Florida's Predatory Towing Rights: What You Need to Know (2024)

If you don’t pay your car loan, your vehicle can be repossessed. An illegally parked vehicle can be towed away. These facts are facts. But what happens when you’ve done nothing illegal and are current on your auto loan, yet still get a tow truck called on you? Aren’t you protected?

Depending on where you live — or at least where you’ve parked — you do have some level of protection. Why only “some level”? See, towing laws vary from state to state, city to city, and can seemingly be changed and enforced at will by private property owners.

Just ask this Ohio resident, who was recently threatened with a tow and ticketed for owning a car “too ugly” to park in an apartment complex.

Or speak with the victims of the Florida towing company whose owners have been accused of, among other nefarious acts, illegally repossessing dozens of vehicles in North Lakeland.

Or talk to the people who were defrauded out of thousands of dollars by a Houston tow business running an elaborate “flipping scam” on popular, high-end vehicles like the Cadillac CT5.

It’s called “predatory towing,” and millions of Americans across the country experience it every year. The only way to combat it before it hits your wallet is to understand your state’s laws and how they should protect you.

Today, we’re diving into the 2022 towing laws in Miami and Florida, the places we call home. Here’s everything you need to know to avoid getting conned by a predatory tow company and filming your own personal sequel to Dude, Where’s My Car?

Get Towed in Miami? You’ve Got Rights!

Property owners are allowed to tow your vehicle

Because it’s private property, owners can choose to contact a towing company to haul away vehicles illegally parked there. But there cannot be any payments made between the property owner and the tow company. Doing so is a crime that could force the towing company to lose its license and put the property or business owner into legal hot water.

Pro Tip: If you know or even suspect that this is occurring, you should report it right away to the local authorities. (Click here to file a consumer complaint in Florida.) You may even want to hire a lawyer that specializes in private property towing laws.

The storage location must be nearby

It is illegal for a towing company to haul your vehicle to a storage or impound lot that’s too far away. This will depend on the county’s population — for instance, vehicles towed in Miami must be stored at a tow yard or location no more than 10 miles away — though you should expect to drive no more than 20 miles to retrieve your vehicle.

It must be released to you within one hour

Once you find your towed car and pay for its retrieval, the storage facility must release it to you within one hour.

You have 24/7 access to retrieve your vehicle

Although storage facilities for towed vehicles have operating hours, they are required to open for you to retrieve your car within one hour after a phone request. An emergency contact number is required to be posted prominently at the storage facility.

Police must be notified

When a vehicle is towed, it’s mandatory for the towing company to notify the local police within 30 minutes. All pertinent information must be provided, including:

  • the time of the tow;
  • the location of the tow;
  • where the vehicle is being stored;
  • the costs or rates; and
  • the vehicle’s make, model, color and license plate number.

If, after 30 minutes, you still cannot find out where your car is, and the local police do not have that information on record, you should request an officer to assist you in person; you may be the victim of a predatory or illegal tow, or your vehicle could have been stolen.

Inspect and take pictures of damage

When you go to pick up your impounded car, you should always inspect the vehicle and take photographic evidence of any damage potentially incurred by the towing company or at the storage facility. Do not pay any fees or charges before you inspect the vehicle!

You’re entitled to money if the vehicle was damaged or illegally repossessed

Any evidence to support that the towing service or storage location was responsible for vehicle damages will enable you to be reimbursed for any repairs. If the towing company illegally towed your vehicle, you are also entitled to compensation.

Waivers are NOT required

It is against the law for Florida towing companies to require customers to sign any waivers that would release the company or storage location from damages caused by the tow service.

Pro Tip: If you are told to sign a waiver in order to regain possession of your vehicle, you should inform them that you will contact a lawyer (or actually contact a lawyer) immediately.

You can retrieve possessions for free

While your vehicle is being held, you are legally allowed to access and remove any personal belongings from inside. Never pay to do so, as this is against Florida law.

There is a maximum amount you can be charged

Towing and storage rates are maxed out at a certain amount, which is set by the regional Troop Commander, and must be provided to the local police. Rates cannot be different from what law enforcement has on record.

Pro Tip: Before you make any payments, we recommend contacting the local police to request that amount. If it differs from what you’re told by the storage facility, inform the police while you’re on the phone.

Storage facilities are not required to accept credit cards

Paying to get your car out of a towing yard can be difficult and costly. Florida doesn’t make it easier, as there are no consumer protection laws in place that require towing companies to accept credit cards. Always ask the facility if they accept credit, and what types of cards (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) are accepted.

Get all the info you can in writing

When the tow truck arrives after an accident, request the name of the towing company and get the cost of the tow in writing, as well as the facility in which your vehicle will be stored. Most states have a law stating that the cost of a tow must be provided to you, and that number cannot change after the fact.

You can request an itemized bill…

…But tow companies are only required to send you one by mail.

Towing companies are not required to provide the condition of the vehicle before a tow

In some states, tow truck drivers must take photos and make note of any visible damage before they even touch the vehicle. Not in Florida.

You cannot be towed if the area does not include clearly marked “Tow-Away Zone” signs

Any privately owned property, like a parking lot, must have designated tow-away zones that are clearly marked with signage. You cannot legally be towed away if these signs are not visible. The signs must also have towing rates listed (or where to find those rates).

Pro Tip: If you’re uncertain, always take a photo of your parked vehicle before leaving it unattended. It could save you a lot of money and headaches.

You can stop a tow from continuing

If you see your Escalade being towed, the company is required to release your vehicle to you for a fee of no more than half the posted towing rate. Any payment made at the time of service must be accompanied by a signed and detailed receipt (provided by the tower).

Free legal assistance may be available

If you believe you’re the victim of predatory towing, or if you need help navigating the waters of retrieving a towed vehicle, you may be able to get free advice and assistance through the Community Legal Services program. Check www.clsmf.org for more details.

Compared to many other states, Florida has fairly good towing protections enacted for consumers, though they’re not perfect. For towing laws and protections in your state, visit the US PIRG Education Fund website or contact your state attorney general.

Contact your lender if you need help avoiding repossession

Never assume that you have no one to turn to if you’re having trouble paying for your auto loan or Cadillac lease. In many cases, your lender or leasing company can help you make a plan to catch up on payments or even get you out of your obligations early. Give them a call to discuss your options.

If you require assistance with your Cadillac financing in South Florida, you’re welcome to contact Braman Cadillac at (305) 417-6083, or pick up the phone to reach Cadillac Financial’s customer service and support number at (877) 223-5893.

About Braman Cadillac Miami

We’re in the business of giving drivers vehicles, not taking them away. Serving all of South Florida, including Aventura, Coral Gables and Fort Lauderdale, our luxury car dealership offers superb Cadillac financing and leasing options, a large selection of new and used vehicles for sale, and exceptional customer service. Call us or visit our Cadillac dealership in Miami at 2060 Biscayne Boulevard.

Florida's Predatory Towing Rights: What You Need to Know (2024)


What is predatory towing in Florida? ›

Predatory towing is the practice of unaffiliated private towing companies towing illegally parked cars in private parking lots, in order to extract high towing fees.

Is predatory towing legal in Florida? ›

It could be possible that your car was illegally towed, and if this is true, this is a crime. In Florida, the act of illegal towing can be either charged as a misdemeanor or a felony of the third degree. Finding that your car has been towed is never a situation that anyone wants to be in.

Can you sue a towing company for wrongful towing Florida? ›

Remedies for Improper Towing in Florida

If the towing did not strictly comply with Florida law, vehicle owners are entitled to damages and they can additionally recover their costs and attorney fees.

Can a towing company put a lien on your license in Florida? ›

The state of Florida, allows towing companies to go one step further in order to recover the money they are owed by allowing them to place a lien on the owners driver's license.

Can a towing company only take cash in Florida? ›

Towing companies:

Must accept the following for payment: Cash, money order, or traveler's check. Personal check (showing on its face the name and address of the vehicle owner or authorized representative)

How much can a tow company charge in Florida? ›

Non-Consent Maximum Towing Rates
Rate TypeRate​​
Class AFlat Rate​ $138​Flat Rate $142
Class BFlat Rate $243​Flat Rate $250
Class CFlat Rate $345​Flat Rate $355
Class DFlat Rate $345​Flat Rate $355
26 more rows

Can a tow truck driver carry a gun in Florida? ›

There is an age requirement (21 years old) and a required firearms training course, see Fla. Stat 790.06 for the complete law. There are no employment restrictions (e.g. "a school teacher cannot be issued a permit; a tow-truck driver cannot be issued a permit"). No state forbids tow truck drivers to carry weapons.

How do I remove a wrecker operator lien in Florida? ›

A person against whom a wrecker operator's lien has been imposed may alternatively obtain a discharge of the lien by filing a complaint, challenging the validity of the lien or the amount thereof, in the county court of the county in which the vehicle or vessel was ordered removed.

What must be onboard while towing under Florida law? ›

As well as the operator, an observer is required to be on board when a person is being towed, or the operator must have and use a wide-angle rear-view mirror. No one may ski or use another aquaplaning device while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

How far can you tow a car? ›

When the vehicles are being towed with just a rope or bar the maximum distance between each other can be 4.5m. There is no minimum distance but there must be enough space between the two cars to avoid any accidental damage. The ignition of the car being towed should be on in order to disable the steering wheel lock.

How do I find a towed car in Florida? ›

If your car is missing, look for a towing sign and call the number on the sign to see if your car was towed from private property. The tow company must return your call within one hour, no matter the time of day. If you can't find a towing sign, contact the local law enforcement non-emergency line.

What are the trailer requirements in Florida? ›

In Florida, your trailer can't be taller than 13.5 feet or wider than 8.5 feet. Also, the combined length of your trailer and the vehicle it tows cannot exceed 60 feet, with the trailer not being able to exceed 48 feet in length. What safety devices must my insured trailer have in Florida.

What is 713.78 of the Florida statutes? ›

Section 713.78 provides a towing company (that meets the definition and requirements of the statute) to place a lien on a vehicle for a reasonable towing fee, a reasonable administrative fee and a reasonable storage fee. §713.78(2), Fla.

How long does a tow company keep a car Florida? ›

That any vehicle that remains unclaimed, or for which the charges for recovery, towing, or storage services remain unpaid, may be sold free of all prior liens 35 days after the vehicle is stored by the tow company if the vehicle or vessel is more than 3 years of age or 50 days after the vehicle is stored by the tow ...

What are the lien laws in Florida? ›

According to Florida law, those who work on your property or provide materials, and are not paid-in-full, have a right to enforce their claim for payment against your property. This claim is known as a construction lien.

Is double towing illegal in Florida? ›

It is illegal to double tow in Florida. Commercial vehicles may double tow on the turnpike or interstate roadways approved by the Department of Transportation only. The second trailer is a trailer with front and rear axles. It is more like a wagon.

What is the Predatory towing Prevention Act California? ›

A California law protects consumers against the worst of illegal towing. Under AB 2210, if you spot a tow truck driver taking your car, and the tow truck is still on private property, the driver must release your car to you unconditionally.

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