Trespass Towing FAQs

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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:
    • Trespass Towing Fees

      • Gross vehicle weight of 7,500 lbs or less: $135.00
      • Gross vehicle weight of 7,502 to 10,000 lbs: $250.00
      • Gross vehicle weight of more than 10,000 lbs: $500.00
      • In lieu of towing fee or “drop fee”: $10.00
      • Immobilization fee (ex: by use of a barnacle): $25.00 
      • Fuel charge per tow: $20

      Night, Weekend and Holiday Fees

      • Vehicle towed between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.: up to $30.00
      • If towed on Saturday, Sunday or any holiday: up to $30.00
      • Maximum night, weekend and holiday fee: $50.00 per tow

      Storage Fees

      First 24-hours of storage after arriving at storage facility: No Fee

      Each subsequent 24-hour period: $50.00

      Except for fees authorized by Arlington County Code 14.3, no other fees or charges shall be imposed.

  • 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

Questions or concerns?

For policy questions, call the County Manager’s office at 703-228-3120.
To file a complaint about the towing of your vehicle, contact the Police Department at 703-228-4266 orfile a complaintRead more.

FAQs

Don’t see your question listed here?  Send an email  or call 703-228-3120 with your question and County staff will provide you with the answer.

If my car has been towed, how can I find it?

Information on towed or repossessed vehicles can now be found online at search.autoreturn.com. The online portal is updated in real time. If you cannot locate your vehicle or need additional support using the online portal, call the County non-emergency number at 703-558-2222.

 

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.

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.

When towed from private property, how much can a tow company charge to release my car?

Arlington County Code § 14.3-9 allows:

  • $135 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
  • Up to 2 additional $25 night/weekend/holiday fees (night is defined as being between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.)
  • 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.

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.

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).

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.

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.)

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)

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 email.

Who decides when a vehicle should be towed?

Removal of trespassing vehicles from private property is performed at the request of and pursuant to a contract between the property owner and a towing and recovery operator.  The procedures for identifying and towing trespassing vehicles are determined in the contract.  Effective July 1, 2017,  all vehicles towed from commercial properties during the hours that the business is open must be authorized in writing, either by an individual on site or by electronic means, by the property owner or their designee.

How does a driver know that towing is enforced on a property?

Signs not less than 12×18 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.

How does a vehicle owner or custodian know who authorized the tow?

This information can be requested of the towing and recovery operator by the vehicle owner.  The County’s trespass towing ordinance requires towing and recovery operator to retain these records for at least one year and to provide them upon request.

What is a barnacle?

A barnacle is a plastic cover that uses suction to stick to the windshield of a vehicle. It doesn't immobilize the vehicle but rather makes driving almost impossible for lack of visibility. There should be instructions on the device for removal.