My Car Was Towed and I’m Broke

It can be extremely stressful when you return to where you parked your car only to find it missing. Not only that, but the impound fees can make it nearly impossible to retrieve your vehicle. In this article, we’ll explore why tow trucks tow cars and how much it will cost you to get your car out of an impound lot.

Finding Your Towed Car

If your car has been towed to an impound lot, don’t worry. The process of locating your vehicle is relatively straightforward. Look out for signs from towing companies in the parking lot where you left your car. These signs usually display the towing company’s name and contact number, along with the towing fees per mile.

In case you don’t see any towing signs nearby, you can reach out to local government officials or visit your city’s website. Most cities offer online towed vehicle locators that help drivers find their cars. To use this service, you’ll need to provide your vehicle’s identification number (VIN), license plate state, license plate number, make, model, and year.

Once you’ve located your car using the online towed vehicle locator, reach out to the impound lot to confirm its presence. Keep in mind that it may take some time for the impound lot to process your vehicle.

Understanding Why Your Car Was Impounded

Having your car towed is undoubtedly overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Millions of Americans go through this each year. Cars are impounded for various reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

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Towed From Public Property

If you parked your car illegally on public property, it might end up in an impound lot. Towing companies tow vehicles that are blocking intersections or traffic lanes. Additionally, certain parking lots have specific purposes, such as providing easy access to specific stores. If you parked in such a lot and didn’t abide by its intended purpose, the city may tow your car.

Towed From Private Property

Private property owners, particularly residential ones, have the right to send parked vehicles to impound lots. To make a valid tow, the property must have visible signs near the entrance, clearly stating the towing policy. Even on private non-residential property, your car can be towed if it’s left unattended for more than 24 hours.

Unpaid Tickets and Costs

If you have multiple unpaid parking tickets, speeding tickets, or outstanding DMV registration costs, the city can tow your car. The number of unpaid tickets that can lead to impoundment varies by city. For instance, in Chicago, having three or more parking tickets can result in a boot being placed on your car and subsequently impounded.

Driving Without Car Insurance

In most states, having auto insurance is mandatory, with each state having its unique minimum requirements. Unless you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, you must have car insurance. If you’re stopped by a police officer and fail to provide proof of insurance, your car can be towed to an impound lot.

No Driver’s License or Expired License

Some states allow cars to be impounded if the driver is caught without a valid license. If an officer pulls you over and you can’t produce a valid license, your car may be taken to an impound lot. Additionally, you may face penalties such as fines or even a misdemeanor offense resulting in jail time.

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The Cost of Towing and Impoundment

Getting your car out of an impound lot can cost you a significant amount of money. There are several fees you’ll need to pay to reclaim your vehicle and get back on the road. Many people struggle to afford these costs. Let’s take a closer look at the fees involved.

Boot Fees

Before towing a vehicle for unpaid tickets, law enforcement often immobilizes it by applying a boot to one of the tires. While the exact cost of a boot fine varies by location, most people can expect to pay over $100.

Initial Tow Fees

The initial tow fee covers the cost of towing your vehicle. The amount varies depending on your location and can exceed $100, particularly for larger vehicles like SUVs. If your vehicle is above a certain weight, special towing equipment may be required, raising the price.

Impound Fees

Impound fees, also known as storage fees, are charged while your car is stored in the impound lot. Unlike the initial tow fee, this cost is generally lower but can still amount to less than $100. However, the longer your vehicle stays in the impound lot, the more these fees can add up.

Additional Fees

Tow companies may charge additional fees based on certain circumstances. For example, if your car was towed over a significant distance, you could be subject to long-distance towing fees. In the event of an accident, the tow company might add a cleanup fee to your bill. This can be frustrating, as you not only have to cover car repairs but also the additional fees for the wreckage.

How to Afford Getting Your Car Out of Impound

Many people struggle financially when it comes to retrieving their impounded cars. Fortunately, there are various financing options available to drivers, including obtaining money from lenders and negotiating price reductions.

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Seek Free Legal Aid Services

If you need financial assistance to retrieve your car from the impound lot, consider looking for free emergency financial aid programs. Many cities have non-profit organizations or community action agencies that offer free legal assistance and financial guidance. Speaking to a lawyer can help you understand your options and increase your chances of getting fees waived. You may also be eligible for fast cash through hardship grants.

Dispute the Ticket

If you successfully dispute the ticket that led to your car being towed, you could have the impound fees waived. Appearing in city court and providing evidence that the ticket was issued in error or presenting a valid excuse can result in the court waiving the fees. Alternatively, you can try filing a complaint with the city.

Negotiate Fee Reductions

Contact a supervisor at the police department to inquire about reducing your towing fees if you can prove your inability to pay the impound fees. Be ready to provide photos of your vehicle, the tow site, identification, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If the supervisor is unable or unwilling to assist you, ask if you can speak to a higher authority.

Consider Fast Cash Loans

Payment plans can help you cover the high cost of retrieving your car from the impound lot. If you need money until your next paycheck, you can apply for an online payday loan. Qualifying for a payday loan doesn’t require perfect credit, but the money must be repaid within two weeks. If you need a longer repayment period, consider a personal loan instead.

Personal loans provide quick cash to eligible borrowers with minimal documentation requirements. The entire approval process can be completed online. Payment plans can be tailored to your financial needs, whether short or extended.

Remember, there are options available to help you retrieve your car, even if you’re facing financial difficulties. Explore these avenues and find the best solution for your situation.


  • How to Get Your Car Out of Impound for Free
  • Unpaid Parking and Camera Tickets
  • How much car insurance is required in all 50 states
  • The Most Common Reasons Vehicles Get Towed

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