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

What happens when your car gets towed? Can you just leave it or can someone else pick it up? Here's everything you need to know.

Cars get towed for many reasons, like parking in handicap spaces, on private property, or in “No Parking” zones. If your vehicle was just towed, you must pay an impound fee to get it back, which can reach as high as $500.

But if you’re low on cash, you might wonder what happens if your car gets towed and you don’t pick it up.

Not picking up your car from impound accrues extra fees, usually starting after being on the lot for 24 hours. Depending on local laws, if you don’t pick up your car, an impound lot may be able to sell or auction it to settle the account.

How long an impound lot waits before selling your vehicle depends on its age. For example, a three-year-old or newer car in Florida may be sold after 50 days, while older models only get 35.

I’ll share more details about impound lots in this guide, like how much it costs to get a car out, what happens to personal items if you don’t, and more.

Let’s get started.

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How Do I Find A Towed Car?

Can You Tow An Automatic Car

Finding out your vehicle isn’t where you left it can be unsettling. What happens when your car gets towed? It’s usually taken to either a state or private-owned impound lot. You’ll have to do some digging to find out where.

There are several options for locating a towed car. Your first phone call should be to the authorities, which often keep records of recently towed vehicles.

If you have no luck with the police, a quick search for “impound lots near me” should yield at least one promising lead. No luck? “Towing companies near me” should come next.

Left your vehicle in a parking lot? The property manager should be able to connect you to their towing company of choice.

Was your car taken from your driveway? It could have been repossessed. Check your loan status online or call your lender to find out.

Some states also offer an online service that tracks towed vehicles in the area, like this one for Houston or this one for New York.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Car Out Of Impound?

Towing Car Person

Be ready to pull out your credit card because getting a vehicle out of impound is pricey. The final bill will be broken into several fees, often towing or impound-related.

Right away, you’ll pay around $50 to $75 just for the tow truck being dispatched. Then again, for the actual towing, at roughly $2 to $8 per mile (min. $150). Expect another $100 to $150 if any specialty tools, like a boot or flatbed truck, were used.

At the impound lot, your bill should include a flat $75 to $100 holding fee. This raises every 24 hours by $20, $30, or even $150 a day in some cases. 

Based on these numbers, the overall expense of retrieving a vehicle from impound ordinarily ranges from $400 to $500, possibly even higher.

Other potential charges include:

  • Traffic direction
  • Cleanup
  • Long-distance
  • Waiting time
  • Bad weather
  • Admin and processing
  • After hours pickup
  • Convenience

As you can see, the bill may be split between many random fees. Ultimately there’s little you can control about when your vehicle gets towed. Your best bet at reducing costs will be to pick up your car right as the tow lot opens. 

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

Car and money value

Don’t have $500 handy? Maybe your vehicle’s not even worth $500. Regardless, you’ll have to fork over payment to get your car out of impound. However, if you wait too long, the tow lot may sell your vehicle to settle the account.

For example, a three-year-old or newer car in Florida may be sold after 50 days, while older models only get 35. Be sure to check your state’s laws on towing, or you risk having your car auctioned off.

Remember, once a vehicle is eligible for sale, 30 or 50 days in, fees have likely reached $1,000 to $1,500 or more.

The impound lot can basically do whatever is needed to recoup payment. They may even scrap the vehicle for parts if it’s older or not running well.

If there’s any amount left over, you may receive it, but you may not. You’ll have to read the towing lot’s rules and clauses to know for sure.

How Do You Get Your Belongings Out Of A Towed Car?

Car Belongings

Lenders typically aren’t after the items in your center console or glovebox; they likely won’t take your kid’s hockey gear out of the back. It’s the vehicle they’re after, not the things inside.

You should be able to call up the impound lot, confirm you’re the vehicle’s owner, and pick up your stuff. Whether you’re supervised or not is another matter.

Regardless, a quick call to the local police department should reveal any state-specific laws. If your loan is through a subprime lender, you should also scan your loan documents for possible clauses.

Can Someone Else Pick Up My Towed Car?

You can have someone else pick up your towed car so long as they have the proper paperwork. You’ll typically need a notarized statement saying that you’re the vehicle’s owner and give permission and/or a signed power of attorney.

Note that you must pay any impound fees or outstanding amounts with the lender first.

Unless authorized by law enforcement with a warrant, no one can access the vehicle without your consent. Nevertheless, after the allotted time has passed, the car will probably be sold at an auction.

Picking Up Your Car From Impound? Bring Payment And Proper Documentation

If you do decide to pick up your car from impound, make sure to bring your driver’s license, proof that you’re the vehicle’s owner, proof that it’s insured, and proof it’s registered.

Oh, and payment, you’ll need to also clear any outstanding balances with both the impound lot and lender.

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Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.