FAQs

The SFMTA is responsible for removing illegally parked and abandoned vehicles from City streets and all vehicles towed by the San Francisco Police Department.  A vehicle which is parked in a tow away zone will be towed to one of the City’s tow yards.  Towing helps maximize on-street parking, manage traffic congestion, and maintain clean, safe and functional streets for the public’s use.

Answers to commonly asked questions are provided here as a convenience.  If your question is not answered here or on our site, please contact customer service at 415-865-8200.


Resources & Links

Tow Fee Schedules – Effective 7/1/2017


Towing Fees

You must pay all fees for your vehicle to be released.

  • Administrative Fee – Passenger vehicles Under 10,000 GVW
    • Registered Owner Towed more than once:  $269.00
    • Registered Owner’s first tow:  $177.00 (NOTE: First time tow discount does not apply to rental car companies, city car shares, or any other businesses.)
    • Registered Owner’s first tow and currently qualified for one of the low income programs: $89.00
  • Tow Fee – Passenger Vehicles: $214.00
  • Storage
    • First four hours: free
    • First day after first 4 hours: $59.25
    • Subsequent days: $71.00
  • Dolly (if applicable): $53.25
  • Transfer to long-term storage (if applicable): $29.25
  • Lien fees: $35.00 at initiation plus $35.00 at lien clear, total $70 (L1 & L2 = $70 total; L3 = $100 total)

Towing and storage fees vary for medium and heavy duty vehicles.  Please search for your vehicle online or call the customer service center to receive estimated fees.

***NOTE:  You must pay for your citations separately. Citations associated with this tow, and delinquent citations, are not included in this invoice unless your vehicle was towed for having 5 or more delinquent citations.  


 

  1. What is AutoReturn?
    X

    AutoReturn is a management company contracted by the City and County of San Francisco to accept payments and to facilitate the vehicle release process on behalf of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and San Francisco Police Department (SFPD).  AutoReturn does not order tows or issue tickets. Our job is to manage the safe vehicle transportation, storage, and return of a towed vehicle.

  2. Where is my car?
    X

    To claim your vehicle, you must pay for your fees at at the City and County of San Francisco Impound Facility located at 450 7th Street, San Francisco.  Vehicles not claimed on the same day of the release may incur additional storage fees.

    Find your vehicle online or contact us to obtain vehicle information.

  3. Where is the Customer Service Center?
    X

    You may pay your fees at the City and County of San Francisco Impound Facility located at 450 7th Street, San Francisco. You may also reach us by phone at (415) 865-8200. Offices are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including holidays.

  4. What do I need to retrieve my towed vehicle?
    X

    If your vehicles was towed by the SFMTA, you will need:

    • Valid driver’s license
    • Proof of vehicle ownership or keys for the vehicle
    • Payment for all fees

    If your vehicle was towed by the SFPD:

    • SFPD police release from the authorized agency:
      • Police releases for all vehicles with an investigative hold must be obtained from 850 Bryant Street, Room 154. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday 9am-3pm.
      • Police releases for all vehicles towed related to a crime or suspended/expired driver’s license must be obtained from 850 Bryant Street, Room 154. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday 9am-3pm.
      • Police releases for all other vehicles may be obtained from any police department. Call the Customer Service Center at 415-865-8200 for more information.
    • Valid driver’s license
    • Proof of vehicle ownership or keys for the vehicle
    • Payment for all fees

    Acceptable forms of vehicle ownership include:

    • Valid registration certificate
    • Title to vehicle
    • Rental agreement
    • Company identification for commercial vehicles
    • Police release form — for vehicles towed by the SFPD

    For more information, visit the SFMTA website:

  5. Who authorizes vehicle tows?
    X

    The SFMTA is responsible for removing illegally parked and abandoned vehicles from City streets and all vehicles towed by the San Francisco Police Department.  A vehicle which is parked in a tow away zone will be towed to one of the City’s impound facilities.  Towing helps maximize on-street parking, manage traffic congestion, and maintain clean, safe and functional streets for the public’s use.

    The SFPD generally authorizes tows for accidents, arrests, recovered stolen vehicles, unlicensed drivers, unlicensed vehicles and special events.

    For more information, visit the SFMTA website:

  6. What does towing and storage cost?
    X

    All towing and storage fees are regulated by the City and County of San Francisco and are subject to change.  Please reference the tow fee schedule in “Resources & Links” for towing, storage and other fees or call search for you vehicle to receive estimated fees.

    For more information, visit the SFMTA website:

  7. Can I pay for my parking tickets at the impound facility?
    X

    Yes, you may your citations at the City and County of San Francisco Impound Facility. If your vehicle was towed and you have five or more delinquent parking citations, citations must be paid in full, including any late penalties, before your vehicle can be released to you.  In some cases, you may also be required to pay for all delinquent citations for all vehicles under your name.

    For additional information on SFMTA citations and boot fees, visit the website below.

  8. What forms of payment are acceptable?
    X

    Any person may pay for a vehicle release if the registered or legal owner is present at the time of release.

    Payments can be made in cash, debit cards, and most major credit cards (Discover, Mastercard, and Visa). AMEX or personal checks are not accepted.

    For more information, visit the SFMTA website:

  9. How do I get my first tow or low income/first tow admin fee refund?
    X

    Effective April 2016, the Transportation Code allows individual owners of towed vehicles certain reductions of the tow Administrative Fee if her or his vehicle has never been towed.  Participants in eligible low income programs may receive an additional reduction by demonstrating eligibility. All requests must be received 30 days from the date of tow. Visit the link below for more information.

  10. What if my vehicle registration is expired?
    X

    If your vehicle registration is expired, you must obtain a valid registration or a one-day moving permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Proof of registration or one-day moving permit must be present at the time of release.

  11. What if my driver's license is expired?
    X

    If your vehicle was towed because the driver was unlicensed or had a suspended or revoked license, you must provide a valid vehicle registration and proof of identification to the S.T.O.P. Department located at 850 Bryant Street, Room 154. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday 9am-3pm.

    SFPD has the authority to impound your vehicle for thirty (30) days.

    SFPD may for assess an additional $194 traffic offender fee and other towing related fees to obtain your vehicle release.

  12. How do I protest a citation?
    X

    Parking or Transit Violation Citations must be protested within 21 days from the date the ticket is issued or from the date of the first courtesy notice.  Protests will not be considered after that period of time has expired.  Do not pay your citation if you wish to protest it.

    Visit the SFMTA website to protest your citation.

  13. How do I contest a tow?
    X

    The SFMTA is responsible for removing illegally parked and abandoned vehicles from City streets and all vehicles towed by the San Francisco Police Department.  A vehicle which is parked in a tow away zone will be towed to one of the City’s tow yards.  Towing helps maximize on-street parking, manage traffic congestion, and maintain clean, safe and functional streets for the public’s use. Most tow requests received from the public are for blocked driveways.

    Visit the SFMTA website to contest your tow or call 415-701-5400.

    For vehicles towed by the San Francisco Police Department, visit the website below or go to the STOP Department in-person at 850 Bryant Street, Roome 154. Monday thru Friday 9am-3pm. No after hour services are available.

  14. What if I have a complaint?
    X

    If you have any comments or suggestions about our service please complete a customer feedback form. Printed forms are also available at all of our locations.

  15. How do I file a claim?
    X

    City and County of San Francisco’s agents have in place multiple safeguards to minimize vehicle damage and personal property loss. However, we recognize damage and loss does occur in a small number of cases. We have a zero-tolerance policy toward missing property and take seriously all claims.

    Claims should be filed immediately — while still on our lot, if possible. Please ask a customer service or storage specialist staff member to assist you.

    You can complete a claim form here.

    We are committed to a fast and fair resolution of all claims, and respond to all claims within two business days. We determine the validity of all claims based on the type of damage, the vehicle condition report at the time of tow and footage from our high-resolution video lot surveillance cameras. We do not tolerate fraudulent claims and will pursue them aggressively up to and including criminal prosecution.

  16. What happens to unclaimed vehicles?
    X

    Prior to any vehicle sale, requests for authorization from the DMV to sell unclaimed vehicles must be made. This is to recover towing, storage, city administration and other fees, in accordance with applicable laws.

    A vehicle is deemed unclaimed when it has been left for 15 days (if valued at less than $500), 30 days (if valued between $500 and $4000), and longer for vehicles valued at more than $4000.

    If the sale price of a vehicle is less than the total amount due to the SFMTA, the owner remains responsible for the balance.

    If the sale price of a vehicle exceeds SFMTA fees, we pay the S.F. administrative tow fee, outstanding citations, and applicable SFPD fees on the vehicle. Any remaining balance is paid to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Low-value vehicles are sold to vehicle dismantling operators. Higher-value vehicles are sold at our auctions. Please see our vehicles sales page for more details.