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Who can legally tow your vehicle, or ask for it to be towed?

If you return and your vehicle is no longer there, it will either have been towed or stolen. If there’s no indication of theft (e.g. broken glass), look around for signage for clues, such as clearway, private parking, yellow lines on the road, etc.

Public property

Police officers and parking wardens have the authority to organise your vehicle to be towed. A tow authority must be completed before the tow truck driver can tow your car.

A tow authority contains information about the vehicle and the circumstances, and it’s covered under legislation. The tow authority is written on a form approved by NZTA and includes:

  • (a) the make, model, colour, and vehicle registration plate details of the vehicle being moved:
  • (b) the date, time, and place of pick-up:
  • (c) the intended place of set down (and the actual place of set down, if different):
  • (d) the time of set down, to be completed on set down:
  • (e) the name, address, and, where practicable, the signature of the person ordering the vehicle to be moved:
  • (f) the name, address, and signature of the driver of the vehicle recovery service vehicle:
  • (g) an indication of whether the reason for the vehicle being moved was a crash, breakdown, vehicle impoundment, it’s wanted in relation to a crime, or an unauthorised parking of the vehicle.

Private property

If you park your car on private property, the property owner can either have it removed or have it immobilised. However, this doesn’t cover parking across someone’s driveway.

Any private property where a tow truck operates should have clear signage to explain who can park there and for how long, how much parking costs, what will happen if a driver breaches the rules, and who they can contact if the car is towed.

You can get your vehicle back by paying the towing fees and any storage fees that have accumulated.

Your property

If you fall behind on payments, your vehicle may be repossessed from your property. They must provide a repossession warning notice, the credit contract, their authority to act on the lender’s behalf, a copy of their repossession agent’s licence or certificate of approval, a statement of their visit time and reason (listing the vehicle as an item to be repossessed) and a statement of your rights.

What rules must tow truck companies and drivers follow?

Tow truck drivers must have a V endorsement on their licence, and the towing company must hold a vehicle recovery service licence and comply with the rules set out in the Land Transport Rule: Operator Licencing 2017 which cover prevention of damage, registering the towed vehicles, instruction to take the vehicle directly to the yard, and who a tow authority should be signed by.

Unauthorised towing

The tow truck operator must have a tow authorisation from a person who is legally allowed to give them a tow authority (e.g. the property owner, a police officer, etc). It’s best to put it in writing. If you have to pay to get your car back, you can escalate the complaint to NZTA and apply to the Disputes Tribunal.

Where do you collect your vehicle from?

If your vehicle has been towed from private property, there will be a sign indicating which towing company has taken it. Give them a call and they will tell you where it has been towed to. If your vehicle has been towed by the council, call the council to find out which yard; in the case that it has been moved for safety or convenience (e.g. roadworks), it may be just around the corner on another street. For example, this is Auckland Council’s towing information page, and other councils have similar pages. If the council doesn’t know, or if your car has been towed by Police, contact your local police station. Note that there will be a short delay from when your car is towed to when the details are available on the Police database.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice