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Michigan's Towing Laws - What You Need to Know

This Consumer Alert explains the process to get your vehicle back after it was towed. You’ll also learn how to submit your towing complaint. And you’ll learn how to report unreasonable fees. 

Read this alert carefully. Michigan law limits where and when you can challenge tows and fees.

You could lose your vehicle if: 

  • You don’t claim it; and
  • You don’t request a hearing in the right amount of time. 

And if you lose your vehicle, it can be sold.

Michigan Law

Tows usually happen for three reasons:

  • at the direction of the police;
  • at the direction of a private property owner; or
  • at the owner's direction.

What You Need to Know

  • You can find a list of towing situations and fees on the Michigan Vehicle Code website
  • A vehicle towed can be towed from private or public property.
  • Vehicle owners are responsible for storage fees.
  • Private property owners can have vehicles towed. They must follow specific posting guidelines.
  • Tow companies share the vehicle’s new location with local police.
  • Within 24 hours, the police determine if the vehicle was reported stolen. It gets added to the law enforcement information network. The vehicle gets marked as an abandoned vehicle. The police update the Secretary of State.
  • Vehicles involved in accidents must be claimed within 20 days. After that, it is labeled as an abandoned vehicle.
  • A vehicle owner must go through the legal process to get their vehicle back. They can also try challenging it in court.
  • The Secretary of State must notify owners by mail within seven days. The mail goes to the owner listed on the title. Anyone else listed on the title receives a copy of the notice. A secured party is normally a bank or credit union.  

The notice will include: 

  • Where the vehicle was towed from.
  • Towing company name.
  • Address of where the vehicle is now.
  • How to claim the vehicle.
  • How to challenge the towing.
  • How to challenge the towing and storage fees; and
  • How to file with the court.

How Do I Find the Location of My Vehicle?

You can find the location of your vehicle and the custodian online. Enter the vehicle's identification number (VIN) or license plate number on the Secretary of State's Michigan Abandoned Vehicle Search. You can also contact the Abandoned Vehicle Help Desk at 517-636-5234.

How Do I Get Personal Items Out of My Towed Vehicle?

The company storing the vehicle must allow the owner to inspect the vehicle. And to get their items out for free, for the first visit. After that, they can’t charge the owner more than $25 per time. 

How Do I Redeem My Vehicle?

To redeem your vehicle as the owner, you must:

  • Visit the custodian holding the vehicle within 20 days of the notice. A custodian can be the police agency, towing company, or impound lot.
  • Take your title or registration with you. They may ask you to prove that the vehicle is yours.
  • Pay towing and storage fees. You may be charged a $40 abandoned vehicle fee.

Warning: You have 20 days from the notice date to request a hearing. But after 10 days, a secured party can redeem the vehicle by paying all fees.

If you or the secured party do not redeem the vehicle or request a hearing within 20 days, it may be sold at public auction. You will lose all rights to the vehicle. At least five days before any sale, public notice will be published in a newspaper. It is published in the county where the vehicle was towed.

How Do I Challenge a Tow or The Reasonableness of Fees?

Towing and storage fees are normally set by the agreement between the police agency and the towing company. Residents should contact the police agency involved in the towing to verify fees. We also recommend you review your insurance policy or contact your agent to see if your policy covers towing costs. 

You have the right to challenge whether your vehicle was properly towed and the reasonableness of towing and storage fees. This must be done in a timely manner and in an appropriate district court.

How Do I File a Petition with the Court?

The process requires you to file a petition in the district court that has jurisdiction over the location where your car was towed. 

  • You must file your petition within 20 days from the abandoned vehicle notice date. 
  • You will be responsible for applicable court filing fees. The petition and instructions for how to fill it out are included with the mailed notice. They are also available on the Petition Regarding Impoundment of Motor Vehicle (DC90) form.
  • If you request a hearing, you can get your vehicle back while you are awaiting the hearing outcome. Before you get it back you must:
    • post a towing and storage bond with the court. This will include the accrued towing and storage fees; or
    • pay the abandoned vehicle fees and the accrued towing and storage fees to the custodian of your vehicle.
  • If the court finds that your vehicle was improperly towed, you will be reimbursed for the towing and storage fees. The abandoned vehicle fee will also be returned.

Towing Complaints

  • Attorney General's Office Complaints

You may file complaints with the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. If your complaint involves a tow that was directed by the police or a private property owner, and you want to contest the tow and unreasonable fees, then you must follow the process outlined above and file a petition for a court hearing. The Attorney General may not represent you in court.

  • Local Police Agency Complaints

 If the police direct the tow, you can also complain to the local police agency. It can take appropriate action against the towing company if fees or other conduct by the towing company violates an agreement between the police agency and the company.

  • Checking Operating Authority

The Michigan State Police (MSP) regulate all towing companies that operate in Michigan. MSP's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED) processes towing company applications to operate. Towing companies must submit active liability insurance, worker's compensation insurance, or an approved exemption. Citizens may check operating authority by visiting the CVED's Intrastate Carrier Authority Registration System website. Questions can be directed to the CVED at 517-284-8111.

To file a complaint with the Attorney General, or get additional information, contact:

Consumer Protection Team
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll-free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form