How to Get Impound Fees Waived

Did your car get impounded? You might be able to have the fees waived. Here's how.


Article QuickTakes:

Finding out that your car has been impounded can be an unsettling experience. After the shock wears off and you've tracked down your car, your next question might be about how to get impound fees waived. Here's what to know.

Reasons a Car Might Get Impounded

First, it's important to understand some of the situations that might lead to a car getting impounded.

A car might be impounded:

  1. At the direction of the police, say for reckless or drunken driving, unpaid citations or tickets, or driving without registration, insurance, or a driver's license. It could also be seized as evidence if it was used in a crime.
  2. At the direction of a private property owner if the car is illegally parked on private property or abandoned.
  3. At the direction of the vehicle owner if the car has been involved in an accident or is otherwise inoperable.

What Fees Will You Have to Pay?

To get a car back, you'll be required to pay any outstanding tickets or fines as well as an assortment of impound fees. Impound fees are often set through an agreement between the local government and the towing company. Accordingly, they can vary by state, county, and even city.

Expect to pay several hundreds of dollars to get back an impounded car. The fees can include:

  • The initial towing and transport fees (which could include a tow truck or flatbed truck)
  • Daily storage fees
  • An impound lot release fee
  • A boot fee if your car received a boot before being towed away

How to Get Impound Fees Waived

In a few instances, some cities and municipalities have agreed to waive impound fees. For example, Baltimore has recently announced it would waive impound fees on cars that were stolen. That said, there is no blanket law or regulation saying impound fees will be waived on stolen cars. It's entirely up to the discretion of the local police agency.

While this may seem harsh, keep in mind that towing and storing a car incurs expenses, regardless of whether the car was stolen or not. The towing company and impound lot expect to be paid for their services. If your car was stolen or in an accident, the insurance company may pay for the towing and impound fees in addition to the necessary repairs and the cost of transporting the vehicle back to you.

It is also possible to get impound fees waived if you can prove to a court that the ticket was issued in error or you have an excuse for violating the law. You will likely still need to pay upfront to get your car out of the impound, but you might be able to get the court to reimburse the fees.

Can You Get Impound Fees Reduced?

If you aren't able to get them waived, you might still be able to get a reduction in impound fees, particularly if you are going through economic hardships or are a low-income resident. For example, the City of Sacramento recently announced that it would waive the $180 police administrative fee for low-income residents. San Francisco has waivers and fee reductions for low-income residents, those experiencing homelessness, and vehicle owners who have been towed for the first time.

Again, it is up to the discretion of law enforcement or other agencies at the local or state level to reduce impound fees. So call the department, ask to speak to the supervisor, explain your situation, and ask them if they can help you reduce your fees. Remember to be polite, too. A little decency goes a long way, especially in these situations.

What If You Can't Afford to Pay Your Impound Fees?

If you cannot afford to pay the fees to get your car out of impound, there are a couple of other options:

  • Ask the impound lot about payment assistance programs or other financing options
  • Look into any community action programs or groups for assistance
  • Use a credit card or any emergency fund you have saved
  • Set up a crowdfunding account online
  • Ask family, friends, or your employer for help

Avoid Impound Fees With Smart Driving

Getting a car out of impound can be expensive, frustrating, and time-consuming. Before trying to find out how to get impound fees waived, smart car ownership techniques can help you make sure your car doesn't end up in an impound lot to begin with. Stay up to date on your insurance, registration, and license; take care of tickets in a timely manner; and drive safely to avoid having to deal with impound headaches.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Sheryll Poe
Sheryll Poe is a journalist and freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. where she writes about the latest news and trends in the automotive, finance, retail, and technology industries. With over two decades of experience, Sheryll has bylined hundreds of stories for websites, magazines, newspapers for trade associations and business clients. When not wielding words on behalf of clients, she enjoys cooking (and eating), watching bad reality television, and traveling the world.