zone or handicapped spot without authorization, or maybe you allowed a parking meter to expire. If you can determine why your car was towed, you’re on your way to finding it and resolving the issue.
Figure out where your car was towed
Take a look around for signs or posters, as they may include information on where cars are towed from this spot, or at least a phone number you can call to gather information. If there’s no signage or helpful information around you, call the police. Don’t call 911—save that for emergencies. Instead, call the non-emergency number for your local police department. They can help point you to the nearby impound lot.
Gather important details
Collect your vehicle information—such as the car’s make, model, and license plate—before calling the impound lot to investigate. This will help the impound lot quickly identify whether your car is there. When you get on the phone, be sure to ask:
How much it’ll cost to get your car back
If they accept cash, check, or credit card
What documentation you’ll need to get it back
Whether the impound lot has a per-day storage charge, and how much it is
The reason your car was towed, since that’ll affect the cost
If you were towed because you have too many unpaid tickets on your driving record, you may have to pay for the tickets before you can pay the towing fee to get your car back. And if your car was immobilized with a device referred to as a “boot” before being towed, you’ll likely have to pay a removal fee.
Pick up your car
Be sure to bring all the documents the impound lot noted over the phone. You may need your driver’s license, proof of ownership, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. If you keep some of these documents in your car’s glove compartment, be sure to mention that.
Also, be prepared to pay any storage charges or other remaining fees before you leave the lot.
How to avoid having your car towed
Getting towed can happen to anyone. But of course, that doesn’t reduce the in-the-moment stress or the potential financial repercussions. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of being towed:
When parking your car, take an extra look at your surroundings and nearby signage to ensure you’re properly parked. Watch for handicapped parking spots, no parking signs, fire hydrants, and other signage that might signal a tow zone or area marked for a particular purpose. Also, keep in mind that snow can cover painted asphalt that indicates a handicap parking space.
When traveling or parking in an unfamiliar area, check on your car every couple hours to help ensure you’ve properly paid the parking meter and aren’t at risk for towing or ticketing.
Ensure your license and registration are up to date and you have the documents to prove it. Outdated license plate tags are noticeable and can get you into trouble.
Always pay your parking or traffic tickets on time. It’s best to avoid the consequences of unpaid tickets stacking up against you.
While having your car towed is certainly a hassle, try not to fret too much. A one-time towing offense probably won’t impact your car insurance rates, since you’ll likely be able to pay for your car’s return on your own without filing a claim. However, if your car was towed due to numerous tickets on your record, your insurance company will likely hear about it, and they may increase your rates accordingly.