Towing companies, fines, and public auctions for towed cars

Have you ever had your car towed because you parked illegally? You know the situation: parking your car in a no parking zone or in a complex where your friend lives and the next morning finding out that your car is missing. You get worried, frustrated, and later on find out that your car was towed. I’ve had it happen to me at least 5 times, twice with a rental car.

Usually, a car is towed with the permission of the owner to a mechanic. In such cases, it’s an emergency when the car won’t start or there is a flat tire. There is also another kind of towing. If you park somewhere where your car doesn’t have either a resident or a guest parking permit, your car will be towed. Your car will be impounded, listed for citation with the local police department, and you’ll have to pay the towing company a couple of hundred dollars to get your car back. Go to any towing company to get your car back or to inquire about it, and you’ll find people with one of the worst attitudes on the planet. These people sit behind thick glass windows; not only are they scared of people coming and stealing cars, but also of people who’ll get seriously offended because of the rudeness.

Here in Southern California, the first day your car gets towed you have to pay at least $206 to get your car back. After the first day, the charges increase every 6 hours or so. An even bigger headache than that fine can come in the face of an auction; if you do not reclaim your vehicle within a certain amount of time, your car will be put in a public auction. Even if you come on the day of the auction to reclaim your car, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to bid on your own car, or if you come late, you’ll never be able to reclaim your car as it will legally have a new owner, the highest bidder. I lost my first car because I was traveling and had my friend take care of my car. That friend, after a while, decided to drop off my car at my place. Instead of parking in my garage way, they parked on the street. I came back after a long time only to find the car missing. I checked the local police station and my mail, and found out that my $5500 car was sold by a towing company in a public auction for something around $500.

In my view, any housing complex should start fining a onetime fine to cars that are parked without a permit. That way, anyone who forgot to put a parking permit or had to park in an emergency can have a chance to move their car and still pay the fine. If the same car is spotted within the complex, after the first 24 hours, it can then be towed. Even then, the fine to get the car back from the towing company should be a fixed amount which increases at least every 7 days or so, and not every 6 hours. Also, auctioning off cars should not be allowed at all. What if someone died, or is traveling on an emergency basis? Why should a third party get the right to sell of someone elses car without their permission in the first place? If it’s a burden to keep the car, don’t tow it in the first place and only fine the car.

This whole concept should be reanalyzed and modified to help the consumer reclaim their towed cars without much headache in case an honest mistake was made. Police stations should own the towing stations, or the towing companies should charge a onetime fee and never auction off the car until an extremely long time has passed, and even then, extra attempts should be made to locate the owner or someone related to the owner.