So you got Towed in Houston?

imagesI get at least one email every day from someone who was towed and can’t believe how much the wrecker or storage lot charged for the service.

First you should know there are 2 types of tows in Houston and Harris County. There is a nonconsent tow, where a wrecker driver may tow your vehicle from the scene of an accident. This is called nonconsent because the wrecker can make the tow without the driver’s consent in the interest of clearing the roadway. 

If you park illegally (say in a handicapped space at your apartment complex or in a “No Parking zone”) and your car is towed, this is also called a nonconsent tow.  In both cases, the tow truck driver did not have your consent to tow your vehicle.  

A consent tow is when the owner agrees and signs a tow truck receipt. This is what you don’t want to do. Always allow the police to do a nonconsent tow. 

Why? Nonconsent tows are regulated by the City of Houston, Harris County and the Texas Department of Licesning & Regulation. The rates that licensed wreckers and storage facilities can legally charge you are regulated. Storage lots and wreckers can not make up fees and charges.

Here are the charges allowable by law in our area:

$143.50 Nonconsent Tow Fee in Houston

$15.00 Per day charge at Licensed Vehicle Storage Facility in Houston

$50.00 Notification Fee from Storage Lot if they have to notify you after 24 hours that your car has been towed there.

$20.00 Impound fee.

If you believe your vehicle was illegally towed or if you were charged too much, you can file for a Tow Hearing.

You should also file a complaint with the HPD Auto Dealers Detail by calling (713) 308-1440 between 8am-4pm, Monday through Friday. Or call the helpline at (713) 308-2568.

In Harris County, call the Harris County Sheriff’s Dept. Towing & Storage Unit at (713) 672-8853.  

No matter where you are in Texas, you can file a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation.

And remember, what you want is a non-consent tow.

We’ve done our share of stories on the industry. You can check out a few at these links:

Drivers Complain Wreckers Too Aggressive July 22, 205

Law Allow Wreckers to Take Cars, Money July 12, 2006

Man who Illegally Towed Cars Headed to Prison October 17, 2007

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32 Responses

  1. Great series on HOA regimes.

    As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #15, “If there be no penality [for] disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.”

    Texas, and all other states, must enforce HOA laws against HOA boards as a matter of good public policy!

  2. Our vehicle was towed less than two miles = tow bill of $143.50. The wrecker indicated it was actually not even 1 mile. This is outrageous……$143.50 for a mile. Just doesn’t seem right.

    Your article is comforting.

    Thank you,

    Melissa

  3. My husbands car was fixing to be towed by POOCHIE and Son’s wreckers service after he got arrested. First of all to properly tow this vehicle, they should have had a roll back wrecker instead of a wheel lift wrecker truck. The truck didn’t travel no where, and when I asked the driver how much to release the car to me, and let me and our 5 year old daughter drive it home. His answer was $80.00 at first. I only had $30.00 on me, and I went to the police car where my husband was to get the rest of the money. My husband and I had both just gotten off of a hard days work. So when my husband pulled out his money the wrecker driver saw it. I took him the $80.00 that he had requested a minute ago. Then he tells me that “I mean $180.00, do you want the car or not” ? Now I had to go back over to my husband and get $100.00 more on top of the $80.00 that he had agreed to before. So we paid $180.00 total. I didn’t think that this was right and the HPD officer just said thats between you’ll. So I just got off the phone with one of my close friends that is also a wrecker trucker driver and he informed me that the fees are regulated. I want to report and complain against POOCHIE AND SON’S WRECKER SERVICE located HOUSTON, TEXAS 77026 CHIP #643 PHONE # IS 832-435-3945 THIS INCCIDENT HAPPENED ON 10/8/09 between 5:30-6:30 PM ON TIDWELL AT THE CITCO GAS STATION OFF OF 59N FRWY. STATION FORMALY KNOWN AS WOMACK TRUCK STOP. PLEASE HELP THANK YOU!

  4. Check the state regulation of wreckers. We are now regulated by TDLR, Texas Department of Regulation. Just google TDLR Towing and it will come up. The officer should not let him charge you no more than the $143.50. Most officers do not want to get involved because they say it’s a cival matter. The fact is that it’s regulated because the officer is having the vehicle towed.

    As far as a roll back, everyone thinks their car needs one. A wheel lift and dollies in most case is way better than a flatbed. I have benn in this business for a very long time and now my way around trucks.

    TDLR is cleaning up the non-consent towing and storage and they are regulating it very heavy and hard. They are chasing these types of a-holes out of the business. Please remember we are all not bad guys and gals!

  5. I think it is utterly wrong for a tow company to take my van away for non-display of handicapped placard. I live in a senior residence, and there are lots of parking spaces open around my apartment. Don’t they have the plain old humanity to understand that I didn’t deliberately leave the placard off? I cam home late with my 89 yr. old mother, with grocery bags, and it was raining. Plus my mother wasn’t feeling well, so I hurried to take her home. This morning my van was gone.
    I hate these people. They have no heart. Worse than vultures!

  6. I work for a really good towing company. I have been in houston for almost two years and i have been in they buss since i know all the wrong things and how these wrecker drivers act and yes some of them are wrong i know the things and way the drivers act are not some times the way to handle things but lets be honest there are cases with every person in houston has needed or had been towed just like this weekend i was in the wrecker and a black car was going south bound on the gulf freeway and about took out the tow truck and 5 other cars we called the cops and the guy was taken to jail for DWI there are countless numbers of lives that were saved cause some one stopped and took care of some one that was drunk and driving there are somethings that these drivers get out risk there lives to save others so when you say that they dont have a heart and they are vultures think twice before you get back in the car and take a drive cause you never know it may be your life they may save next

  7. I was ALMOST towed last night by a man who admitted to sitting and watching me park. I parked in a lot where there were businesses but they were closed and the place I was going was one building over. There were other cars around me in this lot before I got there, but for some reason he picked mine. He hooked the car up and waited until I came out to tell me that I could pay 140 to release the car or he was going to take it. He conveniently knew EXACTLY where the ATM was and even moved my car across the parking lot to prove that he could do it. While I do agree a stranded motorist or wreck is another matter and that I’m sure not all are bad, but for them to target people in vulnerable spots and admit to sitting and waiting for me to park really makes me have doubts in the system. I was too upset at the time to even see which wrecker it was otherwise I’d file some sort of complaint. I just feel so violated

  8. MY WIFE’S VEHICLE WAS TOWED FROM A PRIVATE PARKING LOT WHICH WAS PROBABLY LEGAL. THE PROBLEM IS THE WRECKER DAMAGED THE REAR BUMPER OF THE VEHICLE BY SCRATCHING/RUBBING A GREAT DEAL OF PAINT OFF THE BUMPER.
    WHO AND WHERE DO WE FILE A DAMAGE COMPLAINT AND WHAT OPTIONS DO WE HAVE.

  9. hello, thank you for stating the facts about the subject. however you are incorrect about one detail, the storage per day is actually $20.00 in the county and that is regulated. also dont forget you have to pay taxes on it too which is $1.45 a day. so charges for 12hrs in a storage lot in the county comes to $186.40 leagally. also you they have rules to follow too, for instance you need to have proof of ownership on the vehicle in order to get into it.

  10. I am writing to seek clarity regarding Non-Consent towing. Today my vehicle was towed for parking in a “reserved” spot in a parking garage (despite the fact that the garage was full and an employee of the garage told me to park in that spot),

    Some facts :
    a.) I called the # on the towing sign and was directed to call a different number, which I believe may have been a cell phone number
    b.) I was told that the lot had no one there for me to pick up my car, because the attendant had broken down and was waiting for a tow truck
    c.) 1 hour later, I was told I could pick up my vehicle and that it would cost 187.89.
    d.) I was specifically and repeatedly informed that I must show up with cash, or my car won’t be released. I understand this is illegal (after the fact — now home and able to read the laws on the internet)
    e.) The receipt lists the correct tow company name, but the incorrect TDLR #.

    My questions for you :
    1.) Are they legally able to charge me $187.89 for this tow?
    2.) Is there any recourse now, after the fact, since they would not allow me to use my credit card? As I left the lot I did see a sign on the building that said something to the effect of cash or credit card … but the fact is, they weren’t allowing me to use a credit card. I did not know it was illegal at the time.
    3.) Is this a legal tow, etc. if they provided me with the incorrect TDLR # of the Tow Operator (same owner as the impound yard)?
    4.) They also spelled my first name incorrectly on the receipt, but I’m assuming this does not matter?

    Do I have any recourse? My vehicle was stored in a grass lot, with 4 inches of mud that I had to walk through at 8:30 at night to get my vehicle while having to pay almost $190 for a tow to a driver/operator that was ‘broken down’ and could not allow me to pick up my vehicle, or pay credit card.

    Your thoughts and feedback are so appreciated!

  11. Bottom line people, don’t park where you are not suppose to! Property owners have the right to protect their property! Just because the place is closed does not give you the right to park there. Who cares if some toothless wrecker driver watched you park there. You knew you were in the wrong and did it any way. I also highly doubt anyone damaged your bumper. These trucks do not even touch bumpers anymore. Bottom line, be responsible for your own stupidity!

  12. My wifes car was towed (stolen) from our apartment complex. We had parked the car up front close to our apartment. We had walked our dog at about 10:30pm and seen our car sitting there. Later on that night my daughter was playing with the keys to another vehicle that we own so since we also parked that car up close to our apartment we went outside to make sure the doors were locked. Right off the bat we noticed my wifes car was gone! It was about 12am. We immediately called the police to report the car stolen. One hour later, a police officer showed up, and asked if we had called to see if it was towed. The officer made a couple of phone calls and said that the car would have to be reported towed with in an hour of being towed. there was no broken glass and no signs of a break in, we had both sets of keys, and it also happened that the battery had been dead for two days, and the car would not start. The officer said that he was almost certain that a “crooked tow truck driver” took the car to drop it off some where just to go pick it up after the report of it being stolen. This situation has happened to me years ago, when my car was taken from my place of work to only be “found” in a walmart parking lot by a tow truck driver and taken to an impound. When I found my car, at the lot, it was locked up and nothing was missing, including the $300 in the center console (I was Bartending at the time, tip money). When I made the complaint to the lot, they said there was nothing I could do, I had to pay. I felt taken advantage of.. I could not believe that they would say that my car was stolen and dropped off like that when nothing was tampered with inside my car. And why would’nt the tow truck driver just contact the police when they found the “stolen” car, why would they need to tow it. Since I believe my wife and I are victim of the same B.S., What can we do to protect ourselves from this crap? How can this be stopped? What is stopping a tow truck driver from towing a car from a lot and hiding it, just so that later they can “find” it. Shoot, its seems way too easy, they get a whole hour to find a place to hide the car before they are required to report it towed.

  13. Is it true that once a tow truck driver releases a vehicle at a storage lot, they are not allowed to hook back up to it?

  14. Chris, I highly doubt that still happens. If the police check the tow log for stolen vehicles and happen to notice that there is a clown recovering tons of stolen vehicle from the same area, they will do a sting on them and bust them.

    Tamara, I’m not sure what your asking. Was your car wrecked or not running? If so, the state law requires that you have a TDLR licensed wrecker tow it out. If you leave it in front of the storage lot, they can and WILL tow it back in the yard!

  15. My truck was towed from parking lot (Lubbock Street Parking Lot) on 9/26/10. I paided the $5.00 parking fee upon parking ($5 dollars cash into Machine for slot 30) Anyway I was performing in a band at the St. Joseph Annual Bazaar, when the gig was finished I returned to the parking lot to find my truck gone. I saw a wrecker towing another vehicle and asked the wrecker driver what the heck happen to my truck and assured him that I had payed the $5 fee. He asked me if I had displayed the receipt on the dash board and I told him no that I had put in between the 2 fronts seats. The wrecker driver told me that I did not follow the rules that are displayed on the sign and that’s why my truck was towed. My wife had to come in from Baytown cause I needed a ride and cash to recover truck. I was charged total of $187.89 to get my truck out. I explained to the attendent that the receipt was in the truck but he didn’t seem to care. I have the receipt. Do I have a case. The receipt has “DISPLAY FACE UP ON DASHBOARD” but I was in a hurry & just didn’t read it. The receipt doesn’t warn of vehicle being towed for not displaying receipt. Do I have a case or would be wasting my time. Thanks

  16. my wife went to pickup her cousin from an apartment complex on south gessner named country club.she went upstairs to get him she was up there about ten minutes when someone came to tell her that they were going to tow her car.when she got down there they already had the car hooked up they said they couldn’t let it go unless we payed 145.00 this is a big problem at this complex htis sort of thing happens at least 1or twice a week there what can i do about getting my money back and 2 what can i do to stop this from happening at this complex?

  17. My grandmother (who is handicap) was driving my vehicle on saturday. Being that there we no other spot in the apartment complex she parked in the handicap sopt and left her placard in the vehicle. Sunday morning i went outside and my car had been towed. I called the tow line and the storage yard informed that it was towed because it was a LA placard on a car with TS plates (which i found out makes no difference) Then when i got to the yard, the guy let me know that it was the first time he saw a car towed with a valid placard. I then called the towing company and they were very rude and then changed thier story to say the placard was expired (doesnt expire until 6-11) After a few calls back and forth my car was FINALLY released! My question: Is there anything i can do about this? They had ABSOLUTELY no reason to tow my car and basically stole it. My car is now filthy and i was not only caused panic by a missing car but highly inconvenienced.

  18. My truck hod been towed in 2009 by statewide wrecker service . After I was released from jail on 5-05-09 I called the impound to ask what the charges would be. The lady I spoke with said it wasnt there!So I went to see myself and sure enough I didnt see it on the lot. I called everyday until 5-07-09 and se finally told me it was there. Just recently while repairing something under the truck I found that the had been wrecked and the front end had been reconstructed with other parts and new welds were done to damaged frame. I could not believe my eyes. Thats the reason I having so many problems with suspension and tires balding. The frame is bent! when I called impound and asked when it was dropped off she said 5-04-09,was not there! I believe the days that the truck was not there it was getting a cover up repair by the statewide. Its so obvious also by the reciept given by impound said 2 day storage when I picked up on the 7th. Even then thats false because I went to look for it and it wasnt there.If she is charging 2 days storage that means it ws dropped off the 5th because I picked it up on 5-7. Have you ever heard of such a cover up ,when the impound is also involved in scheme.

    That impound has been in trouble before !

    that

  19. My truck was towed friday night in front of starbucks right down the road from Edwards Theatre in the Galleria. I was a paying customer at starbucks and then left my truck there while i walked to the theatre to see a movie. When I walked back to the parking lot, my truck had been towed. This was shortly after starbucks had closed. It was a big parking lot with very few cars parked there. My truck wasn’t in anyones way and it got towed anyway. Even after I was a paying customer for a business there!!!! Is that legal? Because it sure doesn’t seem like it. It seems like one big racket that the City of Houston doesn’t mind supporting.

  20. Saturday night I was working, not driving, or even in my car, but found myself being arrested for a traffic warrant. They towed my car, but rather than pick it up from where it sat, the deputy gave the keys to the tow truck driver, and he drove the car to where the truck was sitting. It was not in a difficult spot to pick up, except that the deputy’s car was in the way.

    On Sunday, I went to pick up the car, with another licensed driver, and was told that they couldn’t give me my car because my license had expired a couple months earlier. Texas considers a license to be a valid ID for 2 years after it expires as a license, but for some reason, the impound doesn’t.

    When I went back on Wednesday, notarized documents in hand, they tried to charge me 5 days storage, and a $50 “notification fee” for sending a letter to the auto finance company. Apart from $50 being excessive to mail a letter, was the fact that I paid off my car in 2005. There is no finance company. I got them to remove one day’s storage, by pointing at a calendar, but the $50 had to be paid, or my car would still be there, racking up storage charges.

    Not sure how they did it, and of course I have no solid proof, but I had just tuned up the car 2 weeks prior to it being towed, and it was purring like a kitten. When I got it back, it was running on 6 of the 8 cylinders, and the stereo was broken.

    Can they drive my car to the truck?
    Can they refuse to take an ID that is considered valid by the state, then charge storage while I try and produce another one?
    Can they charge me a notification fee, if I own the car free and clear?
    By the way, this was Roper towing in Mckinney.

    I’ll call and try to reason with them, then see if making a complaint is worth the time.

  21. I’m hearing a lot of crap from people who do not want to take responsibility for their own actions.

    1. If you do not belong on the property do not park there.

    2. Just because you were a customer it does not give you a right to leave your junk on that stores property.

    3. Don’t park in someone elses assigned spot.

    4. No one wrecked your car and tried to repair. Stop looking for free money!

    5. Follow the rules and stop crying!

  22. hi, i just had my car towed for being in a handicapped spot(just didnt have it posted on my mirror). what is the city of houston towing fees for this as of 7/8/11

  23. I currently live in an apartment complex in the westchase area. There are many open spaces someone can park in the complex except for the handicapped spaces and covered parking area. I’ve lived in this complex for 2 years now and havent had any problems but what i did notice was that there was always a tow truck coming in the building every once in a while and would take one or two cars throughout the evening. I always figured maybe someone called to take them away but come to find out they were taking cars just for the heck of it. Both my neighbors got their vehicle taken which i dont understand why due to them having the right to park in those spaces which were not marked. It was reported to the complex and they installed hidden camera throughout the building and found out the wreckers were crooks so they captured the plate number and from what i was told the company was taken to court since this was not the first or second time this has happened. I can only imagine how many people paid for there vehicles to be taken out the impound. Since the cameras were installed and all of this happened i havent seen no tow truck in the building.

  24. My car was towed last weekend from the side of the road in front of a business that had postedt no parking signs on their fence. Their were no city of Houston no parking signs. Since when can a private business designate the shoulder of the road in front of them as private parking?

    Then, when I went to get my car I was told I had to pay cash even though the sign said I could use a credit card. According to the “lady” working there the card reader wasn’t working.

    I was charged the $50 notification fee even though it was the weekend and they couldn’t have mailed anything. Today the certified letter arrived postmarked 2 days after I picked the car up. I was charged 3 days parking even though the car was there for 36 hours.

    It is just a scam. It feels so bad to be taken advantage of. It is even worse that our government is complicit in this.

    I have seen that I can protest the tow. Any advice is appreciated. Does anyone know how to protest the $50 notification fee and storage charges?

  25. I was visiting a friend tonight at the carlisle apartments off of forum park. I went in around 8pm and came out about 10:30 pm only to find the the car i was in had been towed. Why was the car towed at the moment i had no idea because the tags were clean and car had insurance. So after calling around and contacting the company i was then yelled at by kieth who is with AAA houston texas towing of course i was yelling the whole time because they had noooooo reason what so ever to tow. the excuse from what i was given was that i had no parking permit……ummhumm yes i said it nooo parking permit…so since when do you need a parking permit to visit some one in the middle of the hood i mean im just saying now imagine how many people they have done this to saying that it was authorized by management. first of all there are no spots that say visitor parking…….its just parking spots secondly if you are going to do that then they need a security guard at the gate handing out visitors passes at 8pm when a person is going to visit a friend so there stupid ass tow company wont tow cars of innocent people so now im assed out of 203 dollars which was for my rent that now i cant pay because i had to get the car out of tow which in turn now i think they did something to the car because the oil light was not on at first and now it is. i am so pissed

  26. My truck got towed from my apt complex at 4:45 AM…i went to pick it up at 11:50 AM and was charged $203 which included $145 non consent towing fee, $15 storage fee, $20 state fee, $20 city fee and taxes…i think theyre full of it & charge way too much

  27. Legally set towing costs have changed since the original post was written:
    $155.00 – Non Contest towing fee
    $20.00 – Admin Fee
    $10.00 – City Fee
    $21.95 – Storage per day
    $50.00 – Notification Fee

    It will cost you $206.95 the first day that your vehicle has been towed. After the first 24 hours, they will tack on a notification fee and any additional days that your vehicle has been in storage. After 24 hrs = $278. 95, after 48 hrs = 300.85 and so on. Most towing companies consider 4 am the start of a new day so you have until 3:59 am of that first day to pay and get your car out of the storage lot before they charge you for another day and the next day’s storage fee.
    My husband and I just went through all this today (01/05/2012). It’s been a bad and expensive day.

  28. I think Tow truck charges are very reasonable,”in fact,I think they should be charging more when you figure in the cost of fuel,insurance,and the steep fines a towing company can receive from TDLR for just a simple mistake like paper work!
    Let me ask a fair question,If your calling towing companies because your family is stranded out of town, with car trouble in the middle of the night,isnt it more important that an honest trustworthy driver show up to assist them”..rather than being assured that they are better at filling out tickets than getting your family safely back on the road again?

  29. DON’T USE THIS PLACE!!!! They picked up my car and did not return it to me…I had to get the cop’s and insurance involve….They tried to keep the car an extra two days and lied to me about what was suppose to happen to my car and why they couldnt release it to me…Harry had vary bad customer service and is a liar…Reporting them to the BBB…

  30. All of these People crying about $143.50??? Do you have any idea how much a tow truck costs? Fuel? INSURANCE? LOT and Land to store that vehicle? and you have to pay a driver to drive it? Things cost money, services cost money. Here’s a Novel Concept…. don’t park where youre not supposed to…. dont get arrested….. To the lady that it was only a Mile… boooo freaking whooo hooooo…..just pay your stupid bill…..

  31. TO LAMPIE….. you have a really sad, and convoluted story. Its your fault you got arrested, and the officer had every right to have your POS towed and impounded. Any YES $50 is what the state allows for letters…. after all it costs 12.50 to mail the letters, and plus someone has to type and prepare them… if you ask me.. its worth alot more. Two… your license is not valid… it is expired…. you’re a moron…..Third… the storage lot is required to send letters by the 5th day to the registered owner, and lien holder on record. Obviously there was still a lien hold… which is your fault…. refer to the above “moron” statement it applies here as well…. Lastly…. the tow company did not damage your POS… its a POS, and thats why it only fires on 6 cylinders. You LAMPIE are a degenerate, that blames everything you do on others…. Take responsibility for your actions, stop drinking/drugs, get a job, and get a better car…..moron.

  32. How far can a tow truck take your vehicle in a nonconcent tow. Can they take it to another city? Like if it is picked up in kemah can they take it to league city?

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