How to Get Your Car Out of Impound for Free

How to Get Your Car Out of Impound for Free
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Finding out a business or city had your car towed can be a nasty surprise. The impound company will hold your car hostage until you can pay the fee to get your car back. You may wonder how to get impound fees waived.

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For millions of Americans, paying the impound fee to get their car back may be an economic hardship. In many cases, towing may prevent you from going to work and other necessities. But there may be options for you to get your car out of impound for free—or at least for a reduced fee.

Why do cars get impounded?

Police tow and impound cars for several reasons, including:

  • Unpaid parking or traffic tickets
  • Driving without insurance
  • Arrest
  • Evidence the vehicle was involved in a crime
  • Evading the police
  • Driving without a license, or an expired license
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving without registration, or expired registration

Car impound and towing fees

Once a car is impounded, the owner has to pay a fee to get it back in addition to any fines or tickets still owed. Impounding fees vary from place to place, but altogether they typically cost hundreds of dollars. Common fees include:

  • Boot fee: Oftentimes police will immobilize a vehicle with a “boot” or similar device as a last-ditch effort to get a driver’s attention before towing and impounding. Rates vary by location but expect to pay $100 or more.
  • Initial tow fee: Usually $100 or more depending on the locality, though they can be even higher if the vehicle is large or requires special towing equipment.
  • Impound fee: This is the cost to store the car in an impound lot. Though typically much cheaper than the tow fee (usually well under $100), it adds up for every day the car is in storage. Similar to tow fees, impound fees may be higher for larger vehicles.
  • Other fees: There may be additional fees depending on how and why your vehicle got impounded. For example, long-distance towing could incur additional costs. If your vehicle was towed due to an accident that left debris on the road, you could be subject to a cleanup fee. There could be labor charges if the police have to remove stolen parts or equipment as well. And if your car was impounded for past-due parking or traffic tickets, you’ll likely still have to pay those.

In many cases, the police give the driver a few days to get the car out of impound. But if the driver doesn’t take action (typically within 30 days), the vehicle can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. For this reason, drivers need to know their rights and responsibilities if their car gets impounded.

How to get impound fees waived

The fees associated with towing and impoundment add up quickly, often by the day. For example, the initial tow fee in New York City can be as much as $370, with an additional $20 added for each day the car sits in the impound lot. However, there are ways to potentially waive these fees if you know where to look.

One way to try to waive your impound fees is disputing the ticket that led to your car being towed. If you can show the ticket was issued in error or you had a valid excuse for violating the law, the court may decide to waive your impound fees.

Another way to waive your impound fees is by filing a complaint with the city. Many towns have procedures for disputing towing fees, and if enough complaints are made, they’re likely to take action.

If all else fails, consider talking to a lawyer. A lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you through the process of waiving your impound fees.

How to get impound fees reduced

You may have worked hard to get impound fees waived but weren’t successful. Don’t give up. You may be able to get them reduced.

If you can prove you’re in hardship and unable to afford these fees, the police department may have the authority to reduce them.

To potentially reduce your impound fees, take the following actions:

  1. If possible, take photos of the area surrounding where your car was towed and what the scene looked like before the tow truck picked up your vehicle. These images may help display your hardship to police officers.
  2. Also, attempt to obtain the name and badge number of the police officer(s) who towed your vehicle and impounded it. This information may be helpful when speaking to supervisors and other individuals to get your impound fees reduced.
  3. After getting this information, the next step is calling the police department that impounded your car. Explain your situation and ask to speak with the supervisor of the officer who towed your vehicle.
  4. Be sure to have all of your documentation in hand, including photos, identification, registration, proof of insurance, etc. If the supervisor is willing to help you, they may reduce your impound fees.
  5. If the supervisor is unwilling to help you, ask to speak with someone higher up the chain of command or in the office of the Property Clerk. Keep in mind getting your fees reduced may be challenging if the police department does not feel you are in genuine hardship.

Reducing impound fees can be difficult but not impossible. If the city or police department won’t work with you, there may still be other avenues.

Ask for financing

One option would be to get financing from the impound lot. You can usually get a loan on the cost of getting your car out of impound, but this is subject to the particular lot’s policies.

Contact the impound lot and explain your situation. The lot may recommend (or even offer) a loan, but the interest rate will likely be high. If you need your car out of impound quickly, this may be your best option.

Use community programs

Explore community programs that can help you, and they are often run through churches or other religious organizations. They will usually require some commitment from you, such as volunteering for a certain number of hours each week.

I can’t afford to get my car out of impound

If you cannot afford to pay the impound fees or cannot get a hold of anyone who can help, your options are limited.

First, you should call the local police department or city and ask about impound payment assistance programs. You may qualify for one, or they may give you some guidance on what to do next.

If that doesn’t work, ask friends and family if they can help. You could even consider selling some personal belongings for quick cash.

No matter what you decide, acting fast is essential. The longer your car stays in impound, the more money you have to pay. Take action and explore all of your options as soon as possible.

If none of those options are available, consider the following.

Use a credit card

While not ideal, paying towing and impound fees with a credit card might be the fastest way to get a car out of impound if you don’t have the cash. While financing something of this nature is not ideal, it beats allowing the fees to mount while you secure another form of payment.

Better yet, many credit card companies may offer an interest-free grace period on balance transfers to entice new customers, provided your credit score is high enough. Between the quick transaction speed and any potential grace periods, you may be able to get your car out without taking too much of an added financial hit.

Ask your employer to help

There may be some cases where you work for a private or small company that may be open to fronting money for you to get your car out of impound. However, unless your employer has expressly agreed to provide you with financial assistance in case of an emergency, they are unlikely willing or legally able to help you pay car impound fees.

Asking your employer for financial assistance is easiest when it’s a one-time salary advance. These are generally OK and easy to administer. However, if multiple advances are involved, the employer may face risks, such as having the advances treated like a loan (triggering tax and lending issues) and being unable to collect the advances if you leave.

Fundraise online

If you can set up crowdfunding such as a GoFundMe, you may be able to raise enough money before the fee escalates. Setting up an online fundraiser is simple if you have a computer or mobile device and online access. In addition, letting friends know of your fundraiser through Facebook or other social media may help you raise money more quickly.

Payday loans

For some, payday loans are the only way to access the money needed to get their car out of impound.

Payday loans usually have very high interest rates because the bank is loaning you the money until your next paycheck. Because of the high-interest rates, you will pay much more for taking out a payday loan than if you used other methods. Payday loans are cash advance loans, which means that in addition to high rates, they usually have higher fees than a check or electronic debit transaction.

If you are in a situation where you need to get your car out of impound, take action as soon as possible. This way, you have the best chance of getting the money you need to get your car out of impound. Remember, a payday loan is a short-term agreement, so it shouldn’t be used as a long-term fix for your situation.

About Bumper

At Bumper, we are on a mission to bring vehicle history reports and ownership up to speed with modern times. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you'll likely make, and you deserve to have access to the same tools and information the pros use to make the right decisions.

About Steven Mitchell

Steve’s first car had pedals, and he’s been filled with passion for four wheels ever since. Steve lives and breathes the auto industry as a technologist, futurist, and writer while keeping up with the whys, hows, and plans of the automotive industry. His automotive journey began with a fully restored Triumph TR3b that he sadly never appreciated until decades later. Ownership of X-1/9’s, BMW’s, an SVT and a Dodge Ram Hemi have given way to an Audi Sport.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.