Chances are if you own a car, you depend on it. In fact, you probably depend on it a lot. 

It's incredibly anxiety-inducing to find your vehicle is gone. At first, you may think you parked somewhere else, but then you may realize that your car got towed. 

Here's what you need to do.

1. Check for tow zones and signs

It's always a good idea to check the evidence. Look for restricted parking signs, tow zones and other indicators around the area. Take pictures of the signs, especially if you believe that you were towed without a valid reason. It can also help to talk to possible witnesses or other drivers who may have parked their vehicles in the same area.

2. Get your car back

The next step is to get your vehicle back. If you see "No Parking" signs and there's a number listed, call it. If not, call the local police department. If your car has been towed they will give you more information on the vehicle's location -- such as an impound lot.

Forms of payment to get your towed car back often include cash, a cashier's check or a credit card but not personal checks. To get the car back you generally need to be the registered owner and have a valid license, insurance and registration.

City websites often have towing and impound sections. It's smart to check what you'll need to bring before you go.

Fees to get your car back if it's been towed vary by city and can include:

  • Towing charge
  • Flatbed fee (for disabled vehicles)
  • Boot-removal fee (if the vehicle was immobilized before being towed)
  • Charge per mile towed
  • Vehicle-release fee
  • Storage charge

3. Read over the documents

Be sure you understand why exactly your vehicle was towed before leaving the holding lot. Ask questions and don't sign anything without first reading and understanding it. City laws define the maximum charges for towing and impound fees. If you disagree with the tow, or believe the towing was wrongful, you have the right to a tow hearing.

Why would a car be towed?

Lawful reasons for towing cars vary by city. Here are some common causes:

  • Blocking a fire hydrant
  • Obstructing traffic
  • Parking in a marked "Tow Zone"
  • Blocking access to a handicap ramp or sidewalk
  • Having a suspended license or being an unlicensed driver
  • Expired registration
  • Unpaid parking tickets
  • "Abandoned" vehicle

Towing and car insurance

Parking tickets won't affect your car insurance rates. Violations that affect premiums are moving violations, especially reckless driving, DUIs and driving without a license.

And your insurance policy will not pay for towing and impound fees.

Find towing and impound information for large cities
New York New York City Police Department
Los Angeles Los Angeles Official Police Garages
Chicago City of Chicago
Houston Find My Towed Car
Phoenix City of Phoenix
Philadelphia City of Philadelphia
San Antonio City of San Antonio
San Diego City of San Diego
Dallas Dallas Police Department
San Jose San Jose Police Department
Austin City of Austin
San Francisco San Francisco Police Department
Columbus, Ohio City of Columbus
Indianapolis AutoReturn
Fort Worth, Texas Fort Worth Police Department