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Public Safety Commission rejects recommendation to raise towing fee in Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An effort to increase the price to get your car back following a tow was knocked down by the Public Safety Commission Tuesday evening, saying more evidence was needed before spiking up the price.

The current fee for a nonconsensual tow – resulting from a crash or impound –  for a light-duty car is $185. The towing companies requested to the Austin Police Department that the price be raised to $340. A person who has their vehicle nonconsensually towed must pay this fee to get their car back following a crash or impound. 

“I’m just really concerned about the staggering amount that this fee has gotten to,” said Nelly Paulina Ramirez, Vice Chair of the Public Safety Commission.

 “I sympathize with the towing companies that are running their businesses and trying to keep up with inflation… but I’m really concerned, quite frankly, with this huge sort of spike in prices for people that are in accidents and are in situations that are sometimes problematic.” 

To evaluate whether an increase was warranted, the Austin Police Department conducted a study looking at towing fees across Texas and the consumer price index (CPI), the average change of prices over time.

The last towing fee increase happened in 2019 when it raised from $150 to $180 for a light-duty car. Taking into account the consumer price index, APD said an increase from $180 to $215 may be warranted.

 “We have had a tremendous amount of our strain on continuing to do business with inflation, fuel costs, labor costs (and) maintenance that goes along with the equipment to be able to do our job and do it well,” Jaime Rocha, owner of a towing company in Austin, said at the meeting. He said increases in rent, auto insurance and property taxes have gone up as well.

In addition to the price hike, they recommended an exceptional labor fee of $150 to transport electric vehicles. If an electric vehicle battery is damaged, it can self-ignite and stay lit for hours which may require additional labor and materials to maintain. 

The majority of the commissioners voted to reject the recommendation, and one voted not to reject it. The consensus from the commissioners was that more of a justification was needed before a price hike. 

The question to raise the fee will still go before City Council at the next meeting. 

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