What if I can’t afford to get my car out of impound? What can I do? Start by keeping your cool.
So, you did something wrong that got your car or truck impounded, and after locating the vehicle and contacting the impound lot where it was taken, realized that you can’t afford to get it out. If you’ve been stressing and pulling your hair out because of it, STOP IT!
You will be happy to know that there are a few things you can do to possibly reduce or even eliminate your impound fees. People in such a predicament generally have three key options:
- Check if the impound lot provides a payment plan or any type of financing.
- Sell off valuables to make some quick money.
- Seek financial assistance from elsewhere (family, friends, community action agency, etc.).
Not only does this guide provide a general overview of vehicle impoundment, but it also gives you valuable tips for retrieving your vehicle if you can’t afford to get it out of impound.
Why Do Cars Get Impounded?
Before getting back your vehicle, it helps to understand why it was impounded in the first place so that you can plan accordingly.
Vehicles are usually impounded by local authorities for the following reasons:
- Driving without a driver’s license or insurance or with a suspended or expired license.
- Parking in a place that you shouldn’t such as in front of a fire hydrant, on a sidewalk, or in a handicap zone without a proper permit.
- Traffic violations such as speeding, driving under the influence, and other reckless acts.
- Evading the police for a potential crime you might have committed.
- Your car was determined to have been abandoned.
- Having unpaid parking tickets and other fines.
- Your car or truck is not roadworthy and is unlikely to pass a vehicle inspection.
Note that once your vehicle has been impounded, police officers can search it without a warrant. This is called an inventory search, and the main purpose of it is to allow authorities to determine the contents of a vehicle to perform a variety of administrative functions.
You usually don’t have to worry about your valuables being stolen, since an inventory search involves creating a detailed list of the property contained in the vehicle.
This list also protects the officers from allegations of theft and dangerous hidden items (weapons, explosives, etc.).
Aside from eyeglasses or prescription drugs, you will need to make a cash deposit to have any of your personal belongings released from the vehicle.
What If My Vehicle Was Impounded Illegally?
Police officers and other driving authorities are not infallible, and there have been cases of vehicles being wrongfully impounded. Should that happen to you, hire a criminal defense lawyer to help you get it back without any penalties.
If your claim of ownership is successful in court, you will get a collection letter for proving your identity and ownership of the vehicle when retrieving it at the impounding station.
You might find yourself in a situation where you can’t retrieve the vehicle yourself. In that case, it may be possible to have someone do it on your behalf depending on where you live.
Just make sure this person brings along an authorization letter that’s signed by you, a copy of your driving license, and an insurance certificate to prove your identity.
How To Get Your Car Out Of Impound
While getting your car out of impound can be a frustrating experience, the process is fairly straightforward. Basically, you need to locate the vehicle, contact the impound lot where it was taken, get all your paperwork together, and pay all necessary fees.
Locate The Vehicle
If you were present when your vehicle was impounded, ask the police or towing company where it was taken. Things can get a bit tricky if it was towed away in your absence, however, as you will need to perform a little bit of research to determine where exactly it’s impounded.
Begin by asking nearby businesses what towing company they use when vehicles violate driving or parking rules. If that gets you nowhere, check with your local police station or parking authority if their registry has the vehicle listed as impounded.
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Some municipalities even have a towed vehicle locator website for added convenience. Just bear in mind that the vehicle’s VIN and/or license plate number will be required for the look-up.
Contact The Impound Lot
Once you have identified where your car or truck was taken, contact the impound lot to confirm that it’s indeed there. Take this time to also inquire about what will be needed to retrieve it.
Calling beforehand will spare you the trouble and frustration of going to the impound and waiting hours in line only to find out that your vehicle isn’t there or that you lack the proper documentation to have it released.
Gather Necessary Paperwork
The impound should have informed you of everything you will need to reclaim your vehicle. Granted different offenses require different documentation and jurisdictions/tow companies usually have different requirements, the following are often necessary:
- Your driver’s license
- Proof of ownership
- Proof of insurance
- Vehicle registration or title
In addition to these documents, you should also be cognizant of payment. Rather than being charged a flat rate, you will most likely be charged for each day your vehicle sits on the impound lot.
Make sure to bring sufficient funds to cover all costs associated with the vehicle’s towing, storage, and release, as well as all other miscellaneous fees, and that the impound accepts your preferred method of payment.
You will not be able to retrieve your vehicle if all fees are not paid in full.
What If I Can’t Afford To Get My Car Out Of Impound?
If you’re like most people, you likely don’t have money put aside in case your car or truck gets towed. As such, you could very well find yourself short on funds when attempting to retrieve it.
Worst yet, the longer you take to pay, the more you will be charged considering impound lots usually charge for each day they hold the vehicle.
Here are some tips for quickly getting the extra money you need.
- Check for payment plans. Some impound lots offer payment plans that allow you to pay the impound fees in smaller installments.
- Ask a friend or family member, perhaps one who owes you a favor.
- Sell some of your valuables such as jewelry, electronics, furniture, appliances, and games you have little need for. Online shopping sites such as Craigslist, eBay, and Etsy greatly facilitate listing and selling such items.
- Ask your employer for a pay advance. Explaining why you need the money will increase your chances of getting it.
- Apply for an assistance program. While rare, non-profit organizations, charities, community action agencies, and even churches may help you cover unexpected expenses that prop up as long as they are not the result of a criminal act.
- Get a credit card cash advance or personal loan. Going into debt is usually not a good idea, but if you’re certain you can pay off the debt on short notice, it can be a good option.
- Apply for a payday loan. This should be a last resort when trying to get your vehicle out of the impound lot, as it’s a high-risk proposition that exposes you to a very high level of interest. Consider getting a payday loan only if you can pay it off quickly.
Unfortunately, you can’t negotiate impound fees. If you don’t pay, you will continue to be charged daily until your vehicle is taken away and sold to recover the amount owed.
Should the value of the vehicle be still not enough to pay off the impound fees, you will still need to pay the remaining cost out of pocket.
You’ve got even more questions about vehicle impoundment, and we’ve got more answers. Here are other popular questions people who can’t get their vehicle out of impound also ask.
How Do I Get My Car Out Of Impound Without Paying?
You may be able to get your vehicle out of impound for free by applying for an assistance program provided by a non-profit organization, charity, community action agency, or church. If you haven’t done anything illegal, these organizations may be able to cover some or all of your impound fees.
You can also try to convince the impound lot to waive the fees. This is less likely to succeed, but you have nothing to lose.
What Happens If Your Car Is Towed And You Don’t Pick It Up?
The impound lots generally provide a certain number of days for a vehicle to be picked up. Not only will your car or truck rack up storage fees for every day it’s on the lot, but the impound lot will eventually take full possession of it after the deadline is missed
They may then choose to sell the vehicle, sell parts of it, or scrap it all together to recoup the amount owing.
Some impounds may even let you have what’s left after they’ve covered all the fees.
Can A Friend Get My Car Out Of Impound?
Yes. In some jurisdictions, you can authorize a friend or some other person to collect the vehicle from the impound lot on your behalf.
They will need to bring a letter of authorization signed by you, permitting them to pick up the vehicle; a copy of your license plate or passport so that the impound lot can verify that you signed the authorization letter; and proof of insurance.
Having your car or truck impounded is one of the most frustrating experiences of owning a vehicle, and getting it out of the impound lot is often easier said than done. As cliché as it sounds, the key is to keep calm.
In this guide, you learned why vehicles get impounded in the first place and the steps for releasing your car out of the impound lot, as well as several things you can do when you can’t afford to get it back.
When you’re short on funds, check if the impound lot has any payment plans, ask friends and family for some spare change or your employer for a pay advance, sell some of your valuables, and apply for an assistance program if possible. Only take out credit if you can pay it off quickly.
Remember, impound fees generally add up daily, so the longer you wait to pick up your ride, the more you may have to pay. And should you be unable to pay the fees in full, the impound will take it away from you for good and sell it to try to recoup the balance owed.
Now that you’ve gone from thinking “I can’t afford to get my car out of impound” to realizing that you may be able to, check out some of our other guides. Do you know how to start a car with a bad starter? How about the right license plate screw size for your car or truck?