County Manager

Towing From Private Property


Quick Points

  • Depending on where you park, your car could be towed at the request of Arlington County Police or private property owners
  • If you park on private property without a permit, your vehicle can be towed as soon as you leave the lot — there is no grace period provided in the County’s ordinance
  • Fees for tows from private property:
    • No more than $125 for the tow for standard size vehicles; $250 for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of between 7,501 lbs. and 10,001 lbs.; $500 for vehicles in excess of 10,001 lbs. GVWR
    • Base tow fee includes the first 24 hours of storage
    • $50 per day may be assessed after the first 24 hours of storage
  • Property owners must post signs alerting potential parkers to their parking restrictions
  • Tow truck services must report each and every tow to the Police Department prior to towing
  • Tow truck services may tow by written agreement or verbal request
    • Written Agreements: Tow truck services may monitor a lot and decide which vehicles meet the definition of a trespassing vehicle if authorized by a written agreement
    • Verbal Requests: Tow truck services may only tow when called by the property owner or agent
  • Questions? Complaints? Please contact:
    • For policy questions, call the County Manager's office, 703-228-3120.
    • To file a complaint about the towing of your vehicle, contact the Police Department, 703-228-4266 or send an email. Read more.


Q: If my car has been towed, how can I find it?
A: To locate your towed vehicle, you can contact the Arlington County Police Department’s non-emergency number at (703) 558-2222. The Police Department will tell you if your car has been reported as towed by a private towing company.

Q: Can I be towed from the parking lot of a closed business?
Yes. The contract between a property owner and a tow operator may provide for towing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether the business is open or not.

Q: Why would a business care about parking in the lot when it’s closed?
Some businesses cite liability issues (e.g., car gets damaged while parked on its property; items are stolen from a vehicle parked on its property). The other most frequently voiced concern is that vehicles may be left overnight, and customer parking will not be available when the business opens.

Q: When towed from private property, how much can a tow company charge to release my car from impoundment?
Arlington County Code § 14.3-9 allows:

  • $125 for towing a vehicle under 7,501 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating
  • $250 for towing a vehicle between 7,501 lbs. and 10,001 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating
  • $500 for towing a vehicle in excess of 10,001 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating
  • No storage fee for the first 24 hours of storage and a $50 maximum for each subsequent 24-hour period of storage; and
  • Drop fee of a maximum of $25.

Q: Do tow truck drivers have to wait for the property owner to request the tow? Is cruising the lot legal?
There is no law prohibiting tow operators from monitoring lots. The contract with the property owner governs the terms of the tow.

Q: My car was damaged during the tow, and the lot employee would not let me file a damage claim. What should I do?
 Most likely, you will end up filing with your insurance company and/or taking the matter to civil court. However, see Arlington County Code § 14.3-7(A)(d).

Q: Why doesn’t Arlington County force businesses to share parking outside of normal business hours?
Arlington County does not have the authority to tell private property owners how to control their property. Arlington encourages businesses to share parking, and some successful arrangements are in place. Free parking is also available at parking garages in Arlington County Government facilities after 5 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.

Q: If I return before the tow truck removes my car, do I still have to pay?
Yes. The Arlington Code does permit a drop fee of $25. (Arlington County Code § 14.3-9.E.)

Q: Can a tow company only accept cash, and refuse to accept a credit card?
 No. The company must accept cash, an insurance company’s check, travelers’ checks or money orders, or debit, credit, or charge cards. (Arlington County Code § 14.3-10)

Q: What should I do if I think I have been overcharged or towed illegally?
If your car has been towed from private property and you have been overcharged, or if you have a complaint about damage, employee behavior or signage at the tow location, please contact Arlington County at (703) 228-4266 or send an e-mail.

Q:  Who decides when a vehicle should be towed?
Removal of trespassing vehicles from private property may be done by verbal request or by written agreement between the private property owner and a tow truck service.

If the vehicle is towed by verbal request of the property owner, the call to the tow truck service must be made by someone who is physically on the premises.

If a written agreement exists, the property owner may designate a tow truck service to monitor the lot and remove any vehicle which meets the definition of trespassing as defined in the written agreement.

Q:  How does a driver know that towing is enforced on a property?
  Signs not less than 12x18 inches must be posted at all entrances to the premises alerting drivers that trespassing vehicles will be towed at the expense of the vehicle owner or custodian. The warning statement “towing at owner’s expense” must be written in letters not less than three inches in height. Other lettering on the sign may be smaller. Other information which the sign must contain includes the hours of the day and days of the week during which towing is in effect; a pictorial symbol (like the one on this brochure) of a tow truck; and, when done by written agreement, the name and telephone number of the tow truck service.

Q:  How does a vehicle owner or custodian know who authorized the tow?
  If the tow is done by a written agreement, the tow truck service must disclose the name of the business or person who authorized the tow.

Last Modified: April 09, 2014
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611