Towed into Debt: How Towing Practices in California Punish Poor People


Our latest report reveals how local governments use car towing and the associated fees in ways that disproportionately harm Californians living in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of California drivers have their cars towed every year for non-emergency, non-safety related reasons. Unpaid tickets, expired registration, and parking for more than 72 hours make up over a quarter of tows in California. People who can’t afford to pay parking tickets and registration fees often can’t afford to retrieve their vehicles once administrative fees, storage fees, and unpaid tickets are added together, with fee totals often reaching $1500 or more. The result is a lose-lose-lose: people lose their cars, tow yards lose the opportunity to have paying customers on their lot, and local governments lose the opportunity to collect unpaid revenue.