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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

Towing: Frequently Asked Questions

Who can I Contact Regarding My Towing Questions?

Portland Police Auto Records: 503.823.0044

  • Was my car towed?
  • Why was it towed
  • Where was my car towed to? 
  • How do I get my vehicle back? 

City of Portland Hearings Office

  • Appeal a Tow requested by a City of Portland Agency (ex: Portland Police, Parking Enforcement, Abandoned Autos).  

Multnomah County Courthouse

  • Contest a parking citation
  • Pay the citation, 
  • Obtain pictures taken by the Parking Officer at time of citation

City of Portland Towing Program

  • To file a complaint regarding a Portland tower working at the request of an Agency or Private Property Owner:
  • Information regarding the City of Portland Towing Contracts 
  • Towing Rates
  • City of Portland Private Property Impound Regulations


My vehicle was towed

Where is my car?

Was my car stolen or towed?

Why did you tow my car?

What is the difference between a municipal tow and a private property impound (PPI)?

How do I get my car back?

How do I get my stuff out of the car?

How long do I have to get my stuff?

What are Class A, Class B, and Class C tows?

What is a courtesy tow / tow by the hour?

What happens when the police are involved in my tow?

What is a vehicle "hold"?

What information is provided to me when I get my car?

I don't understand my invoice

Why is there a lien on my vehicle?


Who do I complain to?

Who's going to pay for the damage to my car?

Tow Rates

What are the tow rates?

Who's responsible for the tow rates?

Towing How-tos

How can I have an abandoned vehicle towed?

Can you recommend a good tower?


Towing Companies & Drivers: Municipal Towing Contract FAQs

License & Contract

How do I get a City Tow contract?

How do I get a tower's license?

What is a Driver ID number?



Reporting vehicle information to the Tow Desk

Portland Police Bureau Tows

What are the procedures for Courtesy Tows?

What if there is an animal in the vehicle?

When do I use a dolly?

When is it appropriate to drop a vehicle and collect a "drop" fee?

What needs to be cleaned up at the scene of an accident?


Storage, Invoices & Releasing a Vehicle

What does it mean for the tower when the Contract says “Tow Contractor shall exercise reasonable care to protect stored vehicles and the personal effects thereof from vandalism, theft or burglary”?

How do I fill out a contract tow (municipal tow) invoice?

What does it take to prove ownership of a vehicle?

How do I release vehicle?

Portland Police Bureau Tow Releases

Port of Portland Tow Releases

How can I give the citizen a completed invoice copy if I fax the release notice to Tow Desk after I release a car?

When do I notify Tow Desk of a lien release?


Billing & Complaints

How do I bill an Agency?

How do I respond to a complaint? 


My vehicle was towed

Where is my car?

If your car is not where you left it, your first call should be to Police Auto Records at (503) 823-0044.

They can tell you if your car was:  

  • Moved (courtesy tow) for utility work or a special event or film/video work; or
  • Impounded
    • because it was parked on private property without permission; or,
    • because it was blocking access to a driveway, or special parking zone, or a utility meter; or,
    • because it might contain evidence needed for an investigation; or,
    • due to a traffic violation; or,
    • Tag Warrant; or,
    • it was reposessed; or,
    • possibly stolen. 

Was my car stolen or towed?

Police Auto Records: (503) 823-0044 will be able to tell you if your car was towed. See "where is my car?"


Why did you tow my car?

Many local agencies have authority to tow vehicles for matters of public interest.  Private property owners also have a legal right to hire a tow company to remove unauthorized vehicles from their property. Call Police Auto Records Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.


What is the difference between a municipal tow (city agency tow) and a private property impound (PPI)?

A municipal tow is towed from public property and requested by a public agency, such as: Portland Police, Multnomah County Sheriff, Fairview City Police, Parking Enforcement, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Tri-Met or Port of Portland Police.  A PPI tow is requested by a property owner or tenant who did not give permission for the vehicle to be parked on their private property. 


How do I get my car back?

If your car was towed at the request of an agency, you must first be sure that you don’t need the agency’s permission to pick up the car.  Once you have received the okay from the agency who ordered the tow, you can go to the tow company office to pay any towing and storage charges and pick up the car. Call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.

If the car was towed because of its importance in a police investigation, you will be notified by the agency when you can pay the towing fee and pick up the car. Call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.

If your car was towed from private property, Police Auto Records will tell you which company made the tow. You can call the tow company to make arrangements to pay the towing and storage fees and have the vehicle released to you. Call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.


How do I get my stuff out of the car?

On a municipal tow, without police orders against it – within the first 15 days after the tow, the vehicle owner has the right to collect personal belongings and anything that is not in any way connected to the vehicle.  There is no charge for this access during regular business hours.  After hours, the tower may charge a gate fee.

On a municipal tow, with police orders – no one is allowed access to a vehicle without police permission.

On a PPI tow, the registered owner can remove all personal property of an emergency nature from their towed vehicle.  Citizens can retrieve such property during regular business hours at no charge. Between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., Monday through Friday, or on a Saturday, a Sunday or a legal holiday, the tower is allowed to charge a gate fee for access or removal of personal property.  “Personal property of an emergency nature” means prescription medication, eyeglasses, clothing, identification, a wallet, a purse, a credit card, a checkbook, cash and child safety car and booster seats.

See what is the difference between a municipal and PPI tow


How long do I have to get my stuff?

On municipal tows – 15 days from the date of the tow.

On PPI tows - until the tower can auction the car, at least 30 days.

See what is the difference between a municipal and PPI tow


What are Class A, Class B, and Class C tows?

The “classes” indicate the type of tow truck and the weight of the vehicle being towed:

  • Class A = Passenger cars, trucks and vans, up to ¾ ton size, unloaded
  • Class B = Vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
  • Class C = Vehicles weighing more than 20,000 GVW

What is a courtesy tow / tow by the hour?

Sometimes it is necessary to clear a street of legally parked cars; for example, street repair, temporary no parking for an event like a parade or a run, film/video work, etc.  If the cars were parked before the barriers or “no parking” signs were posted, the cars are moved to another legal parking spot at no charge to the owner.  The new location of the car is reported to Police Auto Records: (503) 823-0044.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find another space.  When there isn’t a place to move a car, it is taken to the tower’s lot for safe-keeping.  If this is necessary, the folks who caused the move pay for the tow and up to two days of storage. Call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.


What happens when the police are involved in my tow?

If your vehicle is towed for a parking violation, by a police officer or a parking enforcement deputy, there is no special restriction on getting your car back.  You will have to pay for the tow and storage for your car to be released to you. You will also have to pay the ticket.  Call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044.

If your vehicle is towed as a result of a traffic stop, call Police Auto Records for information: (503) 823-0044. They can tell you if you need to come to them for permission to pick up your car.

If your car is towed as part of a police investigation, you must call Police Auto Records: (503) 823-0044 for any information about it.

If your car is towed because of a Tag Warrant, you must contact the Circuit Court Parking Office at (503) 988-3235 for information about how to get a release.  Outstanding parking tickets will have to be paid before you can pick up your car.


What is a vehicle "hold"?

A “hold” is an order by a police agency that restricts access to a towed vehicle.  This might be because of a requirement that the vehicle owner pay a fee to the police before the vehicle is released; or, it might be necessary to have an officer physically inspect the vehicle to find a Vehicle Identification Number, so they can verify that it isn’t stolen.  A temporary hold lasts 72 hours – or may be lifted as soon as the information is found.  Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays do not count in calculating the 72 hours.

A formal hold has no expiration.  It continues until the investigation, or the legal case, is finished.

Whenever a car has had a hold, no matter how short a time, the owner must get a release from the police before the car can be returned to them.


What information is provided to me when I get my car?

Anytime you pick up a towed vehicle – whether it was ordered by police or towed from private property – the tower must give you a hand-written invoice, in addition to any credit or debit slip, complete with:

  • information about your car,
  • time and date of the tow,
  • time and date of the release of the car to you,
  • reason for the tow,
  • an officer’s identification number or name of the company that authorized the tow,
  • identification number or initials of the tow driver,
  • location towed from,
  • a “tow number” assigned as a reference if there are any inquiries about the tow,
  • an inventory of personal items visible from the outside of the car,
  • notes about any pre-existing damage on the car,
  • an itemized listing of all fees, identifying the reason for each.

If a parking ticket was written on your car, the tower is responsible for delivering the ticket to you with your invoice.


I don't understand my invoice

Rate questions:


Invoice questions: If you have questions about the fields filled out on your towing invoice, please go to "Contract tow invoice entries" for help.

Program Contact: Towing & PPI Program Patrick Kramer, Towing Coordinator, phone: 503-865-2489, fax: 503-865-3022, 


Why is there a lien on my vehicle?

The way for a tower (or, for that matter, a mechanic) to ensure that someone pays the bill is to assert a “possessory lien.”  According to state law, when a tower tows a vehicle, a lien immediately “attaches” to the vehicle.  In order to be able to sell the vehicle to cover towing and storage fees, the tower must send written notice to the registered owner and any security interest holder listed on the DMV record of the car. 

After notice is sent, the tower must then hold the vehicle and its contents for a number of days, depending on the value of the car.  If the car is worth $1,000 or less, but more than $500 the tower must hold the vehicle at least 30 days from the date of the tow, before the lien is “foreclosed” by auctioning it.  If the car is worth more than $1,000, the tower must hold it a minimum of 60 days before auctioning.  Anytime before the lien is foreclosed, the registered owner or security interest holder can pay the accrued towing and storage fees and claim the vehicle.



Who do I complain to?

If your car was towed from public property and you believe it was towed in error, please contact the Code Hearings Officer at (503) 823-7307 to request a hearing.

If you believe that the tower has acted improperly (overcharge, rudeness, vehicle damage, etc.) please submit your complaint our our office:

Who's going to pay for the damage to my car?

If your vehicle was towed at the City’s request (Municipal Tow), you may file a complaint and request an inspection of the damages.

The Towing Coordinator will then appoint a panel to inspect your vehicle (the Vehicle Damage Inspection Panel (VDIP)) and send a notice of when the inspection will take place. After the damages are inspected, VDIP will provide its findings, conclusions, and remedies. VDIP determinations may be appealed within 10 calendar days. Contact the Towing Coordinator at (503) 865-2489 for more information about appealing your VDIP determination.

Towing complaint forms:

If your vehicle was towed from a private parking facility (PPI), damage claims should be addressed with the tower directly. You may also consider a claim with your insurance carrier or in civil court.


Tow Rates and Fees

What are the tow rates?

If your vehicle was towed at the City’s request (Municipal Tow): Municipal Tow Rates

If your vehicle was towed from a private parking facility (PPI): Approved Private Property Tow Rates

If you are unsure who towed your vehicle, go to "What is the difference between a municipal tow and a private property impound (PPI)?"


Who's responsible for the tow rates?

Fees for tows requested by an agency under this contract are established by the City’s Towing Board of Review and approved by City Council.


Towing How-tos

How can I have an abandoned vehicle towed?

For vehicles abandoned on public property (street or sidewalk), please call: (503) 823-6814.

For vehicles abandoned on private property, please call: (503) 823-7306.


Can you recommend a good tower?

The City of Portland does not endorse any private tower.


Towing Companies & Drivers: Municipal Tow Contract FAQs

How do I get a City Tow contract?

To sign up for notifications of available contracts being offered by the city (including towing contracts), you may register with City of Portland Procurement via Buy Speed at:

Applications for new Tow Contractors are not accepted within the term of the contract. The current contract expires in September 30, 2020.  Please note, solicitations for new contracts begin months before the current contract's end date.  


How do I get a tower's license?

The City of Portland regulates two types of towing – City requests, under the Contract for Vehicle Towing and Storage, and Private Property Impounds (PPI). PPI permits may be obtained by submitting a PPI application and proof of insurance. If your company is not under contract with the City of Portland, you will need to pass inspection of at least one truck and your office and vehicle storage facility in order to obtain a PPI permit (Portland City Code 7.24).



What is a Driver ID number?

Drivers are not allowed to perform Contract tows until they have been assigned a City ID number. If you have a new driver who needs a number, the tow company must complete and submit the “Immediate Notice of New Hire/Notice of Termination” form with a signed Confidentiality Agreement, and copies of the driver’s license and social security card.

If your driver lives in Washington and has a Washington operator’s license, you must submit a detailed copy of the driving record. The “abstract” available on-line is not adequate.

Numbers will not be assigned without submission of all required documentation.



Reporting vehicle information to the Tow Desk

It is very important that the information that you report to Tow Desk at the completion of a tow is accurate. This means that the VIN and license plates must be reported based on your actual observation of the vehicle.

  • Don’t Report the plate number from your pager – you must check both the front and back plates on the vehicle
  • Don’t Report a plate or VIN from paperwork inside the car – you must check the VIN plate inside the windshield on the dashboard
  • Don’t Forget to tell Tow Desk the issuing state of a vehicle’s license plates – if nothing is specified, it will be assumed to be anOregon plate



Portland Police Bureau Tows

Whenever you are instructed by an officer to tow a vehicle to Rivergate, the Hansen Building, or any other police facility, you must notify Tow Desk before you tow. In some cases, the Tow Desk may have information about storage availability that the officer on the street does not. If you tow a vehicle to a police facility without first notifying Tow Desk, you may be turned away. You won’t be allowed to charge for the out of district mileage. 

  1. If an officer issues a Notice of Tow form at the time of the tow, the tower will place it with the paperwork and a release will be required before anyone is allowed to pick up the vehicle.
  2. If an officer does not offer the tower a completed Notice of Tow form, the tower will not demand it from the officer. Even if the officer is incorrect.



What are the procedures for Courtesy Tows?

Courtesy tow / tow by the hour is the Municipal Tow (city agency tow) of a legally parked vehicle, at no charge to the vehicle owner, for the purpose of clearing an area for special events, film or video projects, construction, or other Agency reasons.

“Courtesy” tows can’t violate other restrictions on parking, etc. For example, if an officer orders a vehicle removed from the public right-of-way, the location to which it is moved must be a legal parking space, not on private property. If a citizen’s car has been moved from on-street into a Pay and Park lot, it could be ticketed for non-payment and be towed again.


Attachment 7, Tow Contract:

  1. Permittee's are not required to use towers from the Contract Rotation.
  2. If a Tow Contractor has been hired by a permit holder, such as an event coordinator or production company, etc., to provide courtesy towing from the public right of way, the Tow Contractor shall notify the Tow Desk and Portland Police Bureau Auto Records no later than 48 hours before an event.
  3. Each courtesy tow from public right of way must be ordered by an authorized City official, either Parking Patrol Deputy or Police Officer.
  4. Procedures established by the Bureau of Traffic Management for parking control must be followed.
  5. The Tow Contractor must pre-arrange any necessary credit arrangements with the permittee to assure payment for towing and dispatching services. The tower will be billed for dispatching by Tow Desk, as usual.
  6. The authorized City official may direct that the vehicle be moved to another legal parking space on the public right-of-way; to any storage facility designated by the City, or; to private property, provided the permittee has secured the permission of the property owner.
  7. Tow Contractor shall notify the Police Records Division of the exact location of each towed vehicle by faxing the Tow Desk within 30 minutes of the completion of each tow. This is for the owner's information and to prevent a vehicle from being reported and recorded as stolen. The Tow Desk phone number is (503)528-7460.
  8. Vehicles which the permittee wishes to exempt from towing must be identified, either by company signs, painted or magnetic, on both sides of the vehicle or by a complete and clearly displayed "Reserved Area Identification Card," supplied by the permit center. Once an officer has been called to order a tow, all vehicles in the restricted area that do not have proper identification cards displayed will be towed and all tows will be of the same type.
  9. The permittee will bear all costs of towing and storing a vehicle for a period of not more than 72 hours. If the vehicle is towed and stored at a private facility and the owner fails to pick up the car within 72 hours after it is towed, the vehicle owner may be charged a storage fee as set out in the Contract for Vehicle Towing and Storage.



What if there is an animal in the vehicle?

As soon as you know that there is an animal in the car, call – or have your dispatcher call - 503-988-7387 Ext. 25222 to have Animal Control meet you at the scene. Be sure to tell them that you are under Contract order to perform the tow and that it needs to be dispatched as an emergency call. Multnomah County Animal Services will respond to these calls between the hours of 08:00 – 17:00 all days, including holidays.

If a tow company does tow a vehicle with an animal inside after normal business hours; the towing company is responsible for proper minimal care including but not limited to food, water, comfort care (temperature –hot or cold weather conditions, etc.) see ORS 167.310(8) for Oregon State minimum care definition.

If the tow is for a tag warrant, have Animal Control meet you at your lot – don’t wait at the scene because the vehicle owner may come back before you leave.

If it would not jeopardize the animal’s safety, you may go ahead and perform the tow and ask Animal Control to meet you at the tow lot.

Remember that this animal is a member of someone’s family.



When do I use a dolly?

  • Contract tow trucks are required to carry dollies because their use is a good way to avoid damages to towed vehicles.
  • Tow drivers on the contract are required to use dollies whenever they are unable to tow a vehicle with the driving wheels lifted off the pavement.
  • In fact, Contract towers get paid for dollies on every contract tow, regardless of whether dollies are used! The basic tow fee includes an allowance for dollies.



When is it appropriate to drop a vehicle and collect a "drop" fee?

On Contract tows, only a drop fee is applicable when you have attached some equipment for towing, but have not completed the hookup. There are some conditions that must be met:

  • If the agency person who ordered the tow is present, you must have their permission before you drop a vehicle;
  • Drops are allowed on most Parking Enforcement tows;
  • TAG WARRANT tows should not be dropped unless you feel unsafe.
  • “Release at the scene” only applies when the hookup is complete.

These rules differ from PPI tows.



What needs to be cleaned up at the scene of an accident?

Here’s a “rule of thumb” for deciding whether something should be picked up:

  • If it’s glass or metal or plastic or paper or oil or other fluids and it came from the incident that created the need for a tow, PICK IT UP!
  • If it’s glass or metal or plastic or paper or oil or other fluids and you don’t know where it came from, but it’s in the vicinity of the vehicle(s) you are towing, PICK IT UP!

One more tip: Don’t argue with police, sheriffs, parking officers, ODOT incident responders, or anyone else who orders a tow. If you question the legality or safety of a request, you can respectfully give your opinion. But remember, thorough clean-up is your job as much as hooking up and towing

If there are pollutants on the road after an accident:

  • Call the Bureau of Environmental Services at the Report Pollution number displayed on the sticker in every contract tow truck.
  • Regardless of who puts down the absorbent, a tower should never leave a scene without picking up all absorbent material AND calling the Report Pollution number 503-823-7180. The list of information you must provide is on the sticker in every contract tow truck.



What does it mean for the tower when the Contract says “Tow Contractor shall exercise reasonable care to protect stored vehicles and the personal effects thereof from vandalism, theft or burglary”?

Here is how the Contract defines it:

  • Providing a fence that meets all Tow Board specifications
  • Equipping all gates, doors and other openings into the storage facilities with locks and keeping all gates, doors and other openings closed and secured at all times except during authorized entry or exit
  • When door keys are available, locking vehicle doors and keeping keys protected from unauthorized access  
  • Closing vehicle windows and sunroofs
  • Using a tarp to protect a vehicle with broken windows or an uncloseable sunroof

All of these services are covered by the storage fees. There is no extra charge.



How do I fill out a contract tow (municipal tow) invoice?

Be sure to press hard when filling out a tow invoice so that the imprint will go through to the bottom copy. Before giving a copy to the citizen, make sure that the copy is clearly legible.

If you need to list a fee that is not identified on the invoice form (such as, temporary fuel surcharge or extra truck/man fee) draw a single, neat line through the other notation and print the reason for the fee in the space next to the fee column. For example:

Contract tow invoice entries

Sample Towing Invoice 





Requested By

This should identify the officer, deputy or agency representative requesting the tow. For example: Parking Enforcement Deputy 23 is "MM 23"


Date of Tow

This is the date on which the request was made. You may have tows that start on one day (2330 or 11:30 p.m.) and are completed the next (0030 or 12:30 a.m.).


Time Rcvd

This is the time at which the dispatch is received.

Note: Times should always be entered in Universal Military Time (UMT) which is a 24-hour clock.


Tow Number

Very important – Do not give a citizen an invoice without something in this space! This is the number that Tow Desk gives you to identify the tow in the record. On Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office tows, the deputy will give you a case number that you will report to Tow Desk and should be entered in this space. On tows that have no Tow Number assigned, you should enter a descriptor here. For example: DROP – drop fee; ELSE – a vehicle towed to a location of the vehicle owner’s choice; SERVICE – service call; RAS – release at the scene, when the full tow fee is valid; AGENCY – a tow of an agency-owned vehicle; CITY – a tow of a City-owned vehicle; TBTH – tow by the hour.



Vehicle license plate. Take care to enter this correctly.



State where vehicle is registered.


VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

This number is usually visible on a metal plate inside the windshield in the far, left corner of the dashboard. Take care to enter this correctly.



Vehicle make



Enter if this is known. This information may not be available.



Body style. For example: 4dr, VN (van); PK (pickup), etc. Enter if this is known. This information may not be available.



Vehicle model year. Enter if known.



Vehicle color. 



Check yes or no. For example: a vehicle with a flat tire is not drivable. 



Check yes or no. Indicate here whether you have been given the vehicle’s keys. Note: If keys are given to you, you must secure them inside your office and mark them to be sure they are returned to the owner when picking up the car. DO NOT LEAVE KEYS IN CARS.  



Indicate the agency for which the tow is being done.  PPD: Portland Police Dept; TRI-M: TriMet; Parking: Parking Enforcement; MCSO: Multnomah County Sherriff's Office; COMET: OR Dept. of Transportation; PORT: Port of Portland.


Towed From 

Enter here the address/location from which the vehicle is towed.


Towed to 

Enter here the address/location to which the vehicle is taken. If the vehicle is towed to your storage lot, you may simply enter your company name. If the vehicle is taken to formal police hold storage – Rivergate (Seizure World), Guild’s Lake, Hansen Building – enter the designation for that facility.

Note: If the vehicle is taken "elsewhere" at the request of the vehicle owner, you must enter the actual address where the vehicle is dropped.


Time out 

This is the time that you are in route to the call (10-8).


On scene 

This is the time that you arrive at the tow scene and check in with the officer/deputy/responder requesting the tow (10-97). 


Leave scene 

This is the time that you leave the scene with the car in tow (T-6). 


Completion time/Called in by 

Enter here the time that the completion of the tow was reported to Tow Desk. Enter the City-issued, employee ID number of the person who notified Tow Desk of the completion. 


Released by/Release time 

Enter here the City ID number of the person who released the vehicle to the vehicle owner or owner’s agent. Enter the time that the release was reported to Tow Desk. 


Dollies –

yes or no/ front up or rear up 

Circle yes or no to indicate if dollies were used. Also check a box to indicate whether the car was towed with the front or rear end elevated. If towed on a flatbed tow truck, you may check both front and rear up. 


Tow Driver 

Enter here the City ID number of the driver who performed the tow. 



Enter here the City-issued ID plate number of the truck used for the tow. 


Release Required? 

Check yes or no to indicate whether the citizen is required to obtain a release from the Agency that ordered the tow before you can release the vehicle. This is spelled out in the Tow Contract and procedural exhibits. Generally, police tows – DWS, No Insurance, prisoner’s property, DUII, any tow that has had a "hold" on it for any length of time - will require a release. 


Hold –

on and off

When you are notified that a hold – temporary or formal – has been applied to a tow, this is the place to indicate the start time and the time at which the hold is lifted or expires. 


Out of district mileage –

start and end

If it is necessary for you to go out of the district where your company located on a tow, this is the place to enter the beginning and ending odometer reading. This is only towed mileage. If you are called out of district to pick up a vehicle (perform a service call, or any other reason) the "start" will be the odometer reading you have when you are leaving the scene with the vehicle in tow. The "end" will be the reading when you cross the boundary back into your district on the way to your lot. Distances to the City and County police storage facilities have been established by the Tow Board. Ask for a copy of the approved mileage chart, if you don’t have one.  


Type of tow 

This is where you should enter the "violation" code given you when Tow Desk dispatches the tow to you – No Insurance, DWS, "police," Prisoner’s Property, to name just a few. When there is no violation the tow type is one of the codes shown here in parentheses ( ) – such as a Private Non-Preference (PNP), Private Preference (PP), City request (CR), etc. –. 


Released to Name, Street Address, City, State, Zip & Telephone 

Name: This is the place to print the name of the person to whom the vehicle is being released. This must be legible! The best way to do this is to ask the person for their photo identification and then enter the information from the card, after making sure that the information is current. If you prefer to have the citizen fill this in, you must check to be sure it is clearly legible before you finish the release. If a vehicle is being released to an entity other than the registered owner – such as, Co-Parts, another tower, etc. – do not simply enter the company name! You must have the name of the person accepting the released vehicle: for example – "Joe Tower, for XYZ Towing." 

Address, City, State, Zip: This is the current contact address of the person or entity accepting release of the vehicle. Again, this must be legible. If the vehicle is being released to a company acting on behalf of the vehicle owner - such as, Co-Parts, another tower, etc. – enter the company address. Include City, State & Zip.

Telephone: Like the address, this should be the current contact number of the person or entity accepting release of the vehicle. If the vehicle is being released to a company acting on behalf of the vehicle owner - such as, Co-Parts, another tower, etc. – you may enter the company phone number. Note: If a citizen would rather not provide either the address or telephone number, you can tell them that the purpose is so that they can be contacted by the City if a refund becomes necessary. If they still don’t want to give it, enter "not available" in the space.


Bill to 

Only applicable when the tower is going to bill someone rather than being paid upon release: for example – if you are called to do Tow By the Hour tows for a City Bureau, the "Released to" line should show the printed name of the person on scene who is authorizing the tows and "Bill to" should show the Bureau who needs the tows (Water Bureau, Maintenance Bureau, etc.). This could also be a private entity – a construction contractor, movie company… etc. - if your company is willing to bill later. Note: Just because a Parking Deputy or Police Officer may order the tow does not mean that Parking Enforcement or Portland Police are going to pay for the tow. Make sure you know who is responsible for payment before you leave the scene.  



Towers are required to make an inspection and write down a brief, descriptive list of any contents that are visible through the windows of the towed vehicle. ("Misc." is not descriptive.) This should be done as soon as the vehicle is placed in your storage or at the tow scene, if the vehicle is being taken to a formal police hold facility. If an officer is impatient for you to clear the scene, you may wait and ask the attendant at the hold facility to allow you time to note the contents and condition of the vehicle after you arrive. Note: Do not stop anywhere along the way to your lot or the storage facility to do your inventory. It is not necessary to enter a vehicle to do an inventory.  



Mark on the small illustrations any pre-existing damage to a vehicle. If a vehicle’s condition is poor, you may write a brief general description, such as "scratches on all sides," or "primer on left driver door," etc. Do not simply scribble all over the illustration. Try to be more precise. 


Released to (signature line) 

Persons redeeming a towed vehicle must sign the invoice before the vehicle can be released. This is in addition to printing the person’s name above and includes tow drivers from other companies. 


(Released) Date 

This is the date on which the vehicle is being released and the invoice is being signed. 


Rls time 

This is the actual time that the vehicle is released and the invoice is being signed. 



All fees are to be itemized and clearly identified. All fees must comply with the rate schedule established by the Towing Board of Review.

  • Towing: the portion of the fee that goes to the tower

  • Dispatching: the fee to Tow Desk

  • City service fee: the City’s administrative fee

  • Storage(# of days @ cost/day): This must be completed and the final amount listed even if only 1 day.

  • Out of district mileage: only if applicable

  • Labor/Standby: only applicable if you are required to be on-scene for more than 30 minutes

  • City retow: use this space only if you are asked to retow a vehicle by an agency - Private retows requested by the vehicle owner may not be listed on a City invoice)

  • After hours/Gate fee: Only applicable when releasing a vehicle outside of regular business hours

  • Lien fee: Only applicable when the car has been in the tower’s possession more than 7 days. Limited to the tower’s actual expense for processing a lien.)

  • Total: Don’t forget to list the final total of all fees. If the total has odd cents - for example, out of district mileage might cause this – the tower may "round" the total to the nearest whole dollar amount. Do not round individual fee amounts, do not round mileage calculations. For example: if the out of district distance is 2.2 miles, use 2.2 to calculate the mileage fee, then round the final total of all fees as the last step


Payment Method 

Cash, VISA, Mastercard, debit card, or any other method acceptable to your company. 




What does it take to prove ownership of a vehicle?

Towers are to follow the guidelines used by Police Auto Records. This standard protects the tower from claims that they are either too picky – in order to collect more storage – or too lenient - releasing vehicles to the wrong people.

When releasing a vehicle, you should first make sure that any holds have expired or been lifted. A person who is asking for release of a vehicle must show:

  • Photo identification - driver’s license or DMV identification card, plus one of the following;
    • A release from Police Records issued in the claimant’s name, or
    • Title in the claimant’s name, or
    • A title which has been signed off for no more than 30 days, or
    • Stamped, yellow DMV transfer receipt showing they are in process of transferring the vehicle to them, or
    • Dealership bill of sale, less than 60 days old with all registration fees paid to the dealer, or
    • A notarized statement from the legally registered owner authorizing release of the vehicle to the claimant, or
    • A Hold Harmless Agreement signed by the legally registered owner who is a prisoner at the jail and witnessed by a corrections officer, or
    • A notarized Affidavit of Repossession Claiming Title for a vehicle lien holder.

While it might mean you can let a person have access to in order to retrieve ownership documents, a set of keys that fits a car is not proof of ownership.




How do I release a vehicle towed by the City?

  1. Release of a vehicle begins with a phone call from the registered owner (or a person authorized by the owner) asking how to get the car back.
  2. Information that must be provided to the vehicle owner when someone inquires about release of a vehicle:
    • The terms of the storage grace period; no storage charge if a vehicle is redeemed within the first four hours after completion of the tow
    • When a gate fee is applicable and the amount
    • That an additional fee is applicable, and how much, if the owner/owner’s agent arrives more than one (1) hour after the appointed release time
    • All other applicable charges for towing and storage
    • Acceptable methods of payment (VISA, Mastercard, debit, cash, etc.)
    • That, if a release appointment is set, an attendant will arrive at the storage facility within one-half hour of the agreed upon time
    • The forms of documentation required to establish proof of ownership of the vehicle
    • Remember: If a vehicle has a hold that is still in force, no information is to be given to the public – not even that you have the car. Refer them to the police agency that ordered the tow
  3. At the tow lot:
    • Ask for proof of ownership (title, registration, bill of sale less than 30 days old, etc.) and photo identification to match the ownership documentation
    • If a police agency release is required – for example no insurance, driving while suspended or revoked, prisoner’s property, anytime a hold has been placed even briefly, etc. – ask for the release document and photo identification to match
    • All Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office tows require a release
    • All Port of Portland tows, except recovered stolen, require a release
    • All Portland Police Bureau "police tows", except recovered stolen, require a release. For more information about police tows, see "What is a police tow?"
    • All tag warrant tows require a release (from the court, not police)
    • Be sure to attach the release to your documentation
    • Release of personal property – Within the first 15 days that a vehicle is in storage, the registered owner or owner’s agent (with proof of ownership) may get personal property from a vehicle without paying a fee (except for gate fee, if applicable). The person does not need to obtain a police release in order to pick up personal property
    • Enter all available information on the invoice. All times are to be entered in Universal Military Time – 0200, 1630, etc
    • Do not release a vehicle without a Tow Number, if one has been assigned. If not, enter a descriptor in the Tow Number space: for example, ELSE – elsewhere tow, AGENCY – tow of an agency-owned vehicle, SERVICE – road service call, TBTH – tow by the hour, etc.
    • Owner information – "Released to" name, street address, city, state, zip, telephone. This can be obtained from the citizen’s photo identification (be sure to check with them that it’s current)
    • Check to see if there is hold information and make sure the hold has been lifted or has expired. When a hold has expired or been lifted, the citizen pays no storage until after 10:00 the following business day – Saturday, Sunday and holidays are not business days
    • Calculate storage. If less than 4 hours after completion of the tow with Tow Desk, no storage is owed. Contract tows use a 24-hour clock for storage. You start counting the day after the tow, example: if the tow is completed on Monday, the first day you count is Tuesday. If the release happens after the time of the tow, it counts as one more day, example: the tow was completed at 1300 on Monday, the citizen picks it up at 1400 Tuesday, you get two days of storage. Itemize all fees: enter the number of days, the amount per day and the total amount, enter the number of miles and rate per mile, etc.
    • Lien fees. After a vehicle has been in storage for at least seven days, a lien filing fee of up to $40.00 may be added. This is not automatic – it only applies if actual lien expenses have been incurred and there is documentation to support it
    • Gate fees. Applies if the release is taking place outside of regular business hours – before 0800 or after 1800, Monday through Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, or any official City holiday. List the date and time to support the assessment of the gate fee
    • Have the person picking up the vehicle sign the invoice. If it is not legible, be sure that the printed name in "released to" is readable. Fill in the date and time
    • Contract towers must accept CASH, MASTERCARD or VISA, DEBIT CARDS. Other credit cards may be accepted, depending on your company’s policy. You may not charge an extra fee for credit or debit payments
    • Tow Contractors must have correct change available at all times for cash payments. After regular business hours, Tow Contractor must maintain at least $50.00 of change for cash payments
    • Notify Tow Desk of the release by fax within 8 hours of the release
  4. Drop or Release at the Scene: If the vehicle owner returns to the scene before you have completed the hookup, but after you have attached some equipment to the vehicle, you are entitled to charge a "drop" fee.
    • If you have completed the hookup, including all safety equipment, lights, etc. and you are in the truck starting to pull away in tow when the vehicle owner returns, you may charge the full tow fee, city service and dispatch fees
    • NOTE: Tag Warrant tows may not be released at the scene. If an agency officer is present, you may not release any vehicle at the scene without the agency officer’s permission



Portland Police Bureau Tow Releases

Remember that vehicles should be released only to the person named on the release. The exception is if someone obtains a release, takes it to the tow lot and arranges to have an insurance company (or someone else) pick up the vehicle.

If there is ever any question about the need for a release, the tower will call Portland Police Records – or Multnomah County Records, or Port of Portland Police Records, or Fairview Police Records – for clarification before releasing the vehicle.




Port of Portland Tow Releases

Every tower who tows for the Port of Portland should know that the Port requires towers to obtain a release whenever they foreclose a lien. This applies to all Port tows, except Recovered Stolen vehicles.

So, naturally, this applies to towers in District 5 because nearly all tows from the Port are dispatched to D5 towers. However, if you are the Abandoned Vehicle tower, or, if you are not a D5 tower, but you are asked to help out by towing a vehicle from Port property, you are also responsible for requiring a release – or - submitting your lien paper-work to Port Police and getting a release before you dispose of the vehicle.

In order to obtain a lien release, the tower faxes to (503)460-4265 copies of:

  1. Lien Foreclosure Notice
  2. Documentation that notice was sent to the registered owner
  3. Certificate of mailing

A Port of Portland Police Department Vehicle Release will be faxed to the appropriate tow company within seventy-two hours of receiving the request, except on weekends and holidays. Documentation received on a weekend or holiday will be processed within 72 hours of the next business day. If any the the three required documents is omitted, the release will not be issued. Questions? Call Karyl Larson at Port of Portland Police 503-460-4221.



How can I give the citizen a completed invoice copy if I fax the release notice to Tow Desk after I release the car?

Fax the release notice to Tow Desk before you give the citizen their copy of the invoice. It only takes a few seconds. This practice reduces the need for “unreleased vehicle” reports, and reduces the number of penalties for incomplete invoices. You must send the notice to Tow Desk when you say you did.



When do I notify Tow Desk of a lien release?

Tow Desk will not accept releases less than 30 days after the date of the tow. Exhibit 2, in the Tow Contract states: The Tow Contractor shall report the release to Tow Desk within eight (8) hours after foreclosing any possessory lien.

The lien is not foreclosed until the vehicle has been offered in an auction. State law mandates that a vehicle with an appraised value between $500 and $1,000 must be held 30 days. Vehicles appraised at over $1,000 must be held 60 days.


Even if a car doesn’t sell in it’s first auction, you can report the release as soon as the auction has happened.



How do I bill an Agency? 

Here are a few tips for handling Agency billing, to avoid costly and time-consuming errors:

  1. Tow by the Hour: It is the tower’s responsibility to get billing information at the tow scene. There should be someone at the scene to sign for the tow – get the address and other details from them before hooking up the vehicle.
  2. Road Service: Pay attention to which agency requests the service. Tow Desk gives you this information – make note of it. Each agency has its own “fleet” function. Don’t assume it’s for the City. If an officer requests road service for a citizen’s vehicle, the contract only obligates you to provide road service for Agency vehicles. If you choose to accept a request for a citizen’s vehicle, you must either: Arrange for payment by the citizen before you do the service, OR, if the officer says the Police Bureau will pay for it, make sure you know if it should go to Police Fiscal Services or the officer’s specific precinct for payment.
  3. Staging: Bills for staging tow trucks will always go to the Agency that requests the staging. Snow staging is usually for ODOT, but there could also be other reasons for staging. It’s up to your drivers and dispatchers to record all the information about a tow request so you have it for billing.
  4. Tows to Rivergate: Drivers are to have the attendant at Rivergate sign the completed invoice and leave a copy of the invoice with them. Then, at least once a month, the tower sends a statement with the pink copies of each Rivergate tow invoice to Portland Police Bureau Fiscal Services. Pay attention to which Agency ordered the tow because Rivergate is occasionally used by other police agencies.
  5. Statements: When you send your statement with the invoice copies for payment by an agency, please apply the following courtesies:
    • If your statement includes unpaid bills that have previously been submitted, please make note of where the current billing starts.
    • Please be sure to list the Tow Number or Call Number issued by the Tow Desk, not just your invoice number.
    • Please have your invoice copies in the same order as listed in your statement.



How do I respond to a complaint?

If you receive notice of a complaint for a Contract Tow, there are specific steps established by the Towing Board of Review that you are supposed to take in resolving it.

  • Investigate any allegations with the involved staff member(s). Check your own documentation of the tow for inconsistencies with the complaint.
  • Send a written statement to the Towing Coordinator within the allotted time, explaining what happened according to your investigation. This may include a written statement by the employee. You may also propose a resolution of the complaint.

When your written response is received, the Towing Coordinator evaluates the information provided against the complainant’s statements to develop a final determination. This determination may dismiss the complaint, assess penalties, direct a refund, direct a change in procedures or any combination.

Failure to respond will result in additional penalties.

The tower always has the option of requesting a penalty waiver. Such a request should always detail what went wrong, why it won’t happen again or steps that you will take to prevent a recurrence. If your waiver request is denied, you have the right to appeal that decision to the Tow Board at its next meeting. Responses must be in writing.