Your vehicle may not have been stolen but here is a guide on how to find out if your car/motorcycle was towed or stolen. Lots of people have been there, stuck between knowing if their vehicle was towed or stolen, and they all figured it out at some point.
Generally, you can tell if your car or motorcycle was towed or stolen by contacting your local police department. If you financed the vehicle, contact your lender, it may have been repossessed if you defaulted.
Your vehicle may have been towed for a parking violation; the police can tell you the responsible tow company. In extreme cases, it could be a theft problem, so you have to report your vehicle stolen.
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How to find out if your car or motorcycle was towed or stolen
This section briefly explains what you need to know to find out if your car/motorcycle was towed or stolen:
First, search around the area where you parked your vehicle. You also want to look for any No Parking signs or other signs that show you parked the vehicle illegally. If there is none, but your vehicle was towed for wrong parking, you can use that to fight the tow charges because it was towed illegally.
Private tow companies sometimes place signs that list their name and phone number. Follow the sign to find out if the tow company has your vehicle. Otherwise, contact the police.
Contact the police
Many states require tow operators to report to the local police when a vehicle owner does not authorize any tow. This law is put in place to avoid or at least reduce unfounded stolen vehicle reports.
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In Idaho and California, for instance, if a tow company repossesses a vehicle behind on payments or tows an illegally parked vehicle, they file a report with the sheriff’s office.
Moreover, in some states, the private property owner must notify the local police department, typically within 1 hour of authorizing a tow. The towing company may have less than an hour or about 30 minutes after removing the vehicle to report it to the local police or about 15 minutes after arriving at the storage facility.
Call your local sheriff/police dispatch (non-emergency) number to find out if they have filed information about your vehicle as a tow or repossessed (if financed). If the police department records no information about your vehicle, they will send an officer to file a stolen vehicle report.
The tow operators
As mentioned earlier, a tow operator must report any tow to the local authorities as quickly as possible. An early report by the tow service prevents your car or motorcycle (if stolen) from not being traceable even for a few minutes.
The tow operator simply calls the local police and says they towed Vehicle Y (your vehicle) with the license plate [6FAM244] from [location Z]. They will also report the storage location and leave the police with a phone number you can call to claim your vehicle at the tow yard.
If the tow company reports the towed motorcycle or car earlier, you will be informed by the police, so there will be no room for an unfounded stolen vehicle report.
If you owe on your vehicle and you defaulted, the lender can have it repossessed. Like the tow company, the repo company must notify the local police about the towed vehicle.
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Report the vehicle stolen
If your local police have no record of your vehicle being towed, report it stolen. In some cases, it could be that your towed vehicle has not been reported in the records yet. If your vehicle is towed illegally by someone, you can report it as stolen.
If your vehicle was towed for a parking violation or was repossessed, contact your lender to find out before informing the police.
When you contact your local police to report a lost or stolen vehicle, the dispatcher will check the private tow, impound or repo records. If your vehicle is not in the list, the police will ask if you defaulted on your loan to weigh the chances of your vehicle being repo-ed.
If repossession is the case, you may be advised to wait a while to report it stolen if the lender denies any claim that they ordered a repo. The little time you wait is to give the repo company time to make the call.
The police will also ask if you parked in a place where you should not. In this case, check around the parked spot for parking signs, tell the police officer what you see to help them determine if a tow operator towed your car or motorcycle. You may be advised to wait for a while before reporting it stolen.
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What if no repo or tow company calls the police?
If no repo or tow company calls the police after a few hours, report your vehicle stolen.
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Inform the police
Contact your local police to report your stolen vehicle. Give them full details of the vehicle and inform them that you reported the missing car or motorcycle earlier.
The law enforcement may require the following information:
- Vehicle make, model, and model year
- Vehicle identification number (VIN)
- License plate number
- The last parking location
- The time you last saw your vehicle
- Information about your tracking device or GPS (if any)
- Distinct features on your vehicle
- Personal items in the vehicle
Contact the insurance company
Call the insurance company immediately to report your stolen vehicle. File an insurance claim, and provide the adjuster with any requested information.
Your insurance company may further ask for a list of valuables in the vehicle. Depending on your policy, your stolen personal possessions may be covered.
You will also need to submit a copy of the police report. An insurance company typically waits up to 30 days after you file a stolen vehicle before writing it off as stolen (if not recovered).
Unfortunately, an insurance claim for a stolen vehicle may raise your insurance rates in the future.
Inform your lender
If you financed the vehicle, inform your lender. They will investigate your claim and work with the insurance to resolve the problem.
Reasons your car/motorcycle gets towed
- Owing your state. If you owe your state more than a certain amount, sometimes more than $350, depending on your state, in parking summons judgment debt your vehicle will be towed.
- Unpaid parking meter
- Blocking a tunnel or an intersection
- Parking on a fire hydrant
- Double-parked vehicle
- Blocking a driveway
If you are behind in payments, your vehicle can be repossessed through a repo company.
An illegal tow is not listed with the police or any tow authority, it is not also signed by a cop or parking warden. A legal tow, however, follows due process, and your local police department is notified by the tow company.
It is advisable to recover your vehicle as fast as you can to avoid the expensive storage fees from storage yards.
Meanwhile, you may not be able to recover your towed vehicle from the police department on New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Christmas Day, or Thanksgiving Day.