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Tow-Away Zone: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a tow-away zone?


A tow-away zone is an area where parking is not allowed. These zones are identified by no parking and/or tow away zone signage, and any vehicle parked in these areas runs the risk of getting towed away.

Q. Is it legal for private property owners to get a vehicle towed away?


Private property owners are well within their rights to have unauthorized vehicles towed away as long as clear no parking/towing warning is posted on the property. It is often a requirement for a parking area to be established as a tow-away zone so that people are aware and towing of illegally parked vehicles can be executed.

Q. Can anyone create a tow-away zone?


Private property owners can establish their parking areas as tow-away zones to prevent unauthorized parking and keep parking space available for people it is designed for. However, tow-away zones are regulated by state laws and may vary across jurisdictions. It is, therefore, advisable to check with the local authorities to ensure compliance and legality of your tow away area. 

Q. Is towing governed by any regulations or laws?


All the states have their own towing laws that cover things like establishing tow-away zones, consumer towing rights, illegal towing and protections from it, and information/rules specific to towing companies. A lot of these laws also prescribe rather specific requirements regarding tow-away signage. Additionally, towing signage is also covered under MUTCD specifications - R7-201P, R7-201aP.

Q. What is predatory towing?


Predatory towing refers to any illegal or unethical practice by towing companies to make money by towing a vehicle by unfair means or without following due process. This is often done with the participation of property owners to get a vehicle towed away as quickly as possible. Towing companies often employ spotters who observe parking lots and inform the towing company of a vehicle parked where it shouldn’t be.

Satellite or patrol towing is another unfair practice where, upon a tip from a spotter, a tow truck tows away a vehicle parked illegally on private property. Different state laws include protections for victims of predatory towing, who may also file complaints with the consumer affairs department.

Q. Can a business tow away my car?


There is no straight answer to this question. Business owners may get illegally parked vehicles towed away as long as the parking area is on private property with a clear tow-away zone established with clearly posted signs. Businesses cannot get a vehicle parked on a public road towed away, even if the vehicle is parked right outside the business. Additionally, when contemplating a towing action against a vehicle, businesses should exercise caution and ensure the towing company chosen complies with all applicable regulations. 

Since towing rules vary across jurisdictions, please contact your local authority for more accurate information

Q. Are towing companies obligated to notify before towing?


In most cases and jurisdictions, towing companies are not required to notify the owners or drivers of illegally parked vehicles before towing them. This is as long as the parking facility’s parking policy is clearly communicated with the help of conspicuously posted and clearly stated signs and the two-away zones are properly identified. Most state laws do require the towing company to inform the appropriate authority/police about the towing action. 

Certain state laws, such as that applicable in New Jersey, require police authorization before a vehicle can be towed away. California state law requires giving prior notice to vehicle owners in the form of either signage, parking violation notice issued at least 96 hours before towing, or notice to local law enforcement at least 24 hours before towing an obviously inoperable vehicle.

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