Can a Towing Company Keep My Car?

Tow truck in Burnaby towing car

It’s important to know your rights when it comes to the towing of your vehicle. Are towing companies allowed to hold your car if you can’t pay on the spot? Can you claim your car before being transported to the lot? Let’s go over a few key points when it comes to your rights.

A Repossession Impound

There are a few reasons your vehicle may be at risk of being repossessed. Abandonment, failure to meet loan payments, and unpaid storage fees are a few possibilities.

If your vehicle has been repossessed due to an inability to make your payments, it may be difficult to reclaim it. The best measures to take in this scenario are the preventative ones. Reach out to your bank if you’re struggling with your payments. Oftentimes, they’re happy to assist in coordinating a payment plan to avoid the repossession of your vehicle.

Should your vehicle be repossessed and impounded, you have a right to the possessions inside of your vehicle. Should you be present at the time of towing, you should have the opportunity to grab your personal belongings from inside the vehicle. Should it be towed before you’re able to do this, reach out to the creditor to reclaim your belongings as soon as you can. There may be a limited amount of time allotted for you to reclaim these items, so act quickly or risk losing the right to those belongings.

A Private Party Impound

In the case where you parked on private property without consent or you failed to obey parking rules, your vehicle may get towed by a private party. This will typically be ordered by the company who has the right to the parking zone and passed along to a private towing company.

If a private company tows your vehicle, there’s a potential that you can claim it beforehand to avoid the lot’s storage fees. If the driver towing your car has yet to leave, there are two scenarios to claim your car before it’s transported to the private lot.

  1. If the driver has yet to fully connect your car to the crane, the car can be released almost immediately.
  2. If the driver has completed hooking the car up to the crane, you will have to pay a release fee. On the bright side, you avoid having to find a ride to the lot and the additional storage fees.

If your vehicle has been transported to the towing lot, you’ll need to know which towing company is storing your car. Please refer to your tow-away notice for the name and location of the company that has impounded your vehicle. 

Once you know where your vehicle is being stored, you’re able to collect your car. While the towing company is not authorized to hold your car for ransom, you will be required to pay a fee. Typically, the cost is dependent on the size of the vehicle towed, the distance moved, and the cost of the fuel used. Try to pick up your car sooner rather than later, as the fees increase with the number of days your car is held.

However, it’s recommended that you pay immediately to avoid additional charges being added to your bill by delaying payment, if possible.

Much like the process for the private party impound, public impounds follow the same steps. Your vehicle can be impounded from the public property if you have broken a public by-law if the vehicle has been abandoned, if it’s a safety hazard, or is an inconvenience to other motorists/ pedestrians​​​​​​​.

In the case that your car has been towed from a city street or park, it potentially has been impounded by the City Impound Yard.

To reclaim your vehicle, you will need a valid driver’s license or government-issued ID, proof of vehicle ownership, as well as vehicle registration, and/ or valid insurance.

The Bottom Line

Your rights vary depending on the situation. If your vehicle is repossessed, you may have to let that car go. If possible, try to make arrangements with your bank to prevent this. Know that they want to find a solution just as much as you do.

If you made a mistake and parked somewhere without authorization, you have a right to reclaim your vehicle. Find out where the vehicle is being stored and pick it up as soon as possible to minimize the fees.

Above all, remember to be kind to the driver towing your car. Everyone knows the frustration and panic associated with having your vehicle towed, however, try to remember that they’re simply doing their job, a physically taxing one at that. Lead with kindness, and together you can find a solution.