With an estimated 6.76 million police-reported motor vehicle accidents and crashes occurring in 2019 alone, there is always the chance that you may require the services of a good towing service near you. In addition to moving vehicles damaged by accidents, a good towing service can help with the transportation of faulty or broken-down vehicles from one spot to a desired destination and also provide various types of roadside assistance services. These include fuel refiling, tire replacements, plug changes, lock-out assistance, and any other minor problems affecting a vehicle's movement.
When searching for a towing service near you, it is essential to ascertain whether the towing company has the necessary permits, competent employees, a good track record, and whether the service is within your budget. Consequently, before hiring a towing company or towing service provider, you should ask the following questions:
Towing companies operating in the United States must generally obtain a towing license before performing a towing service. While some states like Texas and California issue state-wide licenses, some other states like Oregon require towing companies to obtain licenses from the city or county where they operate. Furthermore, some states require towing companies to also obtain tow truck permits for each tow truck used for towing services. Although the scope of these permits varies by state, it is typically determined by the gross weight of the tow truck and the frequency of the tow trip. For example, Oregon issues separate permits for a single tow trip within a weight limit and for multiple tow trips, while Washington and Texas issue a general permit for any towing service done with a tow truck. Note that tow truck operators are also required to meet certain state-specific and federal requirements, which includes obtaining a state-issued commercial driver's license before they are allowed to operate a towing truck.
When seeking a towing service near you, ensure the towing company you choose is registered to operate within your area. Also, ensure that the towing company has obtained the necessary tow truck permit and the tow truck operator assigned to tow your vehicle has the necessary license. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) of a state typically issues tow truck permits for tow trucks and licenses for tow truck operators. Consequently, you can contact the DMV of your state to ascertain the registration status of a tow truck, find out if your assigned tow driver has the required license, or make inquiries on the registration status of the towing company. Furthermore, it is ideal to hire a towing company that belongs to an association, such as the Towing and Recovery Association of America, because these associations typically have rules that ensure their members deliver a professional service.
The cost for hiring a towing service varies and depends on different considerations such as the distance of the tow trip, your vehicle, your location, and the time of the day. Nevertheless, towing companies typically charge an initial hookup fee and a per-mile fee. While the per-mile fee varies and is usually between $2 and $8 per mile, the hookup fee is a flat fee that can range between $40 and $100, depending on your location's terrain and the vehicle's gross weight. Consequently, a vehicle stuck in an unusual landscape or a heavy-duty vehicle may attract a higher hookup fee than a vehicle just by the roadside or a lightweight vehicle.
Before hiring a towing company near you, there are some steps you can take to reduce the overall amount you may spend. These steps include:
- Contacting your insurance company: If you have a car insurance policy, first contact your insurance provider and ask if the policy covers car towing. While some insurance companies include towing costs in their car insurance policy at no additional fee, some may ask for an additional fee. If your car insurance policy includes a tow service cost, this will help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
- Finding a nearby mechanic or storage: Situations that warrant the need for a towing company include when your vehicle is faulty or when you need to transport your vehicle. In such situations, it is ideal to find a mechanic or storage spot nearby. This reduces the towing miles and the amount the towing service company can charge you for the service since towing companies typically charge per mile.
- Getting a roadside assistance membership: A roadside assistance membership is similar to getting a car insurance policy, except that this is specific to roadside assistance. Roadside assistance associations typically grant their members various benefits which include towing, fuel delivery, tire changing, lock-out assistance, and any service that helps with moving a stranded vehicle, at no cost or a subsidized cost.
The most common towing service expenses are the hookup fee and the per-mile charges. Besides these, there are usually no additional costs for a towing service. Note that if your vehicle's gross weight is above the state's minimum weight classification for personal vehicles or your location has an unusual terrain, the towing service company may increase the charges for the towing service. However, this increment will either reflect under the hookup fee or the per-mile charges.
Although towing companies handle and oversee towing services, the work of towing the vehicle is usually done by a tow truck operator and a few assistants, as the case warrants. If your vehicle is average-sized and is not stuck in difficult terrain, then the towing can be done by the tow truck operator alone. However, if your vehicle's gross weight is on the high side, like heavy-duty vehicles, or your vehicle is stuck in an unusual landscape, the towing company may send a tow truck operator and a few others to assist with the towing of the vehicle. When you contact a towing company near you, it is important to state your situation in detail. Clearly explain why you need a tow service and include relevant information such as the kind of car you are driving, what happened to the car, whether your location has smooth or rough terrain, and so on. This information assists towing companies in deciding what type of towing truck, and how much personnel to send. While towing companies typically ask these questions when you contact them, you can also provide any additional information that you think may be relevant to your situation.
It is estimated that there are over 40,000 employees in the heavy and trailer-truck industry, of which towing services are a sub-sector. Although academic requirements are not usually compulsory for these employees, towing companies typically require their employees, particularly their tow truck operators, to have a high school diploma at least. Some tow truck companies also prefer their employees to have some years of experience in driving or vehicle recovery. Additionally, tow truck operators and other personnel in the towing industry generally undergo specialized training and obtain certifications from reputable associations such as the Towing and Recovery Association of America and the Emergency Road Service Coalition of America. Besides these qualifications, other necessary skills are typically gotten through apprenticeship and on-the-job learning.
When looking for a towing service near you, it is ideal to ask for referrals from family members and friends that have had similar experiences. This can help you understand how the towing company operates and charges clients if you choose to hire any of the referred companies. Similarly, you can contact any reputable national or state associations in the towing industry, like the Emergency Road Service Coalition of America or the California Tow Truck Association, for referrals on credible towing companies or towing service providers. When you contact a referred towing company or any towing company you eventually find, you should ask for references from previous clients if the situation allows it. Ideally, ask for references from previous clients that required a service similar to yours. This helps you to assess the towing company's professionalism and ability to provide satisfactory service with minimal or no issues.
Additionally, or as an alternative, you can check other review-dedicated websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review. These websites contain independent reviews from consumers regarding any service from an individual or company. It is also a good starting point when finding credible towing service providers near you with a reputation for professionalism and satisfactory service delivery.
The towing industry is categorized under the Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Driver sector for national statistics. Below are the quick facts for the sector:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Besides transporting vehicles between distances, towing service companies also offer other roadside assistance services such as fuel refilling, plug changing, tire replacements, lock-out assistance, pulling out a stuck vehicle, and essentially any service that can help stranded motorists move their vehicles.
Due to their complex make-up, all-wheel-drive vehicles can be difficult to tow. Consequently, not all towing companies undertake to tow such vehicles. If you intend to tow an all-wheel-drive vehicle, make sure that you inform the towing company of this and confirm that this company engages in towing such vehicles.
A flatbed towing is typically necessary for situations where:
- Your vehicle sustains substantial damage from an accident
- You are transporting a vehicle between long distances
- You are towing a vehicle with a faulty transmission
- You are dealing with all-wheel-drive vehicles
The make-up of a vehicle and other unique circumstances typically determine other instances when a flatbed towing may be necessary.
When scheduling a tow, you will usually be required to provide any information that will assist the towing company in understanding the situation you are in and delivering a good service. This includes:
- Your name
- The kind, size, or model of your vehicle
- The problem with your vehicle. In situations when you cannot understand what is wrong with the vehicle, it is best to describe the situation
- The exact towing service you need
- Your location or your car's location.
Tow companies may also have some set of questions they ask individuals requesting their service. If that is the case with the tow company you contact, endeavor to answer the questions as accurately as possible. However, it is advisable that you only answer questions strictly related to your situation and how they can be of help.
Vehicles with electric locks and side-impact airbags are often intricate and require some degree of expertise to unlock them without their proper keys. Therefore, if you have a car with either electric locks, side-impact airbags, or both, and you need lock-out assistance, you need to ensure the towing company you intend to hire performs lock-out assistance on such vehicles. It is more ideal if the towing company has had previous experience with your kind of vehicle. More importantly, ensure the towing company has valid liability insurance in case anything goes wrong.
There are tow trucks specially designed for towing vehicles out of a parking garage. However, not all towing companies operate such tow trucks. Consequently, some towing companies do not engage in towing vehicles out of parking garages and you should always confirm that the towing service you contact is capable of doing so.
Some tow companies specialize in towing particular vehicles. In some cases, this specialty may or may not include motorcycles. Before hiring a towing company, make inquiries and find out if the towing company has any specializations and whether the specialization applies to your vehicle or motorcycle.
It is usually better to let your insured car go to the tow yard after an accident. Since your insurance service provider is responsible for tow bills and storage fees, this makes it more likely for the insurance company to quickly visit the tow yard, assess your vehicle, and reach out to you regarding a settlement.
It is important to know about a towing company's hours of operation before hiring the company's services because some tow companies have specific hours of operation while some operate throughout the day. Particularly, if the towing company you hire has specific hours of operation, knowing this will help you plan your request for a tow service and also avoid being stranded.
Companies in the towing industry have various methods for requesting payment for services rendered. These methods usually include cash, checks, credit cards, and debit cards. Accordingly, a payment method accepted by a previous towing service provider may not be accepted by your current towing service provider. Therefore, you should ask your towing company about their preferred payment method. Knowing the preferred payment method also helps with proper planning since some towing companies do not render services until after payment.