Minneapolis towing, by the numbers

This happens a lot.

This happens a lot.

If you've ever wondered how much money people spend on retrieving towed cars from the Minneapolis Impound Lot, City Pages has the answer: A lot.

Minneapolis drivers have paid more than $30 million in towing and retrieval fees since 2006, according to city records obtained by City Pages. The city accounts for nearly $40 million in revenue related to the impound lot during the same time.

The vast majority of that revenue goes back out the door in expenses for employee salaries, towing companies, and the lot itself. But not all of it: From January 1, 2006 to July 31 of this year, the City of Minneapolis has made more than $7 million profit thanks to towing fees and the auction sales of cars that owners don't retrieve.

In total, 208,520 cars have been towed into the Minneapolis Impound Lot, at an average of about 37,300 a year. That's more than 100 cars for each and every damn day of the year.


Revenue has actually been on the way down over the past few years. In 2007, the city towed more than 44,000 cars, and collected more than $7.9 million in fees. Last year, only -- only? -- 34,977 cars were towed, adding up to a total of $6.4 million in fees.

This Ford Expedition was up for bids at the most recent public auction.

This Ford Expedition was up for bids at the most recent public auction.

The city is on pace to collect about $6.7 million in 2011, a slight uptick from last year. Through the first seven months of this year, 18,435 cars were towed to the lot, which had an inventory of 847 cars as of July 31.

About $5 million of the total revenue for the impound lot comes from daily storage fees, which run at $18 a day. After 15 days -- by which point the car's owner would've accumulated at least $400 in fees -- cars can be sold at public auctions, which are held the first Thursday of each month. Dealer auctions, where totaled cars are sold for scrap, are held each Thursday.

The City of Minneapolis contracts six private companies to tow vehicles to the lot. Last year, Wrecker Service and Rapid Recovery did best, pulling in $690,000 and $630,000, respectively, in city money. This year, Rapid Recovery is leading  the pack with $407,000 in towing money from the city through July 31.

In order to staff the impound lot seven days a week, 354 days a year, and stay open for 24 hours during the first couple days of a snow emergency, the city spent about $1.3 million on salaries last year.

So, the next time you walk out of your house, or out of a restaurant, and see that your car is missing, you can know two things: First, the city and a private towing company just made a little dough off your mistake -- and, furious though you may be, you're not alone.