So, Your Car Got Towed. What’s Next?

It’s every driver’s worst nightmare: You walk out to the parking lot from the grocery store, library, or the office, only to discover that your car isn’t where you left it. Then the reality of the situation hits — you’ve been towed.

Despite your best efforts, getting your car towed is an unfortunate reality for a surprisingly large number of drivers. According to Statista, the instances of cars being towed are actually on the rise.

Whether you miscalculated your time at the meter, didn’t see that “no parking sign,” or just suffered from plain old bad luck, getting your car towed can be stressful and expensive.

Here are a few basic steps to guide you if you find yourself in this position.

Steps for Getting Your Car Back After a Tow

Get the facts

Walking out to a parking lot only to find your car missing can trigger a cascade of worry and panic, but it’s important to stay calm while avoiding assumptions.

Unfortunately, many towing companies aren’t obliged to inform you that your car has been removed, which leaves it up to you to figure out if your ride has been hauled away in the first place. 

The first thing you should do is call your local police department. They should be able to inform you if your car has been registered at any of the local impound lots, indicating that it’s been towed instead of stolen.

Even in this stressful situation, knowing that your car has only been towed is something of a silver lining.

Don’t wait

You may be tempted to wait until the weekend or your day off next week to retrieve your car, but that could have disastrous consequences.

Impound lots charge you a fee for every day your car sits there. That means the longer you wait to pick up your car, the more you’ll end up paying to bust it out. 

If you wait too long, the lot may simply auction off your car. Towing companies may not even call you to tell you your car is about to be auctioned. Instead, they’ll print the announcement of the auction in the local newspaper. 

Remember those? Didn’t think so. It’s definitely worth the minor inconvenience to avoid a major headache later.

Know your rights

Fortunately, you aren’t without rights in these situations, and it’s imperative that you keep these in mind so you can avoid being taken advantage of.

For example, many towing companies will insist that you pay the required fee in cash, which can put a damper on many people’s plans of reclaiming their rides. However, even though it’s standard practice, towing companies can’t legally obligate you to pay in cash. They have to accept debit or credit transactions. 

Similarly, some cities and states allow drivers to take their cars home from the tow lot without having to pay the fee up front — all that’s required is that you provide proof of ownership.

Inspect your car

You may think that tow truck drivers are obligated to take care of your car in the process of towing it, but this isn’t the case. In fact, in many instances, operators who are in a hurry, late for another appointment, or simply absent-minded may make careless mistakes that can result in things like scratches or even dents to your car.

Most of the time these issues are strictly cosmetic, but if you notice particularly egregious damage to your car’s exterior, it may be worth it to get it inspected to ensure there isn’t any more significant damage that’s been done. 


As they say: To err is human. Mistakes are an inevitable part of life, even those that result in your car getting towed. But the important thing is to use the process as a learning experience.

If your car was towed due to illegal parking, be sure to only park in spots that you know you’re permitted to do so. Similarly, avoid racking up parking tickets. They may seem like little more than a nuisance, but if amounts accumulate, you can find yourself making another trip to the impound lot. 

If you’re in the market for a high-quality used car, head to NJ State Auto Used Cars in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Here, you’ll find hundreds of Carfax-certified cars on the lot, ensuring that you’ll drive away in the ride of your dreams.