Driver beware: Towing costs can vary

Lynne Kozarek

Jennifer Aulwes is a professional when it comes to being towed. Her car was impounded six times last year by Gopher Towing.
While she doesn’t question the justice of the towings, Aulwes doesn’t understand why Gopher Towing, a company that serves many private lots around campus, has to charge so much money to tow her car.
“They’re taking advantage of students,” said Aulwes, a junior in the College of Human Ecology. “I always wonder why they need to charge such an extreme amount of money.”
Gopher Towing and other private towing companies charge almost twice what the city charges to tow a car. If a car is impounded by Gopher Towing the owner has to pay $125 to retrieve it, but if a car is towed on a city street or from a University lot the owner is only charged $70 to pick it up.
Gene Buell, president of Gopher Towing, said that the city is subsidized for security, insurance and plowing while Gopher and other private companies have to pay to maintain their lots and their own equipment.
“I have to charge for what I’m doing,” Buell said. “My drivers deserve a living.”
Mary Ann Prescott, supervisor in the City of Minneapolis Impound Lot, said that towers are governed by the city council and by city ordinances.
Prescott said it’s cheaper to be towed by the city because the responsibilities of maintaining a parking lot are contracted out to specialized private firms.
“We contract our towing out and the contract goes to the lowest bid,” Prescott said.
Buell maintains that his fee is appropriate and helps defer the cost of the state-of-the-art equipment he said the company uses to provide damage-free towing.
“Nobody’s happy to be towed,” Buell said, “the reputation of towing companies is pretty negative.”
For her part, Jennifer Aulwes doesn’t make excuses. “Part of the reason I’ve been towed so many times has to do with snow emergencies,” she said, “but I should have been paying more attention.”