Arlington, VA

Advanced Towing is either a hated predatory towing company or a very effective solution for ridding parking lots of illegally-parked vehicles, depending on your perspective.

The company’s drivers will watch over restricted parking spaces and wait for some unfortunate schmo to park there and walk off the owner’s property, at which point they snatch the car and drive off. They do this at the Four Mile Run branch of the Virginia DMV, at the Westmont Shopping Center on Columbia Pike, and elsewhere around Arlington. Needless to say, it has not won them many friends.

They have earned themselves a steady stream of hate on Yelp. They have been the subject of a not-safe-for-work screed by a prominent local blogger. And they’re often involved in disputes that have to be settled by police.

The dispute that led to the photo above happened last week when a driver thought his car was damaged by an Advanced tow truck. Police concluded that it was preexisting damage.

One day later, a man contacted TBD and ARLnow.com after his car was towed from the same private lot adjacent to the DMV. He accused Advanced of using a “decoy” to attract people to the spaces, then threatening him when he tried to warn others. “Aggressive towing, intimidation at Arlington DMV parking lot,” TBD’s headline read.

This all brings up the inevitable question: Is Advanced unethical? Are they preying on unsuspecting drivers without regard to circumstance? Or are they delivering justice to people who ignore no parking signs?

I’ve personally complained about my car being towed before, although that involved poorly-marked county-owned spaces. Yes, getting towed is not fun. And yes, Advanced is ruthless and their drivers aren’t exactly the friendliest people in the world. But my recent experience with the company did not produce a burning feeling of resentment.

Yesterday I stupidly parked in a restricted lot while checking out another report of a car damaged by a tow truck. Two minutes later, I turned around to find my car in the process of being towed. I ran up and asked to pay the drop fee, a $25 fee that you can pay the driver if you catch them before they leave the lot.

“You must have been towed before,” the burly, tattooed driver said. He lowered my car and drove off without anybody resorting to threats or accusations. It was just business. Tough, but fair.

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