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public vs. private property tow

Difference Between a Public Tow and a Private Property Tow

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When your car has been towed, you may not be concerned much with the finer details — you just want your vehicle back now. But there are some major differences between the two types of car towing that you need to know if you’re going to get your car back as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Read on to find out what each one means for drivers.

Public Tows

Public tows, also sometimes known as municipal or police enforcement tows, take place when you’ve parked illegally on public property, like along a city street. This kind of tow is requested by a public agency. These agencies can include police, parking enforcement officials, and the Department of Transportation of your state. The official agency must cite the particular ordinance that’s being violated and fill out paperwork, and a copy will be provided to you.

When your car is towed from public land, you may or may not be able to get it out of the towing company’s storage before you pay the fees you owe, depending on the laws in your state. If this is the case, you’ll be sent a bill for the towing company’s services, any fines you owe, and often a bill for storage of your vehicle, as well. If you don’t pay this bill by the time it’s due, it will be sent to collections, which can have a major impact on your credit rating. Call your local police department to find out exactly what you need to do to get your car back.

Private Tows

A private tow is one that’s requested by an owner of private property when someone is illegally parked on property that they own. There are specific state and local regulations that give the towing company the authority to tow the vehicle without police involvement (although they are required to report the tow to the police).

For example, if someone parks in a spot at an apartment building that’s reserved for a tenant, the owner has the right to have you towed. Another common example is a parking lot for a specific business. If you aren’t visiting that business and there are signs posted that say the lot is reserved for that business only, the owner is within his or her rights to call for a tow if you park there. One thing to be aware of with private tows is that they can be a gravy train for tow companies. Some make deals with business owners to hover around parking lots (even when the business is closed) and pounce on violators, even if they’re only in the spot for a short period of time.

Although some towing companies will try to hold your car hostage until you’ve paid the fees you owe them, the truth is that in most states, you have the right to get your car back before you pay if your car was towed from private land. It’s important to know the rules in your state so you can avoid paying hefty storage fees if it takes you a while to round up the money.

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