The scenarios where you could be towed away are:
- If you park your car in the wrong place (e.g. on private property, or illegally on the road)
- If you are stopped by police and found to be driving without a licence or you commit an offence which would cause instantaneous loss of licence, and you cannot find someone to move your vehicle within the given time
- If you break down in a dangerous place
- If you break down and cannot move your vehicle within the given time
- If you have a crash which incapacitates the vehicle.
Police and traffic officers can order your vehicle to be towed, and a licenced towing operator will be contacted to remove your vehicle. You can also request that your vehicle is towed away.
If the tow truck driver asks you to sign a contract before they will tow your car, read it carefully as there may be terms and conditions that bind you to a particular repairer. You can ask for your car to be towed to your home to give yourself time to check your insurance details. This also avoids storage charges in a towing yard. If you have a preferred repairer, you can ask the tow truck driver to take it directly there.
Being towed from private property
There is no general right to park on private property. This includes business’s car parks out of business hours, or if the property is vacant. You cannot assume that you won’t be towed just because you won’t be long, or that there are lots of other vacant spaces around or that other people are parked there. However, there should be signs to indicate that you will be towed.
A body corporate or business that administers private parking can order a vehicle to be towed if it’s parked in contravention of the clearly signposted rules for parking. This is similar to an action for trespass or nuisance. The body corporate or business must be sure that the vehicle doesn’t belong to someone who is entitled to park there and must act reasonably in relation to the decision to tow, and the costs that the driver will incur to get the vehicle back. Note that fees are capped in some states.
Signage on the property must clearly set out the parking restrictions and include a warning that the vehicle will be towed. There must be a reasonable attempt to contact the owner of the vehicle.
What happens if you return to your vehicle while it’s being loaded onto a tow truck?
If you return before it is loaded and secured, they must release your vehicle immediately without charge.
If you return after it’s loaded and secured, but before they leave, you must pay the on-site release fee.
A tow truck driver must not intimidate you and vice versa. If you are concerned about their actions, video it on your smartphone.
What to do if your vehicle is towed
Look for signs to indicate the name of the towing company. You will have to make your own way to the towing company’s yard, and this could be quite a way away. Once you have paid the release fee, you will be free to take your vehicle.
Different states have guidance on towing; you can search online.