Choosing the right parking enforcement company

How to choose a parking enforcement company

Whether you’re operating a parking lot filled with customers or managing a residential community, choosing the right parking enforcement strategy is crucial to safety and functionality.

If you’ve developed and clearly posted parking guidelines, then it’s time to determine how you’ll enforce them. When most people picture parking enforcement, it’s full of tow trucks, impound yards, and angry, stressed-out people.

But is that the only way, or just the way things have always been done?

While the type of parking area, municipal laws, and the size of your lot all factor into choosing the most effective method, the following article can help you learn more about your options.

What is a Parking Management Strategy?

A parking management strategy improves the functionality, safety, and efficiency of a parking lot by optimizing parking layouts, traffic flow, and how pedestrians and vehicles coexist. From customer-based businesses to residential communities, creating a clear strategy and enforcing parking rules should be a top priority. 

But how do you effectively enforce parking rules? 

If you’ve researched the laws around non-government-managed parking enforcement in your area, and are legally within your rights to enforce your parking rules, here are some enforcement options to consider.

Patrol and Security Agencies

Patrol and security agencies provide “for hire” professionals to monitor and help protect people and property. Not only do they help enforce parking rules, they usually offer additional security. This can be a great bonus service, but it’s important to remember that while these individuals can assist with “breaches of peace”, they aren’t law enforcement officers. 

Traditional Towing Companies

Aside from helping motorists transport vehicles after a crash or weather-related incident, the towing industry spends most of its time towing inactive vehicles or those violating local regulations or ordinances (according to Ibis World reports.) And, while many tow companies abide by the law, others operate using predatory tactics.

When properly vetted, working with a tow company can be a great addition to a parking management strategy–even if you want to use an enforcement method other than towing. They can offer additional security, help move illegally parked/inactive vehicles, and some offer 24/7 services. They’re also more expensive than other options, so it may not be ideal for a small business with a small lot.


Self-enforcement is when the parking manager, property owner, staff, or HOA handles all patrolling and enforcement independently (i.e., without a third-party enforcement company.) Here are a few examples of what self-enforcement can look like:

  • Issuing private parking tickets

Some parking managers use privately issued parking tickets to deter (and collect compensation for) undesirable parking behavior. However, private parking tickets are virtually impossible to enforce. You can read more about the problems with private parking tickets here, but it’s not the most effective means of enforcing parking.

  • Immobilization devices

The most commonly recognized immobilization device is the wheel clamp (more commonly referred to in the US as a “wheel boot”/“parking boot”)–but that’s not the only option.

One convenient and cost-effective alternative helped Greely, CO lower the average number of days it took violators to pay fines by 66% (from 53 days to 18)!

A Warning On Immobilization Devices: The laws and ordinances surrounding who can use immobilization devices vary by city, town, and state. But the use case must also be heavily considered. 

For example, it may not be the best option for HOA board members–as putting an immobilization device on a neighbor’s car could cause tension, resentment, and conflict in your community! Thoroughly research laws in your area, and carefully consider your specific parking area and goals.

The Benefits Of Outsourcing Parking Enforcement Services

When running a business, it’s tempting to DIY as much as possible to yield the best (and most budget-friendly) results. However, trying to operate a daily business while also managing a parking lot can be challenging. Working with a third-party enforcement service can:

  • Save time and resources. Outsourcing parking enforcement means you don’t have to spend time monitoring and enforcing parking since a team of experts does it for you. That way, you can focus on higher-priority operations without sacrificing the well-being of motorists in your lot.
  • Maintain consistent patrolling. Contractors typically maintain a regular service schedule, and whether it’s a tow company or a parking monitoring service, you can have the exact services you need when you need them—even when you’re not at the location.
  • Improve parking compliance. The most apparent benefit of consistent parking enforcement is having to enforce it less often. Consistency drives compliance because when people see real consequences for violating parking rules, they’re less likely to risk breaking them in the future.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Parking Enforcement Company

From cost, integration, and the labor resources essential to effective parking management, we’ve compiled a checklist to help you determine the best enforcement option for your needs.

Number 1: Determine your specific enforcement needs

Every parking area is unique in size, municipal regulations, and type. What a mom-and-pop business in the middle of a city needs will differ significantly from a residential community in the suburbs. What (and how frequently) areas require patrolling can be a decisive factor in choosing between a large-scale company with more resources, but a higher price–versus a smaller company that offers more personalized services, but can’t manage massive parking areas effectively.

Number 2: Vet experts to ensure they have a good reputation 

As mentioned earlier, not all parking enforcement companies operate ethically. Aside from the moral implications, your reputation and your revenue could be at stake. According to American Transport Research Institute, predatory billing was reported as the most common type of predatory towing.

Avoid companies with a history of predatory practices by looking up reviews and understanding local laws. This information can help you measure whether the tow company representing your business operates with the same integrity as you do.

Number 3: Ensure the company needs and confirms your authorization before towing a vehicle

One way to avoid unethical enforcement is by requiring an authorized signature from the parking manager before the towing company moves a non-compliant vehicle. Even if your state doesn’t require an authorized signature, it’s the right thing to do and helps protect you.

Number 4: Get crystal clear on price and any additional fees

Most state laws dictate parking violation fines. However, tow companies may charge you additional fees (such as a tow request fee on top of their towing rate.) 

Know exactly what you’re paying for, and whether or not you’re subject to additional charges. Have the prospective partner company walk you through their contract, and don’t be afraid to request a detailed quote that covers everything from fees, insurance, and frequency expectations.

Number 5: Ask for proof that they have proper licensing and insurance

Only work with companies that can show up-to-date state/federal certifications, licenses, and insurance to protect your business/property against legal ramifications. 

Additionally, we recommend choosing an enforcement company that indemnifies your organization, association, or community as an added layer of protection against errors their company makes–or even laws their company breaks. Without indemnity, you could be the one footing the bill for laws you had no involvement in breaking (aside from working with the company that broke them).

Number 6: Understand their method of enforcement to decide if it aligns with your goals 

Once you identify your enforcement philosophy, you can more easily determine which company and method works for you. And even if you like everything else a patrol agency or tow company offers, but don’t want to use traditional towing, booting, or warnings with no teeth… you can ask if the company can integrate with a user-friendly device like The Barnacle®.

  • Motorists can independently resolve violations without being towed or requiring enforcer involvement to remove the device.
  • It’s a more ethical and efficient enforcement device that gives motorists 24/7 capabilities to pay their fine, remove the device, and return it themselves in minutes. 
  • It’s more reliable than a wheel clamp, using 1,000 pounds of suction to cover a windshield without damaging the vehicle.

Where do I go next?

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