Having your car towed is a nightmare situation that nobody wants to think about. However, it’s important to know in advance what steps you should take — as well as what your rights are — in the event you do find yourself in that very situation.

This month, we talk you through the process of what to do when your car gets towed. 

Why do cars get towed?

Cars get towed for a number of reasons. Other than being towed because they’ve been in an crash and aren’t drivable, here are three of the main reasons cars get towed in Arizona. 

Reason #1: The vehicle is illegally parked (this can include being parked on private property): In our growing city, parking can be tricky to find in some areas (particularly downtown around the ASU campus and other populated areas). 

Make sure to park legally, obeying all posted signage, and to never park blocking a street, lane of traffic, sidewalk or other public right-of-way. The same goes for blocking a fire lane, fire hydrant, bus zone, or parking in a handicapped space, red or emergency zone, or other “no parking” areas. And if you’re parking in a paid or metered spot, make sure to pay. 

Reason #2: The driver gets arrested, including for driving with a suspended or revoked license: Following the arrest of a driver for any crime, including driving with a suspended or revoked drivers license, vehicles are a liability and cannot be left on the road. The local police department or highway patrol will have the vehicle towed. 

Reason #3: A vehicle gets repossessed: If you fail to make your car payments or otherwise default on your loan, your lender can repossess your vehicle at any time without notice. 

How do I know if my car was towed, stolen or repossessed? 

If you weren’t present when the car was towed, look to see if the area has restricted parking signs or tow zones posted. If those are present, then your car was likely towed. These signs typically have a phone number for you to call. Before you make the call, use your cell phone to take pictures of the signs for future reference.  

How do I get my car back? 

Once you determine your car was towed, follow these steps: 

#1: Contact the tow company to determine where your vehicle is. Many companies have multiple lots. 

Ask them for the total fees for towing and impound. You should also ask if the car has a 30-day hold attached to it. Learn more about 30-day holds here

#2: Identify and bring the correct documentation to retrieve your impounded vehicle: 

  • Your title or registration to prove that you are the owner (if this is in the car, you’ll be allowed to retrieve it). 
  • Enough money to cover the fees. You’ll need to pay using cash, a credit card, or a cashier’s check or money order. Personal checks are usually not accepted forms of payment. 
  • Any equipment necessary to haul your vehicle away if it’s not drivable. 

Knowing Your Rights

In Arizona, towing companies must abide by a law that went into effect on January 1, 2019, to prevent so-called shady practices by those companies. These prohibited practices under the law include: 

  • Demanding cash as the only form of payment.
  • Refusing to release a vehicle once the driver or insurance company provides proof of ownership and payment. 
  • Not providing a detailed billing statement. 
  • Towing a car to an unnecessarily far away location. 
  • Closing the business during regular business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Irregularly counting the days in impound. A day in storage must be calculated from midnight of one day to midnight the next. 
  • Blaming rogue employees. 
  • Demanding payment if you’d like to examine your vehicle or  remove personal property. 
  • Ignoring the rules of different cities. 

Being a responsible driver and car owner is about more than getting from Point A to Point B. If you want someone who can help you brush up on all the rules of the road and help you learn what to do in various driving situations, give us a call, or check out our available classes online.