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What to Do if Your Car is Towed in Portland, OR

What to Do if Your Car Is Towed in Portland, OR

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In the city of Portland, the police have the legal right to have your car towed if it violates traffic/parking laws or is otherwise a threat to public safety. This is called a municipal tow. Private property owners also have the right to have vehicles towed from their property by the private towing company of their choice, which is known as a PPI (or private property impound).

It’s important to know what to do in the event that your car gets towed. Below are the steps you should take to get your car back quickly. You can also see the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Towing FAQ page.

  1. Find out where your car is. If your car goes missing, your first priority should be to figure out where it’s been taken. Look for any signs that indicate the place you parked contracts with a private towing company—these will include a phone number to call. Towed from public property? Your first step should be to call the Portland Police Bureau Department of Auto Records at (503) 823-0044.
  2. Don’t delay. On a municipal tow, you have only 15 days to collect your vehicle before it will be sold. The time period is a little longer for PPI tows—a minimum of 30 days.
  3. Bring your documents. You’ll need to show photo ID, proof of vehicle ownership, and proof of insurance. If you don’t have a currently valid driver’s license, you’ll need to bring a licensed driver or a tow truck with you to drive the car off the lot.
  4. Take care of the fees. For both kinds of tows, you’ll need to pay the towing and storage fees to the tow lot (which will often be a privately contracted company, even for a municipal tow). For municipal tows, you will often need to pay an administrative fee of $150 to the Portland Police Bureau as well (for example, if your car was a threat to public safety or your car alarm caused a disturbance). Bring cash, money order, cashier’s check, or Visa/MC.
  5. Know your rights. Think your car was towed unfairly? The city of Portland allows you to request a hearing to contest the tow, as long as the reason for the tow wasn’t because of unpaid parking tickets. You can download the form for the request at this web page or get a copy at the Hearings Office. Your form must be filled out and submitted within ten days of the date of the tow.
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