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8 Things That Could Happen If You Don’t Pay Parking Tickets

Busted! Punishments for ignored citations vary by state and city, but one thing is for sure: You’ll end with way worse than a small fine.

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Tickets, tickets, tickets

No one ever wants to get a parking ticket, but somehow everyone seems to get at least one in their lifetime. Before you ignore it, make sure you learn about what can happen if you never pay up.

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Your fine will go up

Don’t procrastinate on sending in the money. Parking tickets give a deadline for the money, likely within two weeks or a month. Even if you had the best intentions but just missed that cutoff date, you could get an extra penalty. For instance, in New York City, ignoring a parking ticket for more than 90 days could add an extra $60 in penalties to your first ticket cost. After 100 days, you’ll have to pay 9 percent interest for every year it goes unpaid. In California, a late fine could mean paying a “civil assessment” of up to $300. If you’re more worried about speeding tickets than parking fines, read these surprising things that could get you a speeding ticket besides your speed.

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Your car could get stuck

If you’re notorious for getting parking tickets (and leaving them unpaid), don’t be surprised if your vehicle gets towed or “booted”—even when you’re not doing anything wrong. After all, the police have your license plate on file. According to DC’s Department of Motor Vehicles, “Your vehicle may be booted if you have two or more outstanding parking and/or photo enforcement tickets—even if you are legally parked at the time the car is booted.” In Seattle, though, you’ll need four or more unpaid tickets before you get stuck. Either way, you’ll have to pay up if you want it off. Don’t miss these other 45 things police officers wish you knew.

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You could lose your car entirely

Ignore a parking ticket for long enough, and you could lose worse than just a couple hundred extra bucks—the state could seize your vehicle. In New York, for example, the city holds auctions to sell vehicles that owners chose to give up instead of paying their fines.

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You might end up in court

In places like Memphis, Tennessee, your parking tickets might already have court dates written on them. If you pay within 15 days, no need to show up. Let it go, though, and you’ll need to clear your schedule for that hearing—and prepare to pay the late fees tacked onto your original citation. Learn the weird reason cops touch your tail light when they pull you over.

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Collection agencies might get involved

Your city’s parking enforcement bureau doesn’t want to deal with you forever, so it might hand your case over to a collection agency. Those debt collectors could inundate you with letters, phone calls—even on your office or cell number—or even show up at your home. When it comes to speeding, memorize these words that can get you out of a speeding ticket.

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Your credit score could go down

Beware of parking ticket debt if you’re planning to buy a house. Having a debt collection show up on your account already looks bad for your credit score, but it gets worse. The parking violations bureau could report your misdemeanor to a credit bureau, which is sure to harm your credit score. St. Petersburg, Florida, parking division manager Keith Glasgow says that can put a dent in your attempts to buy a house. People will call to say, “I’m trying to get a house, but I have a parking ticket. Can you please take it off?” Glasgow tells The Penny Hoarder. Undo the damage with these 11 tips for improving your credit score.

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You could lose that money during tax season

Even if you think you’ve outsmarted those late fees by calmly ignoring court summons and debt collectors’ calls, you could still get that large sum of money taken from you. The city could ask the money you owe to be taken out of your state tax refund, so you’ll never see that extra cash you were hoping to get back. Don’t miss these other 32 things your tax accountant won’t tell you for free.

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Your registration won’t be renewed

Your state’s department of motor vehicles isn’t in charge of collecting parking fines, but it could get involved. The city could get in touch with the DMV, which would, in turn, refuse to renew your vehicle registration, or even suspend it before its time is up. Driving without registration could lead to points on your license or higher car insurance rates. Next, learn the driving etiquette rules you’ve probably forgotten since driver’s ed.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.