Car Seat Laws

Can I Get My Belongings From My Towed Car?

It is a befuddling moment — you walk to the parking lot or street where you left your vehicle and it is nowhere to be found. The realization that you were illegally parked is an expensive mistake to make, and for many, the steep fines that grow day by day make it hard to retrieve the car.

As of 2019, the Motor Vehicle Towing industry has raked in a whopping $7.1 billion dollars in revenue and this amount only seems to be climbing. Even more startling, depending on the state you reside in, restrictions can be quite stringent. If you are asking “Can I get my belongings from my towed car?”, we have the answers for your location.

Generally speaking, almost all the states in the nation will allow you to access your belongings in your towed vehicle prior to paying the towing fines. However, there are some exceptions.

Depending on where you reside, some states have time constraints whereas others will only allow the retrieval of emergency items. Georgia is the only location that will not permit you access, no matter what the circumstances.

Thus, the best way to gain access is to pay the fines promptly, especially since they increase by the day. Expect a base fee that can range from $55 to over $250 as well as charges for mileage during transport and a daily storage fee. 

States That Allow You Access To Your Towed Car

States That Allow Access To All Belongings From Your Towed Car

There are a total of sixteen states that will give you complete access to your things, with no stipulations attached. Furthermore, in these locations, it is illegal for the towing storage facility to restrict your entry into the vehicle or to require payment for retrieving these items. If they do, you are fully in your right to sue them in a small claims court.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho 
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • West Virginia 
  • Wyoming

However, despite that you are allowed entry into your vehicle, some states protect their residents more than others. For instance, locations like Maryland will provide 24/7 access to the towing yard with notice to allow vehicle owners to get life back to normal as quickly as possible. Conversely, other states will not open after hours during any circumstance, putting many in a lurch. 

States That Allow Access To All Belongings From Your Towed Car During Your First Visit

Michigan is eager to let you grab your stuff on your initial trip out to the tow yard. However, if you absentmindedly forget to grab something, then expect to pay a fee. While $25 is a reasonable charge, when you add it into the exorbitant towing cost, it might be best to do a thorough sweep of the car during the first visit.

States That Allow Access To All Belongings From Your Towed Car During Business Hours

The folks in Arizona, California, and Louisiana are happy to give you access to your towed car if it is during business hours. However, if you need to get your items after closing time, this will come at a cost.

This is also true for holidays and weekends. While inconvenient, this stipulation is not entirely unfair. You would pay an extra fee for a plumber to fix your overflowing toilet in the middle of the night. This situation is no different. 

States That Allow Access To All Belongings From Your Towed Car Within A Time Frame

Time is of the essence and when it comes to retrieving your things, some states put a time clock on your ability to access them. The state of Washington gives you twenty days to grab your goods, but there are no limitations on what you can access. 

In contrast, the state of Kentucky requires you to request access to your car. This must be done within 45 days of being towed. Furthermore, this request has to be approved by the tow yard and unfortunately, they have the final say based on what items you are hoping to acquire. 

Moreover, Kansas will also give you an all-access pass to your towed car, but only for the first 48 hours following the time the car was towed. This can be a tight window of retrieval for the folks who discover their vehicle is missing a day after leaving it.

Thankfully, they are not completely heartless in the Sunflower State. If you miss the two-day window, you are still allowed entry to get any medical supplies. 

States That Allow Access To Emergency Supplies

No one plans to have their car towed. This means that many individuals find themselves without necessary medications, medical equipment, and other emergency items.

Thankfully, there are a handful of states that will permit you access to your towed car, IF you can prove that the entrance is necessary. Keep in mind, you will be under complete supervision while obtaining your things so lying is not going to help your cause.

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Utah

Something important to note is that each state has a different definition of what constitutes “emergency provisions”. Everyone considers prescriptions a genuine cause for access to the car, but other states have a broader interpretation. 

For example, South Carolina includes items like keys, child restraint systems, and food items that are considered perishable. Conversely, Montana qualifies a purse or wallet as an essential life item. Moreover, Maine goes as far as to consider mail and clothing part of your necessary needs!

States That Allow Access To All Belongings From Commercial Vehicles

Unfortunately, if your personal vehicle gets towed in Alabama, you will not be given access to it. This state only permits the owners of commercial vehicles to enter into their cabin. Hence, in order to gain access, you will have to pay the piper. 

States That Allow Access To Some Belongings From Your Towed Car

Just like the many other states that restrict an all-access pass, South Dakota only qualifies clothing, food items, and tools required for work as necessary belongings. Thus, if you were hoping to liberate textbooks or your AirPods, you will have to pay the full towing fee first. 

States That Do Not Allow You Access To Your Towed Car

Georgia is the only state that does not require the towing company to give you access to your personal belongings. This includes access to emergency supplies, work documents, and other necessary items.

That means the only way in is to pay the towing fees, otherwise, you will not be permitted into your vehicle. Many individuals may be tempted to bribe their way in, but this is not advised. The maximum towing rate is capped at $175 if your car is 10,000 pounds or less with a peak storage rate of $25 per day. 

States With No Designated Provisions

Unfortunately, if you live in one of the eighteen states listed below, there are no designated provisions that specify whether or not you can have access to your personal property. This means that it is solely dependent on the city regulations and the kindness of the tow yard manager. 

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New York 
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Gaining Access To Your Vehicle

While many of these states would likely give you entry, the only way to guarantee access to your car is to pay the towing fines. Unfortunately, these can range from a couple hundred to over a thousand dollars.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, “Only 11 states clearly require towing companies to accept payment via credit card”. 

Thus, in order to liberate your vehicle, you likely have to have cash on hand. This kind of money is not something that most Americans have in their bank accounts, making this a strenuous process. However, the sooner the person can pay the fees the better off they will be since the total increases by the day. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get my belongings from a towed car that I borrowed?

Most states only provide access to the owner of the car. Some locations will permit entry to another person if they present a notarized letter from the vehicle owner. However, this does not guarantee entrance. 

What happens if my car remains in the storage facility for an extended period of time?

Your vehicle is your responsibility. If you find that your car has been taken to an impound lot and you cannot get the funds to pay the fees in a reasonable amount of time, the storage facility is in their full rights to auction off your vehicle, along with any belongings contained inside, to the highest bidder. 

In addition, despite the fact that you will lose your vehicle, you will still be required to pay any fees that are not recouped by the sale of the car. Therefore, it is in your best interest to gain access to your car as soon as possible and find a way to pay the charges. 

Final Thoughts 

Whether you parked on private property or left your vehicle in a “no parking” area, having a tow truck move your car is an extremely stressful and expensive experience. Thankfully, 60% of the nation understands that mistakes happen and will grant you entry to your vehicle. 

Therefore, the best way to prevent this instance from occurring is to look around for parking signs before you leave your car behind and to always pay traffic tickets immediately.

Finally, if you find yourself in this scenario without the means of paying the fees, lean on friends and family with the assurance that you will pay them back. Waiting until you have the means can cost you a bundle, and even your car.

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren