What happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?

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    We’ve all been there – we stay a little too long at the coffee shop or dash into your local store and walk out to a parking ticket. It’s frustrating, but it happens. However, what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket?

    You might be tempted to skip paying your parking ticket fines altogether – after all, how bad can it really be? Spoiler alert – very bad. Not only can you get hit with additional parking fines, but depending on the city or state, you can end up with much worse repercussions.

    You will get hit with additional late fees and fines.

    hand pulling parking ticket from under a windshield wiper

    The length of time varies by state, but you have an average of about two weeks to get the ticket paid. If not, you can end up doubling – or tripling! – the amount you owe as late fees, collection fees, and fines start to stack up on your unpaid parking citations.

    A specific example of what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket in New York in the first 90 days means you’ll have to pay an extra $60 late fee and 9% interest on the fine. That interest will accrue monthly until you pay it, so it’ll quickly boost the overall cost. Learn more here about the additional fees in New York.

    You might end up having to go to court.

    Various outstanding parking tickets can get you a court summons from a judge. You’ll still have to pay the fines and late fees and then stack court fees on top of it. It’s like a snowball of additional fines and penalties, growing as it rolls down the hill.

    The judge can issue a bench warrant if you choose not to show for your court date and still don’t pay the ticket. At this point, you can be arrested and serve jail time for not paying your parking tickets. Not only are you racking up fees, but you’re missing work and now have an arrest on your record.

    Your car can be booted or towed.

    Even if you’re legally parked, if a police officer runs your plates and sees you past unpaid parking tickets and additional penalties, your car can be booted or towed. The average cost of impound fees is $90 – $250+, and towing fees are $80 – $100+. The minimum price of getting your car impounded is $170 – plus the unpaid parking tickets and late fees.

    And again, you now have to waste more time when you have to find a ride and spend your day dealing with the impound lot. Not only are you paying money to fix the situation, but with your time as well. 

    Your car could be auctioned off.

    Some states will seize your vehicle and auction it off to pay the fines. Or, if you let it sit in impound long enough, they’ll auction it to recover the cost of towing and storage fees.

    You can lose your driver’s license.

    Your license can be suspended or revoked, depending upon how many unpaid tickets you have and how much is owed. And if you choose to drive with license suspensions and get caught? You guessed it, more fees, fines, an arrest, and jail time. It’s not worth the ding to your driving record or points on your license, either.

    You won’t be able to renew your vehicle registration or license.

    So what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket and need to renew your license or registration? The DMV won’t let you renew it until you’re current on all fees and fines. Even if you’ve made it this far without paying that ticket, it’ll catch up to you when you decide to renew your license.

    You might get sent to a collection agency.

    One of the worst outcomes for not paying your ticket (besides jail time)? The city or state can choose not to waste their time collecting the fines and fees on the ticket and hand you off to a debt collectors or collection agencies. These folks are relentless and will stop at nothing to get paid. They’ll call, email, and stalk you on social media to try and get the amount due.

    It can affect your credit score.

    It just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? Once you get sent to collections, that shows up on your credit report. This mark on your account will stay for years and will affect your future, including:

    • Getting loans
    • Buying a house
    • Getting a job
    • The interest rates offered on loans
    • Renting or leasing an apartment or car
    • The cost of your car or home insurance
    • If you have to have a deposit when opening utility accounts
    • Starting a business

    Learn more about how having a good credit score can affect, well, everything.

    Your insurance costs could rise.

    While the parking tickets themselves won’t raise your insurance costs, the consequences of not paying them will. A suspended license, losing your license, or having a bench warrant issued for your arrest will absolutely raise your car insurance rates. Or, many companies will choose not to insure you at all, resulting in minimal options when it comes to car insurance. 

    Your tax refund can be garnished.

    Cities can ask for the money owed to be taken out of your state refund, affecting how much (if any) of your tax refund you’ll get. Again, many of these vary by city and state, so what applies to Illinois might not for Texas. 

    While your federal return cannot be touched, the following states will garnish your state tax refunds to pay parking tickets and fees: Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan as of the writing of this article.

    Not only will you have your work cut out for you if you don’t pay a parking ticket in the first place, but you’ll also waste a ton of money. From fees to court appearances – and worse – you’ll cost yourself a ton of time and money. The verdict? Just pay for the ticket.

    What happens if I don’t pay a parking ticket and sell the car?

    You most likely will not be able to transfer the title to another person if you have outstanding parking tickets or traffic violations. Having unpaid tickets will keep the vehicle owner from selling the car, so grab your citation number get them paid ASAP!

    What happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket out of state?

    Getting ticketed in another state doesn’t mean you’re safe and can skip paying it altogether. The same rules apply, including the fees. Skipping out on paying means potentially getting a boot if you are in the state again (and get caught), and escalating to having a collections agency on you to get the fees paid.

    How to Tell If You Have Parking Tickets

    If you’re worried that you might have a parking ticket that you weren’t aware of, you can visit your city’s or state’s official website and search by your license plate number. This method is the easiest way to tell if there are any outstanding parking tickets.

    Common Causes for Parking Tickets

    Worried you’ll get a ticket? Avoid these pitfalls when parking:

    1. Feed the meter. Don’t just run in and hope you make it back out before anyone catches you. Some parking meters have cameras on them now, so you can still get caught via the camera even if you don’t get caught in person.
    2. Don’t exceed the time on your meter. Go out and feed the meter if your time is getting close.
    3. Don’t park in a “No Parking” area.
    4. Don’t park in the wrong direction.
    5. Park within the parking space and not outside the lines.
    6. Don’t park in a lot without paying, even if you think that no one will catch you.

    What to Do If You Get a Parking Ticket

    If it’s not clear by now, pay for the ticket. It’s not worth the expense, time, and energy wasted on avoiding it. Pay the ticket as quickly as possible. While it varies between each city and state, your best bet is to pay it within ten calendar days with a money order or credit card (I wouldn’t recommend using a debit card). Or, work out a payment plan if you can’t afford to pay it in full. It’s better than dealing with all the fees and fines!

    If you want to request an appeal for the ticket, do so within seven to ten business days. You might want to contest the ticket if there are errors or if you believe it was wrongfully given. If so, various resources can help you, such as DoNotPay.com and even a book, Beat that Parking Ticket: A Complete Guide for New York City.

    Now that you know how to avoid problems with parking tickets, find out 10 reasons not to lease a car.

    Have you ever considered skipping out on a parking ticket? Did you regret it? Let me know in the comments below, and if you have any advice on how to handle it!

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    A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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