Your vehicle is gone and you suspect it was towed. It most likely was since it was locked without the keys in the ignition. Not to worry, your car is probably not stolen. But now you must locate your car. How do you locate your car when it has been towed?
Often a sign is posted indicating the towing agency for parking enforcement in that area. Look on the posted sign for a phone number to call. Other towing instances can be a bit more complex, but if there is no sign posted, then call the City Sherriff Department and dispatch can tell you where the vehicle was towed with either the VIN or license plate.
Almost all parking lots and properties will have a sign posted to enforce parking and will provide a telephone number on the sign. In other instances, perhaps a vehicle was parked on the street where it didn’t belong, or in a fire lane or in front of someone’s driveway.
If there is no sign, call the city Sherriff Department in the city where the vehicle was towed. Dispatch will be able to provide you with the towing yard that has towed the vehicle since the towing company is required to report to local law enforcement when a vehicle is towed.
There are a few other things that you may need to do depending on the tow such as having your license plate or VIN info.
Have Your License Plate or VIN ready
Before you make a phone call to the towing company or to law Sherriff’s dispatch, have your license plate number ready. You will be able to easily find this on your insurance card or on your registration paperwork. Having the VIN number in addition to the license plate is not necessary but is an alternative way to search for the vehicle.
If you are out somewhere and do not have this paperwork, perhaps you have taken a photo of your car recently and captured the license plate in it.
Or if you are away from home and have the paperwork there, then call a family member or friend to pull up the paperwork for you.
If you are just calling the towing company directly to inquire if your vehicle has been towed by them before calling dispatch, then you can get away with only providing the make and the model of the car. Calling the local Sherriff department, they will ask for the VIN or license plate number.
Call the Local Sherriff Department
Just search the internet for “Sherriff Department of *blank* City”
By law, the towing company is usually the one responsible to report a towed vehicle to the city police department. They legally need to receive notice of a tow within a certain period of time of the vehicle being towed. If you think you have been wrongfully towed, give a read through this article going over in depth some common ways that cars are towed illegally.
Another law that will help you rest at ease is that whoever towed your vehicle is required to have it towed by a company within a certain number of miles usually within 10 miles.
So this proves a good point that if there are only a few tow companies in your area then you can go ahead and call them inquiring about your vehicle. With just the make and model is fine but license plate is helpful.
It will be faster to call the local city Sherriff Department and request the towing facility before you make two or three phone calls to random impound lots in most cases.
Find a phone number for the Sherriff Department of your city and by calling it you will be directed to Sherriff dispatch. You do not have to be directed to any department, just speak with the dispatch officer and let them know that you suspect your car was towed and would like them to look it up.
They can look it up easily with as little as the license plate or the VIN.
If dispatch reports to you that your car is not in the system as having been towed, it may be that your car has been stolen. But, it may also be that your car was towed so recently that the system has not processed the report of the vehicle tow yet. Call dispatch again in a half hour inquiring again.
Call the Local Towing Yard to Locate Your Vehicle
If you skip calling dispatch to have local law enforcement direct you to the tow company that rolled away with your vehicle, you have the option to call the local towing companies in your area.
Start with the closest towing companies to you and tell them you believe that your car was towed by them. Providing just the make and model of the car should be fine.
If you obtain the tow company information from dispatch then now it is time to call the towing yard. They will tell you the car is there and ready to be picked up.
They may remind you that you should bring some paperwork such as car insurance and registration of the vehicle. Also your drivers license.
Be sure that whoever is picking up the vehicle has their name on the registration. This is why you must bring the insurance or registration and a photo i.d. To verify that you are the owner of the vehicle.
Picking up a Towed Vehicle for Someone Else
Picking up a vehicle registered in someone else’s name can be difficult. Most impound lots will not authorize the release of a vehicle to someone other than the registered owner. There are a few exceptions however and it is possible to have someone other than the owner recover and impounded vehicle.
Here you can read an in depth article about when and how you can have someone else pick up a towed vehicle with a notarized letter for example or when their name is on the insurance information.
What to Bring When You Pick Up a Vehicle
First off bring a bike or scooter or something that will fit in your car so you can take it home if you are getting there yourself. Or just go for a walk if it is within a mile or two!
Bring these things when you pick up a vehicle from the impound lot:
- Car insurance
- Driver’s license or another state issued photo i.d.
- Keys – Don’t forget the keys!
Another tip- don’t wait long!
Perhaps You Were Illegally Towed
It’s one thing if you parked in the wrong place and violated the parking law for that area, but it is not right and unjust to be towed and pay hundreds of dollars when you were unaware or perhaps there was truly no sign or citation before the tow.
If you believe you were wrongfully towed, pursue it! Request the towing company to provide you with a number to call to dispute it. They are most likely legally required to provide that for you. Also, read up on it and do your homework!
Now, even if you think you were wrongfully towed and are going to fight the towing charges, go get your vehicle right away.
Do your best to get there before they close. There are always overnight fees for having a towed vehicle kept in a towing yard.
Check out this other article on finding out if your car was towed illegally towed and what you can do about it!