The True Cost of Towing for Orgs & Motorists


Bad parkers are everywhere. They park in two spaces at the strip mall to reduce the risk of their precious vehicle being scratched by another car’s door. They park in front of the dumpster at apartment complexes even though there is a sign that clearly states, “no parking in front of the dumpster.” Some even have the audacity to put other’s safety at risk by parking in front of a fire hydrant or emergency exit or in a fire lane.  

How should these bad parkers be dealt with? For many HOAs, universities, office complexes, healthcare facilities, and retail centers, the answer has always been “TOW THEM.” Is that the right solution? This blog will discuss the true cost of towing for both the bad parkers and the organizations where the parking violations occur. Ultimately helping to answer the question “to tow or not to tow?”  

Towing: The Cost to the Bad Parker

When a vehicle is towed due to a parking violation, the costs can quickly add up. Now, if someone’s bad parking is a public safety issue towing may be the right solution—cost to the bad parker be damned. However, for parking offenses that are more of an annoyance or inconvenience, the cost to the rule breaker may come into consideration. The bad parkers in this instance may be students who park on campus without a parking permit, employees who park in visitor spots, or festival goers who are taking up parking spots reserved for condo residents. To understand if the punishment is commensurate to the parking violation, let’s dive deeper into the fees associated with towing.

Towing Fee: The first cost that motorists encounter is the dreaded towing fee. This fee varies depending on the location and the distance the vehicle needs to be towed. On average, the towing fee can range from $100 to $200. (Chump change for the one-percenters, but not for the average Joe or Joanna).

Storage Fee: Once the vehicle is towed to the lot, a storage fee starts to accumulate. This fee covers the cost of keeping the vehicle in the lot until it is retrieved by the owner. Storage fees can be charged daily and can range from $20 to $50 per day. (This is more than most people spend on food on a daily basis).

Administrative Fee: In addition to the towing and storage fees, motorists may also be required to pay an administrative fee. This fee covers the paperwork and administrative tasks associated with the towing and storage of the vehicle. The administrative fee can range from $50 to $100. (This money would have been better spent on gas for the car, rent, Starbucks—anything but this).

Impound Fee: Some tow lots charge an impound fee, which is an additional cost on top of the towing and storage fees. This fee is meant to cover the cost of impounding the vehicle and can range from $50 to $100. (Make it stop!!).

Vehicle Release Fee: Once all the necessary fees have been paid, motorists will need to pay a vehicle release fee to retrieve their car. This fee is typically a flat rate and can range from $50 to $100. (Considering starting your own tow company yet?).

Additional Costs: In some cases, there may be additional costs associated with retrieving a towed vehicle. These costs can include charges for any damage that occurred during the towing process or fees for any personal belongings that were left in the vehicle. An Uber, Lyft, or bus fee may come into play as well, if that’s the only way the bad parker can get to the tow lot.

So, best-case scenario, a motorist will pay $100 to have their towed car released back into their custody. At worst, the tow could cost more than the car is worth. These are just the monetary impacts to the motorist. They don’t account for the time it takes to figure out where the car is and retrieve it. This can take hours and sometimes happens late at night or very early in the morning, adding additional stress to an already stressful situation.

Towing: The Cost to the Organization

There are a host of costs that many organizations haven’t fully considered.

Loss in Productivity: If an employee is towed, the time they take to get their vehicle back means they aren’t doing the job they’re getting paid for.

Financial Loss: Yep, if you’re using a tow company to remove the vehicle from the premises, you don’t get a cut of the fees and it all goes to the tow company.

Damaged Reputation: Towing in situations where safety isn’t an issue is the “nuclear option” of parking enforcement. It’s like grounding a child for six months for spilling his milk after being told not to play with his cup.  Most people would agree that this is overly punitive. Guess what? Students, employees, and customers feel the same way about towing, which means they most likely feel the same way about your organization. The cost to your reputation could be significant.

To put it simply, when towing for minor parking infractions, there is a high risk of damaging your organization’s reputation, and for what? Improved parking compliance? Perhaps you’ll gain a touch of that, but once the car is towed it isn’t there to serve as a visual deterrent to other would-be bad parkers. Future rule breakers who weren’t present when the car was towed don’t know for sure that there are actual consequences for breaking the parking rules. Financial gains? Nope, as stated before, towing companies reap the financial benefits.

Alternatives to Towing

Luckily there is an alternative to towing that is beneficial to both the motorist and organization that has to enforce the parking rules. It’s called The Barnacle®, a bright yellow parking enforcement solution that adheres to the windshield of the bad parker’s car, obstructing the driver’s view. One of the coolest features of this car “cone of shame” is that the driver can release the device themselves by either paying a fine or entering a special code—no payment required. The device is extremely versatile and can be used in a way that works best for your organization. Once removed, the bad parker returns it to a conveniently located Barnacle Drop Box, a front desk, or property manager’s office. 

If an organization charges a release fee, it’s usually considerably less than what the student, employee, or resident would pay if their car was towed. The organization donates the proceeds to charity, uses them towards scholarships, puts them in a property improvement fund, among other things.  

Other organizations skip the release fee entirely, preferring to use the device as a compliance tool. The bad parker enters a release code and must return the device to a front desk. While The Barnacle is deployed it also serves as a visual deterrent for other would-be bad parkers. Nothing screams, “you can’t park here” like a bright yellow device stuck to a car’s windshield. 

To Tow or Not to Tow?

Ultimately, how you handle your bad parkers is up to you. There is no doubt that towing is needed in situations where public safety is an issue. However, in many instances, it is overly punitive and expensive, especially when there is an alternative like The Barnacle®. If you need a sign that it’s time to update or expand your parking enforcement options, consider this blog post it. Learn more about The Barnacle today. What do you have to lose?

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