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What to do if Your Car is Towed

Unless you knowingly parked your car in an illegal zone and realized that towing was a possibility as you walked away, your first question is probably Was my car stolen or towed?

Thinking about the reasons cars may be legally towed should help you make this determination. Here are some common reasons vehicles may be towed:

  • Illegal parking based on laws/signage (e.g., No Parking, Fire Lane, Construction Zone).
  • Unauthorized parking on private property or blocking a driveway.
  • Driver’s licence violation, including suspended licence or unlicensed drive.
  • Registration expiration in excess of a specified time period.
  • Excessive parking violations (unpaid tickets).
  • Alarm sounding for an extended period of time.
  • Abandoned vehicle (driver is notified and has 72 hours to remove the car before police tow).
  •  Unsafe vehicle that cannot be driven.
  • Criminal evidence.

Whether your car was towed or stolen, you can call the local police (not 911) for help. The police officer will want to know the make and model of the vehicle, in whose name it is registered and your driver’s licence number. He or she can tell you if – and why – your car was towed, inform you of its location and explain what you need to do to reclaim it. (Some cities have dedicated phone lines to answer towing questions, and some have Web sites that take your information and provide towing information. If you’re unaware of these channels, however, calling the local police is your best option.)

If the tow is the result of unpaid parking tickets or licensing issues, then you will need to resolve those issues before your car will be released to you. Once the police give you the all clear to head for the impound lot, do that as soon as possible. (Impound lots can claim your car as abandoned after a specified period of time, which will make the reclamation process much more difficult and time-consuming.)

Be aware that impound lots often have limited operating hours. Call or check the Web site to find out hours of operation before you head over. Also confirm your payment options. Most towing companies accept cash, cheques or a credit card, but some take only cash. Your payment will include the towing fee and storage.

If your car was damaged during the towing process, you will need to file a claim with your car insurance company. This type of damage is covered by collision insurance, so if you have added collision to your car insurance policy, you will need to pay the deductible toward the damage and then your insurance company should cover the rest.

If you have added towing coverage to your car insurance policy, this protection typically covers only tows that you authorize – for example, when your car will not run and needs to be taken to a repair shop. Talk with your licensed insurance representative about the various options available to determine which type of coverage is right for you.

What to do if Your Car is Towed

If you return to your parking spot but find only an empty space (or someone else’s car parked where you left yours), then your vehicle might have been towed.