A single mother-of-two was shocked to discover she would have to pay to get her car back after it was stolen.
Laura Savage, of Springfields, Waltham Abbey, has been told by police she will have to cover the costs of towing and impounding the vehicle, which was stolen on December 20.
The 28-year-old has been advised to cover the costs and seek to recoup the cash from the court following the trial of the alleged thief later this month.
The bill currently stands at £490, comprising the £150 towing fee and a daily cost of £20 as it was impounded.
Miss Savage said: “I can’t afford it. It came just before Christmas so I’d spent my money on presents.
“There were presents in the boot and I wasn’t even allowed to get them out before Christmas so I had to borrow money from family members to get something for the kids to open on Christmas Day.”
Police are required to remove and impound any stolen vehicles to prevent further theft, vandalism or obstruction.
A police spokesman said: “Policy in relation to the costs connected to recovering stolen vehicles is designed so that the cost is not borne by the tax payer.
“In the majority of cases it would be the insurance companies who would cover this cost for the owner. If this is not possible then the responsibility falls to the individual vehicle owner.”
Miss Savage’s Vauxhall Corsa was found on the hard shoulder of the M25 having been stolen on December 20.
Casey Sullivan, 26, of Drayson Close, Waltham Abbey, has been charged with stealing the car and is due to appear in Chelmsford Magistrates Court on January 15.