When I walked out of my house one recent morning and my fiancé asked where I had parked my car, I stared blankly down Seventh Street. I pointed to an empty spot and said, “Right there.” I knew immediately it was going to be a bad day.
I wasn’t sure at first if my car had been stolen or towed. My first call was to the Hoboken Parking Authority. A search of their system revealed that my car was now in Jersey City, at Logan’s Towing, but had not been towed by them. Which meant it was called in by the Hoboken police. What had I done wrong?
Typically I park in a parking garage, so I didn’t need a Hoboken permit. However, on this day, I was on the four-hour visitor white sign/green writing side of the street. I had been there for a bit fewer than four hours, and if I was there too long, I would have been booted at first, not towed.
I called Logan’s Towing, 45 Lewis Ave., Jersey City, to find out how to proceed.
Logan’s is one of four contractors the city uses to tow cars from its densely packed streets. All but one of the contractors have out-of-town lots. Years ago, Hoboken made it a requirement that the city’s towing contractor be in town, but there was only one company in town. Recently, the city has looked for competitive bids, but that means that people who are towed may have trouble getting to their cars.
At recent City Council meetings, residents have voiced their concerns about the out-of-city lots.
“As I recall it, [in the past] only bids from towing companies in Hoboken were allowed and there was only one [in Hoboken],” said Business Administrator Quentin Wiest at a recent meeting.
“Your parameters cannot be that your number of potential bidders is one; it’s a violation of the law,” said Councilman David Mello.
Logan’s told me they do not drive around Hoboken and scoop up cars. The vehicle must be called in by either the Hoboken police or the Hoboken Parking Authority.
I placed a call to Hoboken police and found out that my car was towed because my registration had lapsed, a fact I was not aware of. My leased vehicle had been registered in the state of California. The California DMV had sent a letter alerting me to update my tags, but the letter got lost in a shuffle of changed addresses. (I have been back in Hoboken for less than a year and often travel to California, so I hadn’t yet changed my registration. By state law, people must register within 60 days of moving here.)
What’s an ‘electronic title holding state?’
My first concern was that I now had to get to an out-of-city tow lot as well as the DMV, but obviously I had no car.
Logan’s told me that – as with any out-of-state car that should be registered locally – I needed to obtain a New Jersey registration for the vehicle from the DMV before getting the car out of the tow yard.
To do that, I had to request that Power of Attorney be overnighted from the finance company since I didn’t own the car.
I got a ride from a friend to the tow lot to rob my own glove compartment of my insurance forms, and anything else pertinent.
In the nor’easter/snowstorm last Friday, I attempted first to get to the North Bergen DMV, using my fiancé’s car with traction control. As I slowly trekked up the hill of Kennedy Boulevard, the car decided it was no longer going to go anywhere. I wound up literally spinning my wheels for 20 minutes until two random men offered to push my car around and allow me to go back downhill. So North Bergen was an epic fail.
The bill so far? $358.
A worker told me that I needed the original title, in addition to the Power of Attorney forms. The request could be put in by the DMV only, and the title could be overnight shipped directly to them. I assumed this was only a day’s setback.
Was I ever wrong.
On both Saturday and Monday, I went to the Jersey City DMV and waited for the mail. Lo and behold, no Fed Ex man came in with my package from the finance company.
I placed a call to the company to get a tracking number and found out the worst news yet: California is an “electronic title holder state,” meaning they don’t issue paper titles, which is what New Jersey needed to proceed. The Jersey City DMV did not know that California was an electronic title holder state. And the person I spoke to at my finance company, based in the Midwest, didn’t know that either.
If you need to register your car in a new state, you can’t always obtain a paper title easily anymore – at least, not if you’re trying to get one from California or several other states, like Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska. This applies only if your car was purchased after they switched to electronic titling.
In the case of California, the California DMV has to generate a paper document (which has never existed), a process that can take 15 to 30 days. They can only do this after a request from the finance company, which first needs a written request from the DMV. Which also means that once a paper title exists, it will be sent to the finance company and then the requesting DMV, not to you personally.
Now, I was looking at a car-less month.
There are drivers moving from electronic-title states to New Jersey who have had to wait two months for a change to a paper title.
“This is something we are currently looking into,” state Motor Vehicle Commission Spokesman Mike Horan said Monday. “New Jersey is in the middle of updating our core computer system, one of those updates being electronic lien and titling. We conducted a survey in the middle of last year to ask the opinions of our lien holders.”
Until then, Jersey remains a paper title state.
Stationary but thankful
Logan’s Towing owner Pat Delguidice said that a Jersey City resident ran into a problem recently and could not get his vehicle out of her lot for two months – accruing fees all the while – because he had moved from an electronic title-holding state.
“I felt so bad for him. I would call him every day and say, ‘Did you get it yet, did you get it yet?’ ” she said.
Delguidice sympathized and was able to discount some of the cost.
If your car is towed in Hoboken, the fee starts at $180, plus often a $54 summons. Storage fees can run $30 per day.
Delguidice and Logan’s employee, Ashley Kupchinskas, as well as Sgt. Dennis Figueroa and the Hoboken Police Department, have been extraordinarily helpful and have done everything they can do to help me. I am thankful my car wound up at Logan’s, based on their staff. Though the car remains un-driveable and my pockets have taken a $358 hit so far, I know things could have been much worse.
The lesson? If you move your car to a new state, find out what the DMV requires, and get your registration switched – immediately!
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.