How Long Can a Towing Company Keep Your Car: Depends on the Situation

How Long Can a Towing Company Keep Your Car: Depends on the Situation

Towing your car might feel like an unexpected and upsetting ordeal, leaving you wondering for how long the towing company can legally keep it.

The duration of your car’s stay in its clutches isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. For a consumer tow, the clock usually ticks for about 24 hours.

Regarding private property impounds, you’ve got approximately 48 hours to settle the score. If the police step in, they can retain your ride for up to 30 days.

We will discuss the intricacies of how long towing companies can keep your car in various situations. Also, guide you on how to navigate these situations and retrieve your vehicle.

How Long Can a Towing Company Keep Your Car: Different Times in Different Situations

Regarding towing, different scenarios can lead to your car being impounded. The following are among them:

Consumer Towing

Private Property Impound (PPI)

Repossession Impound

Police-Ordered Tows

Investigation Impound


Let’s examine in detail how long a towing company is permitted to keep your vehicle in these circumstances.

1. Consumer Towing

If your car has been towed for illegal parking or unsafe driving, the towing company called by your neighbor can only hold it for 24 hours. This allows you enough time to retrieve your vehicle and address the issue that led to the tow.

Remember that in certain regions, such as San Jose, you can’t park on a public street for more than 72 hours without moving your car. This regulation is outlined in the San Jose Municipal Code 11.36.220.

If you fail to comply with this rule, a towing company in San Jose could cite and tow your car under California Vehicle Code section 22651(k) without issuing any further notice.

This regulation aims to prevent abandoned vehicles from occupying valuable parking spaces for an extended period.

2. Private Property Impound (PPI)

The towing company will arrive and remove your vehicle if you’ve parked unauthorized or unpaid on private property. They’ll keep your car for 48 hours.

During this time, you have the chance to address the situation and retrieve your car. Acting quickly is essential, since failure to do so may result in further action.

3. Repossession Impound

In cases of repossession, the duration that a towing company can keep your car varies depending on legal processes and agreements.

If a court order allows the repossession company to take ownership of your vehicle, the towing company can hold it until the repossession matter is resolved.

This could be due to failure to make loan payments or defaulting on storage fees. In such cases, it’s important to consult your legal counsel to understand the specific terms of the agreement.

3. Police-Ordered Tows

In the case that your vehicle is towed by order of the police or other governmental agencies, the towing company can keep it for up to 30 days. The arrival time of the tow truck needs around half an hour.

This is typically the result of your car being involved in an accident, parked illegally on a public roadway or having evidence of criminal activity.

Failure to retrieve your vehicle within this timeframe or pay the impound fees can result in the government agency auctioning off your car.

4. Investigation Impound

As part of an investigation, the towing company will impound your car using trailer safety chains and tow it using a tow truck. In such a case, the towing company has the right to keep it for a period of 30 days. During this duration, you will be responsible for covering both storage and tow truck fees.

The vehicle will be released if the investigation is concluded or there is insufficient evidence against you. If there is evidence that implicates you in criminal activity, law enforcement can hold your vehicle for longer periods.

In this scenario, it is best to seek the advice of a legal professional to determine the best course of action for retrieving your vehicle.

5. ICBC Tows

Your car could be reclaimed within 30 days if ICBC towed it due to inadequate insurance coverage or a suspended license.

If the fees are not paid within this timeframe, the towing company can legally sell off your car to offset the costs. To avoid this scenario, paying any outstanding fees promptly and retrieving your vehicle as soon as possible is best.

How Can You Retrieve Your Car From the Towing Company?

If your car has been towed and you need to retrieve it, there are several steps to follow. The following are among them:

1. Contact the Towing Company

If your car has been impounded, the first step in retrieving it is to contact the towing company that has impounded it.

The contact information for the towing company is usually provided on any notice, towing receipt, or information provided by law enforcement.

You can use this information to contact the company and find out where your vehicle is being held.

Make sure to have your vehicle information handy, such as the make and model and your identification, so that you can provide it to the towing company representative.

2. Vehicle Release Fee

Be prepared to pay the required fees for releasing your vehicle from impoundment. These fees usually include towing, impound, and storage charges and the vehicle release fee that covers administrative costs associated with releasing your vehicle.

The cost of this fee varies by location but is generally around $300. This fee is part of the overall cost you must settle before reclaiming your towed vehicle.

In addition, you will also need to cover any towing and storage fees that may have accrued while the towing company held your car.

3. Ownership and Identification

Proving that you are the registered owner or someone with proper authorization will require identification and proof of ownership.


You should bring your identification, such as your vehicle registration or title, driving license, and government-issued photo ID, to the towing company.

These documents are crucial for verifying your ownership of the vehicle and confirming your identity. Without proper identification, the towing company may not release your vehicle to you.

4. Clear Any Outstanding Issues

If your vehicle was towed due to a violation such as illegal parking, you must resolve the underlying issue before attempting to retrieve your car.

For example, if you were parked in a no-parking zone, you must pay the corresponding fines. Failure to address the underlying issue may prevent the towing company from releasing your vehicle to you.

5. Payment Options

Towing companies usually accept various payment options, including cash, cashier’s checks, money orders, and credit cards for payment of fees.

Before attempting to retrieve your vehicle, check which payment options the towing company accepts and ensure you have the payment method in hand.

6. Inspection and Retrieve Personal Belongings

Before driving your car away, conduct a thorough inspection to ensure no damage occurred during the towing and impound process.

If you notice any damage, document the extent of the damage with the towing company representative before leaving the impound lot.

Also, if your vehicle was impounded, retrieve any personal belongings that may have been left inside.

Remember that the towing company is not responsible for any belongings left in the vehicle, and you may need to provide proof of ownership to retrieve them.

Successfully Reclaim Your Towed Vehicle

The varying timeframes that towing companies can keep your vehicle are now clear to you. Whether it’s a consumer tow, private property impound, police-ordered tow, or other scenarios, the clock is set differently.

Timelines range from 24 hours for illegal parking to up to 30 days for police-ordered or investigation-related impounds.

Remember, swift action is crucial to avoid additional complications and costs. If your car gets towed, take immediate steps within these timeframes to regain possession and address any underlying issues.

Stay informed, act promptly, and navigate the process smoothly to retrieve your vehicle within the specified timeframes.

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