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When driving, you’re sure to see a lot of different anomalies while on the road. There are cameras that detect loud exhaust systems, street takeovers, and potential car thieves that like to put water bottles in your car’s wheel well. Another interesting thing you may see while driving is an orange tag placed on a car that’s sitting on the side of the road. In case you’re wondering, here’s what it means.

What does the orange tag on a car mean?

An orange tag on an abandoned car in Florida.
An orange tag on an abandoned car in Florida. | Getty Images

If you see a tag on the windshield or rear window of a car, it may be headed to the impound lot. According to Reader’s Digest, “[the orange tag] has been put there by local law enforcement to mark a car that’s been abandoned, inoperable, or hazardous and is due to be impounded.” If the car is not claimed at the impound yard, then it will eventually be auctioned off.

How long does a car have to be abandoned before it receives an orange tag?

It varies from state to state and the local laws at that. For example, FindLaw says that in Minneapolis, a car is considered abandoned if left on a street for more than 72 hours. In other states and cities, a car can be towed away even if it’s left for a few hours. Again, it depends on the local laws, so check with your Department of Motor Vehicles website.

If your car has an orange tag on it, don’t panic

Abandoned Volkswagen Scirocco GT II car wreckage on the public parking lot.
Abandoned Volkswagen Scirocco GT II car wreckage on the public parking lot. | Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you have to abandon your broken-down car on the side of the road, then it may receive an orange tag on it at some point. If so, don’t panic. Most laws state that there is a 10-day grace period where the owner must be notified about their abandoned car so that they can move it.

In that case, you will need to hire a tow truck and figure out where to get it repaired. If you can’t pay for the repairs, then you can always apply for an auto repair loan.

What if my car gets towed?

Abandoned car by side of road in snowy weather, UK.
Abandoned car by side of the road in snowy weather, UK. | Adrian Sherratt/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

If your car gets towed from a public street or highway, you can contact your local police to find out where it went. Don’t dial 911, instead dial the non-emergency police hotline to get the information. After finding out where the car was towed, you can go to the impound lot to get it.

The fees can vary as different lots have different rates. Just keep in mind that the lot may have fees attached to the actual tow, the first hour of storage, the mileage rate, a release fee, and even a parking tax.

Yes, all of those fees can add up, so it’s important to take care of your car if you have to leave it on the side of the road. If anything, just get it towed to a repair shop yourself if you find an orange tag on it.


What Happens to Cars That Are Abandoned on Public Roads?