Consumer Advisory: Ho ho ho, don’t get towed!

Don’t throw away your holiday cash – watch where you park

DENVER (Dec. 30, 2015) —  ‘Tis the season for attending holiday events and parties, dining at restaurants and shopping at crowded malls. It’s also the season for seemingly endless searches for parking. Don’t spend your hard-earned (or gifted) money paying for towing charges because your car was parked illegally in a private parking lot. Non-consensual tows can be a source of major frustration and expense for vehicle owners. But many of these headaches can be avoided by simply being more aware of where they are leaving their vehicles. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, advises drivers to remember these three important things before parking in a private lot or area:

1. Park on private property only if you have permission; otherwise park only in public lots.

Private property owners, as well as individuals or companies that have been authorized in writing to act as agent for the property owner, have a right to remove vehicles that are parked on their property without permission. This applies to businesses, apartment complexes, residences and any other private property. So before you leave your car, first do a thorough search for any signs that may indicate that the lot you chose is private.  
2: Private property restrictions can be can be enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

That party you're attending is just across the street from a business with a private lot. The business is closed. It's ok to park there, right? 

Not unless you have explicit permission from the property owner.

Even if a business is closed, at night or on weekends, it can still have non-authorized vehicles removed from its parking lot. And it doesn’t matter how long the vehicle has been parked there. If you park in a private lot and run across the street just for a few minutes to complete an errand, your vehicle could be towed.
3: Be prepared - getting your car back will be expensive.

The PUC regulates the rates for non-consensual tows, but a private property tow could still end up costing you several hundred dollars once all the charges for the tow, mileage and storage are added up.

So you got towed ... now what?

The PUC has adopted rules that provide some consumer protections in cases of non-consensual tows.

  • Towing carriers are required to obtain proper authorization from a property owner before a tow can be made;
  • Authorization must be filled out in full, signed by the property owner, and given to the towing carrier at the time the vehicle is to be removed from the private property;
  • If a consumer attempts to retrieve their vehicle before it is removed from private property, the towing carrier must release the vehicle if the consumer agrees to pay the “drop charge”;
  • And a towing carrier must be available within the first 24 hours of having stored a vehicle to either release the vehicle from storage immediately upon demand during normal business hours or with one hour’s notice during all other times.

Ultimately, the best way to avoid an unpleasant experience with a towing carrier is to stay away from private property lots, unless you have explicit permission to park there. For more information, visit the PUC. Read all of DORA's helpful holiday-related "Take 5 to Get Wise" consumer advisories by visiting


DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 1-800-886-7675


Media Contact:
Terry Bote
Public Utilities Commission
p: 303-894-2827