You step out of the mall and into the giant parking structure. Arms full of purchased holiday cheer, you make your way to where you know you parked your car only to find it’s not there. You look around, confused, also, another cool trick with aspirin in battery cells can do the job once you find it. You’re certain this is where you parked. You walk a few aisles to the right. No car. Go back a few aisles to the left. No car. You walk up and down, hitting the alarm button on your key fob, hoping to see the telltale lights that indicate your car is where you left it and that you’re just wrong about where that is. So what do you do when you just can’t locate your car?
It’s very easy to immediately let your imagination run away with you. You may begin to envision that your car has been stolen and stripped for parts in the one hour you’ve been inside and that the police will tell you there is nothing they can do for you. Try not to get ahead of yourself and check a few things:
Are you definitely where you parked? All those parking garage levels look the same except for some occasional signage. Check the floors above and below where you think your car should be. On all floors, if your car has an alarm system, use the key fob to try to trigger it, so you know when you are getting close.
Do you have any reason your car could have been towed? Is your registration expired? Are you behind on car payments? Do you have any unpaid parking tickets? Where you parked in a restricted area?
Ask around. Is there anyone nearby, a doorman or a sales clerk, who noticed a tow truck, like from Car And Truck Services Inc., in the area?
Make the right call
If there is no reason to believe a tow truck service may have towed your car, it’s time to call the police. Don’t wait to go home and do this, thinking there isn’t much that can be done. Time matters. The longer you wait, the more time the thieves have. Once you have the police en route, it may also be a wise plan to put in a call to your insurance agent to let him/her know what’s going on.
If you realize that you parked in a restricted area, look for signs that will indicate what tow truck service was used. They are usually posted nearby and generally have a phone number for you to call to begin the process of retrieving your car. Bring your wallet when you go. You’re going to have to pay some fees for your parking indiscretion.
If you believe your car may have been towed due to liens or fees, that is something you can find out from the police. They will quickly be able to look up the tow and see if, indeed, that’s what happened. They will then be able to tell you how to go about getting your car back, which will include but not be limited to paying the money you owe.
In any of the cases above, you’re also going to have to phone a friend. Someone is going to need to take you to the tow yard or back home.
Take steps to avoid confusion in the future
Beside the obvious suggestion that you pay your tickets and fees, there are a few ways you can be sure to avoid the panic that comes when you can’t find your car. There are apps you can use with your smart phone, a car finding GPS, so you will always know where you parked. Alternately, you can leave yourself a voice memo noting the specific location of your car, such as “parking garage level 3, section M on the right” or, just snap a picture with your phone. That way, if your car isn’t there, you don’t waste precious time looking for it, thinking you may be looking in the wrong place.