Tow companies get the goods when no one collects
What happens to the proceeds from impounded cars (i.e. DUII impounds) that are not claimed. Does the towing company get all or something?
— Deborah, via email
Well, if you can make it into Medford Saturday morning you could see firsthand what goes on with all those poor homeless cars at Dick's Towing lot on Crater Lake Avenue. A few of the very cars you asked about will be up for auction starting at 10 a.m.
Cars can be towed and impounded for a variety of reasons, such as parking violations or multiple DUIIs. Oregon law requires towing companies to notify the registered owner of the car within 15 days that their car has been towed to their lot. A fee called a lien is automatically incurred for the tow and the impound of the vehicle, and the owner has to be notified of that, too.
The registered owner has 30 days to pick up their car at the lot, where they'll pay their fees. Fees vary from town to town: In Medford, it'll cost you $120 to get your vehicle out of the slammer, while it'll only cost you $105 in Ashland — but that needs to be cash. Proof of insurance and a valid driver's license also are required.
There often seems to be an elephant-in-the-room kind of animosity aimed at towing companies, especially the idea of them getting out with any money from a tow or an unclaimed vehicle. But here's the thing: Towing is an expense, and if people don't pick up their cars, the companies don't get to collect the towing fees. So under state law, after 30 days, they're allowed to put cars up for public auction, such as what's happening this weekend.
They don't always go back into the hands of drivers, though. Auto recyclers also show up to those auctions, and that could mean a long goodbye to an ownerless vehicle.
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