California’s towing laws are some of the best, but more can be done to prevent predatory towing

Media Contacts
Sander Kushen

Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG Education Fund


LOS ANGELES — Driving is picking up again as the number of Americans heading to social gatherings, in-person work and vacations moves closer to pre-pandemic norms. More driving means more parking – maybe in unfamiliar areas. 

Parkers have always run the risk of getting towed. For the most part, California has done well protecting those parkers from predatory towing. In our new analysis, Getting Off the Hook of a Predatory Tow Part II, an update to our comprehensive 2021 report on towing protections in every state, we looked at 15 common-sense protections that every state should give its residents. California guarantees protection on 11 of these 15 issues, making the state one of the best at defending drivers against unfair towing practices, along with New Mexico and Texas. 

Despite California’s leadership on this issue, more work needs to be done to ensure that we continue to stay on the cutting edge of protecting drivers. Our analysis also shows several areas where California offers no protection. Most alarmingly, the state has no maximum towing and storage rates. 

“California can — and should — do more to protect drivers from predatory towing,” said Sander Kushen, Advocate with CALPIRG Education Fund. “The stories we’ve heard over the last year from consumers who’ve had to pay exorbitant fees are shocking. Until the state passes more protections, we need cities to continue to plug the gaps.” Los Angeles is one such city that has established maximum rates for towing and storage.

California can also do more to improve its requirements for when people can retrieve vehicles without an extra fee. Under current law, a towing lot may charge a “gate fee” if a driver needs to retrieve their car before 8:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, or at any time during the weekend. This can be especially burdensome for working individuals.

The state can also do more to prevent towing companies from actively patrolling private property for illegally parked cars, a practice that can further incentivize tows. In our report, we find that 14 states specifically ban this.

“Towing regulations should make sense innately,” Kushen said. “It’s OK if drivers face consequences for parking improperly on someone else’s property, but no one deserves to be wrongfully towed, or face unfair fees or other abusive practices even if the tow was justified.”

Click HERE for Getting Off the Hook of a Predatory Tow Part II.
Click HERE for our guide: “Getting off the Hook of a Predatory Tow.”