New analysis of towing laws shows only 16 states ban kickbacks to property owners or law enforcement

Media Contacts
Rishi Shah

BALTIMORE–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. 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, finds that 16 states, including Maryland, currently ban kickbacks to private property owners kickbacks when the landowner notifies towing companies about vehicles to tow. However, Maryland does allow towing companies to patrol private property for illegally parked cars and does not require towing companies to provide itemized bills. 

“Towing regulations should make sense innately,” said Rishi Shah, Maryland PIRG Advocate. “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.” 

While no state has passed new consumer protections against predatory towing in the last year, Colorado and other states are considering new laws. And there has been progress at the local level, where municipalities are passing more laws against these abusive practices.

“Every state can — and should — do more to protect drivers from predatory towing,” said Shah. “The stories we’ve heard over the last year from consumers who’ve had to pay exorbitant fees or whose cars are towed to a lot an hour away are shocking. Until more states pass protections, we need cities to continue to plug the gaps.”

In Baltimore, Councilmember Ryan Dorsey introduced legislation that would bolster consumer protections on towing by: setting the maximum tow charge at $300, reducing the allowable drop fee, or the fee paid to the tow truck owner, to no more than 25% of the overall towing fee, and constraining the conditions under which these drop fees are allowed, among other provisions. Dorsey introduced this legislation in September, and it has not yet received a committee vote.  

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.”