Can A Tow Company Keep My Car In Florida?

In the state of Florida, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities when it comes to dealing with tow companies. One question that often arises is whether a tow company can lawfully retain possession of your car. This article aims to provide insight into this matter and shed light on what you need to know if you find yourself in this situation. By examining relevant laws and regulations, we will explore the circumstances under which a tow company can keep your car in Florida.

Can A Tow Company Keep My Car In Florida?

Legal requirements for towing

Tow company regulations

When it comes to towing vehicles, tow companies must adhere to certain regulations to ensure a fair and lawful process. These regulations vary by jurisdiction, but some common requirements include obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, maintaining proper insurance coverage, and complying with specific operational standards. By following these regulations, tow companies can provide reliable and professional services to the public.

Proper signage

One of the essential legal requirements for towing is the presence of proper signage. Tow companies must display clear and conspicuous signs in the areas where they are authorized to tow vehicles. These signs should provide information about the parking restrictions, the name and contact information of the tow company, and any additional fees that may apply. By providing this signage, tow companies ensure that vehicle owners are aware of the consequences of parking in restricted areas.

Notification requirements

To protect the rights of vehicle owners, tow companies are usually required to provide certain notifications before towing a vehicle. These notifications usually involve posting a notice on the vehicle or contacting the vehicle owner directly. The purpose of these notifications is to inform the owner about the impending tow, allowing them a chance to rectify the situation before their vehicle is removed. Failure to comply with these notification requirements can result in legal repercussions for the tow company.

Reasons for towing

Illegal parking

One of the most common reasons for towing is illegal parking. When vehicles are parked in areas where parking is prohibited, such as fire lanes, handicap spaces, or private property without permission, tow companies may be called upon to remove these vehicles. Illegal parking can disrupt the flow of traffic, compromise public safety, and prevent others from using designated parking spaces. Towing in these cases helps enforce parking regulations and ensure order.

Vehicle abandonment

Abandoned vehicles can pose problems for communities and property owners. When vehicles are left unattended on public or private properties for an extended period, they can become eyesores and potential safety hazards. Tow companies are often authorized to remove these abandoned vehicles to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the area. However, specific requirements and timeframes for declaring a vehicle abandoned may vary depending on local regulations.

Blocking public access

In cases where vehicles are blocking public access or impeding the flow of traffic, tow companies may be called upon to clear the obstruction. Examples of this can include vehicles parked in fire lanes, blocking driveways, or obstructing emergency exits. By promptly removing these vehicles, tow companies help ensure public safety and allow for the unobstructed movement of people and vehicles.

Rights and responsibilities of tow companies

Tow company lien

Tow companies typically have a legal right to place a lien on a towed vehicle to secure payment for their services. This means that if a vehicle owner fails to pay the towing fees and related charges, the tow company can retain possession of the vehicle until the outstanding amounts are settled. However, the specific requirements for establishing a tow company lien may vary by jurisdiction, and vehicle owners should familiarize themselves with the laws relevant to their location.

Proper storage facilities

Tow companies are responsible for providing secure and appropriate storage facilities for towed vehicles. These storage facilities must meet certain standards to protect the vehicles from damage and theft. Tow companies should ensure that their facilities have adequate security measures, including proper fencing, surveillance systems, and restricted access. By maintaining proper storage facilities, tow companies minimize the risk of further harm to the towed vehicles.

Reasonable fees

Tow companies have the right to charge fees for their services, but these fees must be reasonable and in line with industry standards. The specific fee structure may vary depending on the nature of the tow and the local regulations. It is important for tow companies to provide transparent fee schedules to vehicle owners and ensure that the fees charged are fair and justified. Vehicle owners should also consult local regulations to understand their rights regarding towing fees.

Can A Tow Company Keep My Car In Florida?

Towing process

Initiation of the tow

The towing process typically begins when a tow company receives a request to remove a vehicle. This request may come from a property owner, law enforcement agency, or another authorized entity. Upon receiving the request, the tow company dispatches a tow truck to the location and initiates the removal process. The tow truck driver assesses the situation, verifies the need for towing, and proceeds with securing and preparing the vehicle for transport.

Procedures for removal and storage

Once the need for towing has been established, tow truck drivers follow specific procedures to ensure the safe removal of the vehicle. This may involve attaching the necessary equipment to the vehicle, such as a wheel-lift or flatbed, and carefully towing it away from the location. After the vehicle has been towed, it is taken to a designated storage facility where it will be stored until it is retrieved by the owner or other authorized party.

Notification and retrieval

Tow companies are generally required to provide timely notifications to the vehicle owners regarding the towing of their vehicles. This notification may be in the form of a notice placed on the vehicle or direct contact with the owner. The purpose of this notification is to inform the owner about the location of their towed vehicle, the fees involved, and the process for retrieving the vehicle. Vehicle owners must follow the specified procedures to retrieve their towed vehicles within the designated timeframe.

Tow company obligations

Safekeeping of vehicles

Tow companies have a responsibility to ensure the safekeeping of towed vehicles while they are in their possession. This includes taking reasonable precautions to protect the vehicles from damage or theft. Tow companies should have appropriate storage facilities, secure the vehicles properly, and implement necessary security measures to prevent unauthorized access. If a vehicle incurs any damage while in the custody of the tow company, they may be held responsible for the repairs.

Towing damage responsibility

While tow companies make every effort to prevent damage to towed vehicles, accidents can happen. In such cases, tow companies are typically responsible for any damages caused during the towing process. This can include scratches, dents, or other signs of physical damage to the vehicle. It is essential for tow companies to have adequate insurance coverage to protect themselves and the vehicle owners in case of any towing-related damages.

Insurance requirements

Tow companies are often required by law to maintain appropriate insurance coverage. This insurance coverage is crucial as it provides protection for both the tow company and the vehicle owner in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Vehicle owners should verify that the tow company has the necessary insurance coverage before entrusting their vehicle to their care. This helps ensure that they are adequately protected in case of any damages or losses during the towing process.

Getting your towed car back

Contacting the tow company

If your vehicle has been towed, the first step in getting it back is to contact the tow company that removed it. The contact information for the tow company is typically provided on the notice or signage at the location where the vehicle was towed from. It is important to contact the tow company as soon as possible to inquire about the process for retrieving your vehicle and any associated fees or documentation requirements.

Providing necessary documentation

When retrieving a towed vehicle, certain documentation may be required by the tow company. This can include proof of vehicle ownership, identification, and any additional documents deemed necessary by the tow company or local regulations. It is essential to have these documents readily available to facilitate the retrieval process. Failure to provide the necessary documentation may result in delays in retrieving your vehicle.

Paying outstanding fees

Tow companies are entitled to charge fees for their services, including towing, storage, and any additional charges incurred. Before releasing the towed vehicle, the vehicle owner is generally required to settle any outstanding fees. These fees are typically outlined in the notice or provided by the tow company upon contact. It is important to carefully review the fees and ensure that they are reasonable and in compliance with local regulations.

Challenging a tow

Disputing a wrongful tow

In some instances, a vehicle owner may believe that their vehicle was wrongfully towed. If you believe that your vehicle was towed without proper justification, you have the right to dispute the tow. The specific process for disputing a tow may vary depending on your jurisdiction. It typically involves gathering evidence, such as photographs or witness statements, and presenting your case to the appropriate authorities or regulatory bodies.

Filing a complaint

If you have concerns or complaints about the conduct of a tow company, you have the right to file a complaint. This can be done with local law enforcement agencies, consumer protection agencies, or regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing tow companies. It is important to provide detailed information and any supporting evidence to ensure a thorough investigation of the complaint.

Legal recourse

In certain situations, legal recourse may be necessary to address a dispute or seek compensation for damages resulting from a wrongful tow. Consultation with a legal professional specializing in towing regulations can provide guidance on available legal avenues and the likelihood of success in pursuing a legal claim. It is important to understand the local laws and regulations governing towing to determine the strength of your case and the potential remedies available.

Tow company limitations

Time limit for vehicle storage

Tow companies are typically subject to time limits for vehicle storage. These time limits vary by jurisdiction and are designed to prevent excessive storage of vehicles by tow companies. Vehicle owners should be aware of the applicable time limits to retrieve their towed vehicles within the designated timeframe. Failure to retrieve a towed vehicle within the specified time limit can result in additional fees or the possibility of the vehicle being deemed abandoned.

Prohibited personal belongings removal

While towing a vehicle, tow companies are generally restricted from removing personal belongings from the vehicle. This is to protect the rights of the vehicle owners and prevent any unauthorized access or potential theft. Tow companies may be held liable for any damage or loss of personal belongings if they violate these restrictions. Vehicle owners should ensure that their personal belongings are secure and not left in plain sight when their vehicle is towed.

Excessive storage fees

Tow companies are required to charge reasonable fees for vehicle storage. However, some jurisdictions have regulations in place to prevent tow companies from imposing excessively high storage fees. These regulations help protect vehicle owners from unreasonable financial burdens and ensure fair practices within the towing industry. Vehicle owners should familiarize themselves with the applicable storage fee regulations to prevent any exploitation by tow companies.

Consequences of noncompliance

Legal penalties for tow companies

Failure to comply with the legal requirements for towing can result in various legal penalties for tow companies. These penalties can include fines, license suspensions, or even the revocation of the company’s operating license. By imposing these penalties, authorities aim to enforce accountability and maintain fairness within the towing industry. Vehicle owners can report any noncompliance to the appropriate regulatory bodies to initiate an investigation and potential enforcement action.

Consumer rights protection

Vehicle owners have certain rights when it comes to towing, and these rights are designed to protect them from unfair practices. Authorities and regulatory bodies work to ensure that tow companies adhere to these rights and operate in a manner that respects the rights of vehicle owners. By being aware of their rights, vehicle owners can exercise their consumer rights and seek recourse if they believe their rights have been violated during the towing process.

Filing a civil suit

In cases where a vehicle owner suffers significant damages as a result of a wrongful tow, they may have the option to pursue a civil suit against the tow company. A civil suit can allow the vehicle owner to seek compensation for any financial losses, damages, or other harm caused by the tow company’s actions. It is important to consult with a legal professional experienced in towing laws to evaluate the viability of a civil suit and understand the process involved.


Understanding the legal requirements, reasons for towing, rights and responsibilities of tow companies, and the towing process is crucial for both vehicle owners and tow companies. By complying with these requirements and following proper procedures, tow companies can provide efficient and lawful towing services. Vehicle owners, on the other hand, can protect their rights and ensure a smooth retrieval process by being informed about their obligations and exploring available avenues for challenging wrongful tows. By maintaining a balance between the interests of vehicle owners and tow companies, the towing industry can operate professionally and responsibly.