Can You Legally Prevent Your Car from Being Towed? Understanding Vehicle Towing Laws

by LegalFix
Posted: June 6, 2024

Most of us have, at some point, returned to a parking spot to find an empty space where our car used to be. That sinking feeling is never pleasant. Was it stolen? Towed? Why? To shed light on these questions, let's explore the legal grounds on which a vehicle can be towed. We’ll look at some relevant parking laws, taking into account the differences between public and private property scenarios.

What is Towing, Legally?

Strictly defined, towing refers to the process of a tow truck operator removing a vehicle from a parking space and transporting it to a designated impound lot. This means that other scenarios, such as repossession by a lender who holds the title to a car with outstanding loan payments, wouldn't be considered towing in the legal sense. 

In a repossession, the lender reclaims the vehicle as outlined in the loan agreement, and the car is typically transported to a storage facility owned by the lender or a third-party company they work with. Towing, on the other hand, is usually initiated by a government agency or private property owner due to parking violations or trespassing. 

Towing from Public Property

Public roads and lots are governed by city or state ordinances, and the rules can vary significantly. Some common reasons include:

  • Parking Violations: This includes overstaying in timed zones, parking in no-parking zones, or blocking driveways and fire hydrants.

  • Expired Registration: In many jurisdictions, vehicles with expired tags or registration can be towed if left on public streets.

  • Safety Concerns: Abandoned vehicles, or those posing safety hazards such as leaking fluids, can be removed.

  • Unpaid Fines: If a vehicle accumulates a certain number of unpaid parking tickets, it may be subject to towing.

Towing from Private Property

The owner or controller of a private property has rights concerning vehicles parked on their land:

  • Parking Without Consent: Generally, any vehicle parked without the property owner's consent can be towed, especially if signage clearly demarcates a "No Parking" or "Tow-Away Zone."

  • Residential Complexes: In apartment complexes or gated communities, vehicles may be towed for not having the necessary permits, parking in reserved spots, or violating community rules.

  • Businesses and Commercial Lots: Many businesses reserve their parking for customers or employees. If someone uses their lot but isn't patronizing their business, their car can often legally be towed.

Legal Preventions and Recourse

The most effective way to deal with towing is to avoid getting towed in the first place. Always check for towing signs when parking. These signs should be clearly visible and outline the specific circumstances under which your vehicle can be towed.  

This might include things like exceeding time limits, parking in restricted zones, or blocking a fire hydrant. By familiarizing yourself with the parking regulations, you can significantly reduce the risk of your car being towed. 

In some cases where violating a parking sign is inevitable, posting a visible note under your windshield explaining the situation might be helpful. While these notes cannot legally prevent your car from being towed, they might still get you off the hook with the person doing the towing. 

What to Do if Your Car Gets Towed

Unfortunately, even the most cautious drivers can find themselves in a situation where their car is towed. If this happens to you, the towing company should provide you with a sticker or receipt. This document will typically detail the reason for the tow, the location of the impound lot where your car is being held, and the towing company's contact information. 

It's important to keep this information for your records. If you believe your car was towed unfairly, take note of the parking area and any signage. Taking pictures of the location, including the signage, can be valuable evidence if you decide to dispute the tow. 

In some states, you might even have the right to get your car released for a reduced fee if you arrive while it's still being hooked up. Always be sure to research the specific laws in your area to understand your rights in this situation. 

Know Your Rights with LegalFix

Dealing with towing legalities can be complex. If you believe your car was towed incorrectly, consider seeking legal advice from an attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights, navigate the legalities of the situation, and potentially pursue a dispute or seek compensation for damages.

Although parking might seem simple, the laws around it can be complex. Whether you're trying to understand if a tow was legitimate or manage unauthorized vehicles on your property, legal clarity is crucial. The value of affordable, reliable legal advice in these situations is undeniable—providing guidance, protection, and peace of mind. 

Whether you want to know if you can legally prevent your car from being towed or just want a better understanding of how our legal system works, LegalFix is your go-to source for free legal information. You can find helpful articles and state-specific explanations of nearly 1,600 legal topics, or browse state and federal statutes to better understand the laws that affect you. Just visit to find all this content—and check back often for more valuable legal products and services coming soon.