There are few things in life worse than looking out the window and seeing your car on the back of a tow truck, and that heart-dropping feeling only gets worse when you are renting the vehicle that is being towed away.
Although the process of getting your vehicle back can be a pain, it is doable, but what happens if a rental car gets towed?
In the event of a rental car being towed, make sure you find out exactly where the vehicle is going and call the rental agency for instructions. Additionally, calling your insurance company may help save you money.
Continue reading to learn more about why a rental might get towed and what you should do if that ever happens.
Reasons A Car Might Get Towed
There are several reasons a car might get towed. It is important to understand when and why a vehicle might get impounded because it will help you avoid the tow truck, and it might also help to explain the situation if you find your vehicle was taken. While there are a wide variety of reasons for the tow truck to come calling, we have listed the most popular reasons below.
- It was blocking traffic. A vehicle may be towed if it is parked anywhere where it impedes the flow of traffic. For example, you cannot block the entrance to a parking lot or a thruway. Additionally, many cities have laws concerning how far from a curb a vehicle can be situated, and in most cities, you cannot park within twenty feet of a stop sign or intersection.
- It was blocking emergency traffic. For obvious reasons, fire zones and the area around a fire hydrant cannot be blocked. Punishment for parking in one of these areas could range from getting a ticket to having your vehicle towed. Not all these areas are brightly marked, and it is your responsibility to make sure that you are not in a no-parking/tow-away zone.
- The vehicle looks abandoned. If you park the vehicle for an extended period without alerting someone as to the reason, it could be towed. If you know the car will be parked for a while, it might be a good idea to inform a manager or store clerk. Otherwise, try to park in a spot where long-term parking is expected.
- You are doing something other than that for which the parking spot is intended. This is especially true for businesses that have small parking lots. The business needs the space for their paying customers, so when people take up that space and are not using their services, they can have the vehicle towed.
- You are loitering. This is less common because if you are in the vehicle, you will drive away before the tow truck can hook up. However, loitering is often not allowed, and vehicles may be towed for it.
- You are not following city mandates. Cities will sometimes issue mandates that stipulate which side of the road a vehicle can be parked on. For example, if the trash is due to be picked up on a Tuesday on the left side of the street, people may be asked to park on the right side. Additionally, if snow is forecasted, residents may be asked not to park on the roadway at all to avoid being in the way of the snowplow. It is your responsibility to know these rules, and they are usually listed on the city’s official website.
- You have unpaid fines. In larger cities, people who have unpaid fines may have their license plates tagged. When the fines become severely overdue or hit a certain amount, the car gets booted and towed. The only way to get a vehicle back after this happens is to pay the total amount of the tickets as well as the impound fees, which can be quite high.
- You are parked on private property. If you park in a private lot, such as in the parking lot of an apartment building, you could be towed. Especially if you are in a tenant’s spot. However, most private lots will have spots dedicated to visitors parking.
- You are parked longer than is allowed or the meter expired. Most of the time this will result in a fine, but in some cases, the vehicle could be towed. Make sure to look for signs stipulating when and for how long you can park in an area.
- Being pulled over or having illegal tags. If you are pulled over and then taken to jail, the police will arrange for your car to be towed. Additionally, if the vehicle is unregistered, uninsured, or otherwise not road legal, it might be towed.
- You were involved in an accident or broke down. If you are involved in an accident that rendered the vehicle inoperable, it might be towed. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. Additionally, running out of gas or breaking down could also cause you to call a tow truck.
What Happens If a Rental Car Is Towed?
Nobody rents a vehicle with the intention of having it towed, but it can and does happen. So, what happens when a rental car is towed?
In a perfect world, the towing company would hook the car up and take it promptly back to the rental company. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and the vehicle will likely be towed to an impound lot somewhere.
Where it ends up will depend on the circumstances of the tow. If you have had the rental for a while and have racked up parking violations, it may be towed by the city. However, if you are being towed by a private business, the vehicle will end up in the towing company’s impound lot. This is when things get sticky.
Only the owner of a vehicle can get a car out of impound. However, some companies will release a vehicle to renters if they can prove they are on the rental agreement. But not all companies will release a vehicle to renters, and if the car was towed by the city, renters might not be able to retrieve the vehicle at all.
If the rental company gets involved, things can get much worse. Although some companies are quick to respond to situations such as this, others might wait weeks before getting the vehicle out. Meanwhile, the renter is charged every day the car sits in impound, and this could cost upwards of $150 a day!
On top of hefty impound fees, renters might also be charged service fees if the company has to send someone out of the state to retrieve the car. The rental company may also charge renters administration fees for their communications and dealings with the impound lot. If renters had anything in the vehicle, they may be charged a cleaning fee, and will likely never see their belongings again.
While this sounds like a nightmare, there may be situations when the process runs much more smoothly. For example, if you are involved in an accident that was not your fault, the insurance may kick in and take care of the rental fees. In this case, all you must do is contact the rental agency. Additionally, if you have your own roadside assistance, you may be able to contract your own tow, which would allow you to control the destination.
Ultimately, what ends up happening after a vehicle is towed will depend on the language of the rental contract. So, before you rent a car, be sure to read the contract and ask the agent about situations such as these and what you are expected to do if it happens.
What To Do If Your Rental Car Is Towed
If you are renting a vehicle, you should do everything in your power to ensure that the vehicle does not get towed. However, stuff happens, and if you have found yourself getting your rental towed, following the steps below is a good idea.
- Check your rental agreement. People often throw their rental contract in the glove compartment of their rental car, but it is always a better idea to keep the agreement with you. This way, if the car is towed, you still have access to the contract (which you might need to get the vehicle out of impound). Read the contract and see if it stipulates what renters should do if a vehicle is towed.
- Call the rental agency. It might be tempting to hide the fact that the vehicle has been towed from the company, but this is a very bad idea. The agency is going to find out anyway, and if you call them as soon as it happens, they may be able to walk you through how to handle the situation.
- Get as much detail as you can from the tow truck driver. Try to find out exactly why the vehicle is being towed, where it is going, an estimation of the price, and the instructions regarding how to retrieve your vehicle. It may be a good idea to have an agent from the rental company on the phone with you while you do this so that they can get the information as well.
- Track down the vehicle. If you are not present when the vehicle is towed, you will have to find this information from someone else. Sometimes you can call the police and ask if they know where the vehicle went. At the very least, they should be able to tell you how to contact the city to find out if they towed the car. Additionally, you could visit any local businesses to see if they played any part in the vehicle being towed, and which company they contracted if they did request the tow.
- Call your insurance company. If the tow is a result of an accident, call your insurance company. An agent will help you determine what might be the best way forward and how your policy could help you in this situation.
- Ask if you can get your things from the vehicle. Sometimes you will have an opportunity to retrieve your stuff from the car. Make sure you grab anything and everything of yours, including any papers you have in the glovebox. This may be the last time you see the vehicle.
- Take pictures. Make sure to document the vehicle extensively. Take clear photos of the vehicle from all available angles, including the interior and any damage that may have occurred.
- Use a licensed towing service. You may not be given a choice of towing companies, but if you are, make sure that you use a licensed company that is approved by the rental agency.
- Call the towing company or impound lot to find out what you will need to have the vehicle released. Once you have that information, call the rental agency, and inform them. Some companies will allow renters to retrieve a vehicle, while others may only release the vehicle to an agent of the company. In some cases, the impound lot will work with the agency to release the vehicle to you.
- Keep on top of the situation. The worst thing you could do after having your rental car towed is never think about it again. It is your responsibility to follow up with all parties involved to ensure that your interests are protected.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.