What Happens If Your Car Gets Towed & You Don’t Pick It Up?

Towing my car in the city, but I am not sure if I want to get it back

My car broke down in the middle of the road the other day and had to be towed.

Truthfully, I don’t think it is worth picking up from the impound lot, considering the fact that it doesn’t have much left after all these years.

But the question is, “What happens if your car gets towed and you don’t pick it up?”. Can I get away with it?

I can choose not to pick the car from the impound lot and abandon it.

After a set period of time, the officials sell the car and the monies will be used to recover the tow fees, storage fees, and the other expenditure.

If the sale doesn’t cover all the expenditure, they can come after me for the remained owed.

On the other hand, it’s not always possible for me to just abandon my car, especially if it is relatively new with better years to come.

In that case, if I cannot retrieve my car and the company auctions it, I can lay a claim for any funds that exceed the expenditure.

But that depends on the different circumstances, the condition of my car, and also my financial situation.

What Happens After My Car Is Towed?

While this might seem like a simple question, a series of bureaucratic laws complicate the process.

Within 12 hours of them towing my car, the tow company gets my information from law enforcement.

Seeing that I am the legal owner, the company mails me the details regarding my vehicle within 24 hours.

  • Details of the company including the name, address, phone number, etc.
  • Information about the official authorizing my tow.
  • Important particulars about how to get my car. It also contains information about challenging my tow in the court if I want to do so.

The above stands true if I am not involved in an accident and they impound my car for some other reason.

In case of an accident, if the car is undrivable, either the police or I can call the tow company. Here, I also have the option of getting my car to the location of my choice.

For the latter case, if I am in charge of the vehicle when a company tows it, I ought to get a receipt and gather all the personal belongings.

Assuming that my car is totaled and I do not want to spend more on my car, I also need the location of the storage and also the tow fees.

Sometimes, the authorities can tow my car, but I haven’t received any information about the same.

If that’s you, then it means the DMV doesn’t have your current address.

To prevent this happening to you, always make sure the DMV knows of your current address when you move.

45 days after towing, the towing company mails the final notice.

18 days after the final notice, it applies for a “Permit to Sell” after which the state gives the title of your car to them.

Depending on the status of the car, they can either choose to auction your car.

Lucky for me, if my car fetches the towing and storage fees in the sale, if not they can come after me for the fees and initiate court action.

On the other hand, if the car earns them more, you can make a claim for the remaining. This is not the case, mostly; Companies care only to recover their costs.

How Can I Get My Car Out Of Impound?

Financially, it is better for me to get my car out of impound as soon as possible.

That said, the process is not easy since I need to have the appropriate documentation and the funds.

The documentations may vary from state to state, and I might have to call ahead to enquire about the same.

Your car incurs fees every day it stays in the impound lot. In the case that I was not on the scene when the tow truck towed my car, I have to locate my car.

So, my first step in the process should be to call the county office and check if my car has been listed as impounded.

If there are no records of my car in the county office, I’d suggest waiting for a couple of days, to account for the delay and then try locating again.

In the event that my second attempt also came back negative, consider another option that my car might have been stolen.

Once you have located my car, I’d call the impound lot in advance and verify the whereabouts of my car.

Also, inquire about the necessary documentation and the payment to get my car out of impound.

This saves me time without having to wait in line or return back for more documentation.

How Much Do I Have To Pay?

Along with the documentation, I have to possess the necessary funds to retrieve my car from storage.

It includes the towing fees, storage fees, fined incurred, outstanding tickets, release fees, and other assorted expenses.

In case of an accident, I’d have to pay for flatbed expenses too.

The cost of recovery for a car depends on the reason for the car being towed, the condition, model, and also the size of the car.

The local authorities fix the permissible limit, but it’s the private tow companies that fix the rates.

I may have to spend anywhere from $100 to $1000 to recover my lost vehicle, and this varies from county to county and nationwide.

The storage fees start at $10 and go up to $100, again depending on the jurisdiction.

Charges for towing may range from $100 to $800 and the car release fee would be from $90 to $250.

In case my car broke down, there would be a flatbed fee of $40 or more.

The flatbed fee and towing fee largely depends on the distance or is an hourly rate in some cases. If immobilized with a boot device, the price goes up by an upward of $40.

In the case of accidents, the insurance covers the cost of towing and storage as long as you make alternate arrangements quick enough.

My insurance or anyone for that matter does not compensate when it comes to parking violations and such.

In some cases, they can waive your storage fees, but it is rare and far in between.

What If I Do Not Have The Financial Means To Pick My Car From Impound?

If I did not lay a claim on my car even after the final notice, my car and the towing company auctions off my car and its contents to recover the money spent.

But before that, the towing company raises a claim to the state to auction off the car and advertises about the action in the newspaper with the date and time.

I also have the option of buying back my car at the auction as a final possibility.

The outcome of the auction can be that sale of my car compensated for the expenses or that my car was so beat up that it did not cover the towing and storage fees.

In the latter instance, the towing company can come after me with a court case or through a collection company.

In the fortunate event of the former happening, I can lay a claim for the surplus funds through the Department of Licensing.

If I cannot afford to get my car out of impound, the best course of action for me is to contact the towing company.

We can communicate and come to an arrangement in regard to the payment.

There is a chance of them waiving the fees if I am ready to transfer the title to them.

If they insist on me paying the fees, I can at least work out a financing plan with them. Unless both the parties come to an agreement, the car stays in the impound lot gathering fees.

Why Does My Car Get Towed And Where?

Towing is legally confiscating my car for multiple reasons. My car is taken to the impound lot where it stays until the legalities are complete.

The authorities can tow my car for the below reasons:

  • In the case of accidents
  • For vehicular problems and the driver abandons the car by the side of the road
  • Unpaid tickets
  • Parking in prohibited areas
  • Expired tags
  • Arrest me for driving under influence of alcohol or drugs (only when there is no one to take your car back)
  • Arrest me for suspended or expired driving license

Once my car is towed, it is taken to the nearby impound lot or the tow yard.

If the officials tow my car for illegal parking, the phone number of the towing company will be found nearby.

I can also find it by calling the police or the local council office. Often, city websites would also have information about the impounded cars.

What If I Do Not Agree With Towing?

The law allows me to take my case to court if I find the towing to be illegal or improper. But it has to be done within 10 days.

The towing company has the forms with which you can ask for a hearing. If I haven’t requested a hearing within 10 days, it means that I have waived my right for a hearing.

After a period of 5 days from requisition, the court responds back to me with a court date.

In the meantime, I would have to gather the evidence necessary to prove my case, which also includes copies of records from the police.

A clerk from the police station can help me with a “Discovery Form” with which I request for the records.

Here’s what happens if you win or lose:

  • With a win, I do not have to pay anything. In fact, the court will order the officials to pay back any dues. Additionally, I can also lay a claim for any damages to the car during the tow or storage.
  • In case I lose, I must pay for the court fees in addition to the storage fees and tow fees.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How Long Can I Park My Car In A Public Street Without Being Towed?

You can park the car for up to 72 hours on a public street without being moved.

I still have 2 days to move my car after the ticket. When not done within the timeframe, the authorities tow it to the impound lot.

In the case that they consider the car to be unsafe to be on the roads, again the authorities will tow it to the nearby tow yard.

Q1-1: What About The Possessions Left In My Car?

Generally, the tow yard will let you come and collect the personal belongings of value from the car.

In rare cases, they might not release the content to you. If so, you can contact the authority who put in for the tow and ask for his authorization to release the content.

Also, ask for the inventory of the car to find out if something has been stolen.

Q2: Will Towing Damage My Car?

While flatbed towing doesn’t harm your car, engaging a parked car is definitely a thing of concern.

The tires will be unable to turn when parked and will be dragged on the road.

This not only damages the tires, but also the transmission and the link between the wheels.

Finally, this causes the transmission to fail.


I can choose not to pick my car from the impound lot, but every day my car sits in the lot, it racks up fees and is definitely going to cost me a pretty sum.

If I cannot pay the sum, the towing company can auction off my car to cover their expenses.

In the case that the auction doesn’t fetch funds to cover the expenses, they can contact the court for the rest of the money.

To be on the safer side, I can contact them about transferring the title of the car and let them have it.

At least it will save me a bunch of storage costs. I can also request their assistance and work out a financing model to pay the expenses if I am short of funds.


Written by Kane Dan

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