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Vehicle Impounds and Towing

Find Your Towed Vehicle

Vehicles may be impounded or towed for several reasons for violation of both State and City laws. If you believe your vehicle was towed by the City of San Diego, you can take these steps to find it:

If you're unable to locate your vehicle through AutoReturn, call the SDPD non-emergency line at 619-531-2000

What to Expect

How Long Does the Impound Process Take?

The impound process can take a minimum of three hours. Therefore, full details may not be immediately available to know whether your vehicle was towed by the City of San Diego or where it has been taken. 

What Will I Need to Provide?

When calling for information be prepared to provide:  

  • Your name
  • Vehicle license plate number or VIN
  • Vehicle make and model

What Happens After They Locate My Vehicle? 

You will be given the name of the towing company, the vehicle location, and amount of fees due. 

Registered owner identification and driver's license is required to recover the vehicle. 

My Vehicle Was Towed From Private Property 

Vehicles towed from private property may not have been towed by the City of San Diego. Therefore, the City would not have a record of the vehicle being towed. Look for information posted at the site where the vehicle was towed for how to retrieve your vehicle.

Common Reasons for Vehicle Impounds

Vehicles can be impounded for several reasons including: 

  • Vehicles found on City of San Diego property having five or more unpaid parking citations/tickets.
  • Vehicles found on City of San Diego property with registration expired over six months.
  • Vehicles stored on City of San Diego property over 72 hours without moving 1/10th of a mile.
  • Vehicles found on City of San Diego property parked in violation of posted temporary or permanent signs.
  • Vehicles found illegally parked on City of San Diego property not displaying any form of valid registration.
  • Vehicles found on City of San Diego property parked in a hazardous manner, impeding the regular flow of traffic.
  • Vehicles found on City of San Diego property blocking a driveway and a complaint is registered.
  • Vehicles parked in a carpool lane.
  • Vehicles parked on City of San Diego property (public street) in violation of permanent and temporary signs (special event, construction, etc.).

Recovering a Stolen Vehicle

The San Diego Police Department also recover stolen vehicles. If found, an officer will attempt to call the registered owner to let them know about the recovery.

If we are unable to contact the registered owner or if the owner takes over 20 minutes to get to the vehicle, the vehicle will be stored at a City of San Diego contracted towing company until the registered owner can recover the vehicle.

For questions concerning an impounded vehicle, please contact SDPD Tow Administration at 858-495-7830 or email at Tow-Admin@pd.sandiego.gov.

Towing Claims

Every person who has their vehicle towed by the City of San Diego is afforded a vehicle Post Storage Hearing per 22852 California Vehicle Code. The registered owner/legal owner of the vehicle impounded will be sent a notification by the City of the impound.

In order to obtain a Post Storage Hearing, the registered owner/legal owner of the vehicle must call SDPD Tow Administration at 858-495-7830 or mail back the notification they received to the address listed on it, within 10 days of the mailed notice.

The hearing will be conducted over the phone and is an evidence-based hearing. Tow Administration will provide the person whether the tow was a valid tow or not within 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).

  • If the hearing reveals the tow was valid and the person is still not satisfied they may complete a Public Liability Form with the City or the San Diego Small Claims Court at 858-634-1919 to request further review of the tow.
  • If the hearing reveals the tow was invalid, the City will pay for all the fees related to the vehicle impound. If the owner has already picked up their vehicle from the tow yard and the tow was deemed to be invalid then the owner must contact the Public Liability Division at 619-236-6670 for a refund.