California Towing Law

Division 11 of the California Vehicle Code, published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, covers the rules of the road, including towing regulations and restrictions. Chapter 10 of the code specifically outlines rules for the legal removal of parked and abandoned vehicles. According to this code, a vehicle can be towed for a variety of reasons, including when it's abandoned on public property or is blocking traffic.

  1. Circumstances of Vehicle Removal

    • By law, local law enforcement or traffic officers may remove unattended vehicles that cause traffic obstructions, including vehicles left on bridges, causeways, tunnels or in hazardous locations or parking conditions. Vehicles parked illegally in front of fire hydrants or in designated handicapped spaces without proper permits can also be towed, as may those reported stolen and left on public land and vehicles left behind after a person has been arrested.

    Removal from Private Property

    • According to California Vehicle Code Section 22658, the owner of private property can remove a vehicle parked on her property without permission.


    • A sign must be clearly displayed on any property that prohibits public parking. The sign must measure 17 by 22 inches and notify individuals that vehicles may be removed at the owner's expense. This sign must also display the local traffic law enforcement agency's telephone number. The property owner can order the towing of any vehicle that violates the prohibition.

    Inoperable Vehicles

    • Vehicles left on private property without an engine, transmission, wheels, tires, doors, windshield or major components necessary to operate the vehicle may also be towed from private property. The property owner may tow the vehicle 24 hours after informing local law enforcement of her intent to do so.


    • Vehicle Code Section 22658 prohibits towing companies from charging more than one day's storage for a vehicle that is picked up within 24 hours of being towed. This prevents a towing company from unfairly profiting from the tow at the vehicle owner's expense.

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