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What Happens If You Don’t Pay Towing Fees?

It is never a good feeling when a towing company impounds your vehicle from where it was parked and tows it away to a police garage or tow yard. The only thing worse is paying hefty towing fees to recover your vehicle and paying the parking ticket.

People on limited budgets or fixed incomes will often find themselves in trouble because they cannot afford to pay the hundreds of dollars in towing fees owed. The law gives you the legal right to take back any personal possessions left in your vehicle, but you cannot take back the car unless you pay the towing fees first. Failure to pay the fees within 30 days could result in losing ownership of your vehicle.




In California, a motorist doesn’t usually get billed more than $400 for their towing fees. That might seem like a small amount of money to some people, but not to those living paycheck to paycheck. In fact, it is a substantial amount of money for people living on a budget to come up with in 30 days, which is how long you have to pay the towing fees.

If you fail to pay the towing fees within 30 days, the towing company has the legal right to sell your vehicle at a public auction for the lien amount owed. The starting bid price usually equals the towing fees owed, but the bid will usually go much higher if the car has value. That is why it’s better to find a way to pay the towing fees before the vehicle ends up at a public lien auction.

Public Auction

Public lien car auctions have been conducted for many decades. In the old days, the local government authority of a county would publish auction information in a newspaper classified advertisement. But ever since the rise of the internet, local government authorities have posted public lien auction information on their websites for convenience.

You won’t immediately lose your car if you don’t pay your towing fees within 30 days. Instead, what’ll happen is your local government authority will begin listing your car for sale at a scheduled public auction. Anyone from the public can access this auction information and visit the tow yard to inspect the vehicle. You still have ownership of the car until it is sold at the auction.

Please note that any existing car loans and liens will not disappear if your car gets sold at auction. For example, if you’re making monthly payments on a car loan and the vehicle gets sold at a public auction, you’re still responsible for paying back the total loan amount to the lender.

Make the Right Decision

The best thing you can do is figure out how to pay the outstanding towing fees before your vehicle gets sold at auction. Since you probably paid several thousands of dollars for your car, it would be a shame if you lost ownership of your investment simply because you couldn’t pay a couple of hundred dollars in towing fees.

Even though personal loans have high-interest rates, it is still worth paying them if it means retaining ownership of a car worth more than $1,000. People short on funds should take out a personal loan to pay their towing fees and retrieve their vehicle before it gets sold at auction. Then you wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of purchasing a new car, which would be much more expensive than paying those minor towing fees.

Besides, it’s not like you need to take out a massive personal loan. Most loan companies will grant personal loans of less than $1,000 to anyone with a decent credit score. It doesn’t need to be a great credit score as long as you have a history of making your debt payments on time. Once you get the loan and pay your towing fees to retrieve your vehicle, you could probably pay back the loan amount within months. As a result, the interest charges won’t even be that severe.

Do you already have a credit card? If so, it is a suitable alternative to a personal loan because it means you don’t need to open another debt account. Then you could use your credit card to pay the towing fees and make your minimum monthly payments, which should be no more than $20 or $30 per month if no other charges are on the card. Most people can afford to pay up to $30 per month on a credit card for something important like recovering their car.


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