What To Do If Your Car Gets Towed In New York City

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Getting Your Car Towed In New York City: Questions and Resources

If you have not been towed, please see Avoiding Parking Tickets and Towing In New York City. If you were towed, please continue reading.

Who can pick up a towed vehicle in New York City?

The only people who can pick up a towed vehicle in New York City are:

  • The registered owner
  • The registered owner’s spouse
  • An authorized representative of the registered owner (authority must be granted via notarized letter)

Where do I pick up a towed vehicle in New York City?

You can see where New York City tow pounds are located here.

Locate vehicles towed in New York City here. You can also dial 311 within NYC. Outside NYC call (212) NEW-YORK (212-639-9675).

Should I rush to the tow pound to reclaim my vehicle as soon as I find out it has been towed?

Only if all your paperwork is in order. DO NOT GO TO THE TOW POUND IF YOUR PAPERWORK IS NOT IN ORDER. If you do, you’ll waste massive amounts of time/energy and experience major aggravation.

Resolve ALL paperwork issues BEFORE visiting the tow pound. And don’t forget, you will have to show them the documents to prove everything is in order.

ALL OF THE FOLLOWING MUST BE TRUE before you can reclaim your vehicle:

  1. Vehicle’s registration is valid
  2. Vehicle’s insurance is valid
  3. Your driving license is valid
  4. You do not owe more than $101 in parking judgments.

Today’s not a good day to reclaim my towed car. I have to renew my registration and then go to yoga class. Tomorrow, my cat is having a bunion removed. Can I pick it up in a few days?

Of course. Take your time. But remember, they start charging storage fees after 24 hours.

My registration, insurance and license are fine, but I owe more than $101 in unpaid New York City parking judgments. Can I pay those parking judgments at the tow pound?

No. All overdue parking fines/judgments must be paid at a NYC Finance Dept. Business Service Center. While you’re there, request and fill out a “Vehicle Release Form.” You must present the “Vehicle Release Form” at the tow pound. If you owe more than $101 dollars in unpaid parking judgments, your car will not be released until all fines are paid in full.

I’m not sure if I have any unpaid New York City parking violations/judgments. How can I find out?

New York City Towing_parking_ticket-6
That metallic cha-ching sound you hear is not the sound of a vehicle being attached to a New York City tow truck. It’s New York City’s cash registers ringing each and every time a vehicle is towed. The city’s tow trucks are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Always read the signs and understand the rules. Parking in New York City is nothing like gambling in a casino, where the odds are against you from the start. If you don’t follow the rules, however, the house always wins.

What’s the difference between a parking ticket and a parking judgment?

  • Parking ticket= the paper you find on your windshield. It is an accusation of wrongdoing. You are innocent until proven guilty.
  • Parking judgment= The city has officially determined you are guilty. You are told either in person or via official letter “pay X amount by X date or else.”

Another way to think about it:

  • Parking ticket= The city is saying, “We think you did this. We would like you to pay us this amount.”
  • Parking judgment= The city is saying, “We know you did this. You must pay us this amount.”

You can be found guilty of a parking violation in  3 ways:

  1. You ignore the ticket. If you do not respond within 30 days, you are automatically guilty by default. Game over.
  2. You check the “guilty” box on the ticket and mail in your fine. This is what you do when you just want to get it over with.
  3. You attend your court date and/or “trial” and are found guilty of said violation by the powers that be.

What’s the difference between a violation tow and a judgment tow?

          • Violation towthe New York City Police Department towed your vehicle for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, you are towed for parking in front of a “Do not park here” sign.
          • Judgment tow=   the City Sheriff or City Marshal towed your vehicle for owing more than $350 in unpaid parking judgments.

How do I know if I received a violation tow or judgment tow?

If you haven’t received New York City parking tickets in the past, relax. You more than likely received a violation tow (i.e. your  vehicle was parked at the wrong place at the wrong time).

If you have received parking tickets/judgments that you ignored or forgot about, better move fast. Find out immediately whether yours was a violation tow or judgment tow by checking  the Locate Towed Vehicle page or calling 311 (within NYC). Outside NYC, dial (212) 639-9675.

Why the big hurry if it’s a Sheriff’s tow?

If you owe more than $350 in unpaid parking judgments, the City Sheriff or City Marshal can tow ANY vehicle registered in your name. For example, let’s say you own two cars. Car A has $400 in unpaid parking judgments and car B has $0 in unpaid parking judgments. The City Sheriff or City Marshal can tow either car to recover the fines generated by Car A.

It gets worse. If the City Sheriff or City Marshal tows your car, you have 72 hours (3 days) to pay what you owe. If you don’t pay, your vehicle will be auctioned. That’s right, your sweet car becomes someone’s sweet deal.

But wait. You’re not done even after paying for the towing, the fines and the Sheriff Department’s fees. You’ll still have to visit a NYC Finance Dept. Business Service Center to file a document called a “Sale Hold.” (Reminder: the Sale Hold applies only to judgment tows, not violation tows.)

You car can also be booted for unpaid judgments.

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