The World of Towing in Hawaii

Tow This: It’s a necessary part of city life, but it’s also one of the most hated. A look into the rough-and-tumble world of towing.


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Drop That Car

If you get back to your vehicle before the tow truck leaves with it, you’re in luck. Hawaii law says, “If the vehicle is in the process of being hooked up or is hooked up to the tow truck and the owner appears on the scene, the towing company shall unhook the vehicle and shall not charge any fee to the owner of the vehicle.”

Make the Call

Signage explaining where your car has been towed is legally required, but if you can’t find it, call the police. Tow-truck operators must notify the police before taking a vehicle, so there will be a record of who has your car. And if it turns out your car was actually stolen, hey, you’re already talking to the right people.

Don’t Get Overcharged

These are the maximum rates allowed by law for cars towed from private property:

Towing charge:

No more than $65, or $75 for a tow using a dolly.

Mileage charge:

$7.50 per mile towed. There is no maximum mileage charge, but the tow company must use the most direct route to its lot.

Storage charge:

$25 per day or fraction thereof for storage for the first seven days and $20 per day thereafter.

Additional charges:

When the tow occurs between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., from Monday through Thursday, and from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Monday, the towing company can assess an overtime charge of $15. If it’s a difficult hookup, meaning an above- or below-ground hookup in a multilevel building, a towing company can also apply a surcharge of $30.

Making Payment

In addition to accepting cash, the towing company must either accept payment by credit card or provide an ATM on the premises.

Get Documentation

The tow company must provide the vehicle owner with a receipt stating the maximum towing charges and fees allowed by law, as well as the phone number of the DCCA.

What’s Next?

If you were overcharged, unfairly towed or would like to file a complaint against a tow company, contact the Hawaii Consumer Resource Center, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, at 587-3222, or visit Your case could be assigned to an investigator, prompting anything from a refund of charges to a lawsuit against the tow company by the Consumer Protection Agency.


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Honolulu Magazine November 2018
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