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Greater Houston and South Texas

Educational Consumer Tips

TOWING TIPS - Understand the Differences Between Non-Consent and Consent Tows

Author: Better Business Bureau
Published:
Category: Auto



Please note there are 2 types of tows in Houston and Harris County. They are:

Non-consent tow - where a wrecker driver may tow your vehicle from the scene of an accident. This is called nonconsent because the wrecker can make the tow without the driver’s consent in the interest of clearing the roadway. If you park illegally (say in a handicapped space at your apartment complex or in a “No Parking zone”) and your car is towed, this is also called a nonconsent tow. In both cases, the tow truck driver did not have your consent to tow your vehicle. 
 
Consent tow - where the owner of the automobile agrees and signs a tow truck receipt. 

Non-consent tows are regulated by the City of Houston, Harris County and the Texas Department of Licesning & Regulation. The rates that licensed wreckers and storage facilities can legally charge you are regulated and capped. Storage lots and wreckers can not make up fees and charges. 
 
Non-consent tow charges allowable by law in the City of Houston are: 
 

  • $143.50 Nonconsent Tow Fee
 
  • $15.00 Per day charge at Licensed Vehicle Storage Facility
 
  • $50.00 Notification Fee from Storage Lot if they have to notify you after 24 hours that your car has been towed there.

 

  • $20.00 Impound fee.

 

If you are going to have your car towed, always get the price of the tow in writing. You should also specify the destination of the towed vehicle, and put it in writing. If a police officer is at the scene, it is advisable to allow them to authorize a "non-consent" tow which is capped and regulated.  Never sign blank forms; make sure any form you are signing is completed in its entirety.  This also applies when you arrive at the auto storage facility to move your vehicle or retrieve belongings.  The BBB has received complaints from consumers who unknowingly authorized body shops to begin work on their vehicles when they signed what they thought were routine forms allowing them to access their vehicles.  The signed authorizations allowed body shops to convert the non-consent tow into consent tows which were not capped.  Consumers who contacted the BBB reported that in order to retrieve their vehicles, shops routinely demanded thousands of dollars in storage and towing fees. 

If you have a dispute with a wrecker service concerning a police tow, you may file a tow hearing and also lodge a complaint with the Houston Police Department Auto Division at 713-308-1440. If you have a complaint concerning an owner tow, you may file a complaint with the BBB, and file a claim with the Small Claims Court.