This information applies to vehicles that have been towed from private property without the vehicle owner’s consent (what’s referred to in the Code as a trespass tow). This does not apply to vehicles towed from accident scenes because they were disabled or because you were incapacitated (which is referred to in the Code as a nonconsensual tow). Please see Chapter 35 of the Orange County, Florida - Code of Ordinances for more information on nonconsensual tows.
- If your vehicle is connected to a tow truck but has not yet left the property, the tow truck driver must release the vehicle to you upon payment of a drop fee.
- The maximum allowable drop fee is half the rate for towing the vehicle. For most vehicles the tow rate is $125, so the drop fee would be $62.50.
- The tow truck driver is required to allow you at least 15 minutes to secure payment. They are required to allow you to pay with a credit or debit card, and they are required to provide you a written receipt.
Call the phone number on the towing sign where your car was towed:
- Phones are required to be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.
- Tow companies are required to immediately advise you of the following:
- Every document or other item you must bring with you to retrieve the vehicle;
- Exact charges as of the time of the your call, and the rate at which additional charges will accrue;
- Acceptable methods of payment, which include cash, money order, cashier's check, and major debit or credit card;
- The towed vehicle can be picked up within one hour of request; and
- The location at which you can pay the fees and pick up the vehicle.
- If you have difficulty reaching the tow company, you may call the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at 407-836-4357 to determine whether your vehicle has been towed.
- Tow companies are required to notify the Sheriff’s Office within 30 minutes after they arrive at their storage facility with your vehicle.
Things to be aware of when picking up your vehicle:
- The tow company must allow you to inspect your vehicle and retrieve personal property from your vehicle at their storage facility prior to payment. They are prohibited from refusing to allow retrieval of property or charging a fee for retrieval. They also are prohibited from requiring you to sign a release or waiver of any kind as a condition of inspecting, removing property from, or retrieving your vehicle.
- The tow company must provide a written bill at your request, detailing the charges to date.
- If your registration is expired, the tow company cannot require that you bring the registration up to date before releasing your vehicle to you.
- If you pay with cash, the tow company must provide change to the closest whole dollar. They may not condition payment on you having exact change. If you pay by debit or credit card, they are not allowed to charge extra for use of the card.
- At the time of payment, the tow company must provide a written receipt for all charges and payments and must include the name of the company, date, time, and location of the tow, and payment.
- Once you have paid the required fees, the tow company must release your vehicle to you within 30 minutes.
- The tow company cannot charge more than the Code allows for towing and storage. For most cars (under 10,000 pounds), the flat rate for trespass towing is $125. After 24 hours, they can charge a daily storage fee of $25 (for most cars). Storage fees are based on 24-hour increments, not calendar days. (Please see the Code for complete rate information.)
- If you believe these rules have been violated, please visit the Consumer Protection page of the Orange County website, where you can download a Towing Complaint Form or fill out and submit an online form.
You don't have to pay the towing company to get your car:
- You have the right to post a bond in county court (within 10 days of the tow) in the amount of your towing bill, and the court will issue to you a clerk's certificate showing that you have posted a bond.
- To post a bond, bring your original bill (the tow company must provide a written bill at your request) and 2 copies to the Orange County Courthouse, Room 310.
- Once you show the clerk’s certificate to the tow company, they must release your vehicle to you immediately. If they refuse, you may call the Sheriff for assistance.
You may be able to recover your towing costs:
- Tow companies must follow strict Code requirements which include:
- The tow company must have specific authorization to tow your car. The property owner or business owner was required to provide a signed authorization to the tow company with your vehicle’s information on it before your vehicle was towed. You can request a copy of that authorization from the tow company at any time. (Note: authorization is not required for vehicles towed from residential properties designated as Student Housing between midnight and 7 a.m.)
- There are signage requirements. The tow company is not allowed to tow vehicles if the tow signs are not in compliance with the Code (for example, there must be a sign at every entrance to the parking area). If you think the signage is out of compliance, document it with photos. (Note: there are exceptions to the signage requirements, such as a vehicle blocking a private driveway.)
- Spotters are prohibited. Tow companies are not allowed to pay spotters—people who monitor parking lots and call the tow company when someone walks off the lot. If you suspect there’s a spotter, report it.
- Code violators are liable for tow costs and other penalties. A company or person who violates the Code is liable to the vehicle owner for all costs of recovery, and any attorney and court fees. They are also liable for any damages resulting from towing or storage of your vehicle.