Can Tow Truck Companies Charge You Whatever They Want?

Nothing can ruin a good day like an unexpected car tow. The number of cars towed annually in America totals in the millions. The whole endeavor tends to be so expensive that some people think they’ve fallen prey to one of many tow truck scams. This has led drivers to wonder how much tow truck companies are legally allowed to charge. 

So, what is the most a towing company can charge?

A flatbed tow truck loads a red SUV in a parking lot in Vero Beach, Florida
Tow truck | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The short answer is it depends on the state. Some states have no price protections, others have nebulous regulations, and only a few states offer strong protections for drivers. U.S. PIRG, a consumer rights group, investigated each state’s towing laws. The report has declared, “Unfortunately, most states do not have maximum towing and storage rates, and many fail to define clearly the definition of ‘reasonable rates’ that towing companies must adhere to.”

Because most states aren’t very consumer-friendly when it comes to towing, here are six ways to protect yourself and save money, according to Insurify

Prepare a plan of action

One of the best things you can do is establish a plan for what to do if your car is towed. Are towing companies required to report the tow to the police? Who is responsible if the car is damaged during the tow? Will your auto insurance coverage help? These are all good things to know to protect yourself from unfair towing in your state

Ask for an insurance adjuster

If your car was towed due to an accident, you want an insurance adjuster to examine it as soon as possible. You can request this easily through your insurance agent. The sooner an adjuster can review your vehicle, the sooner it can be moved to a repair shop. If your car is considered totaled, you also want that confirmed quickly so that you can get the cash for a new vehicle. 

Collect all the towing paperwork

It’s easy to forget the paperwork during the stress of an unsolicited tow or after an accident. In most states, tow truck companies are required to report all tows to the local police department. The local PD should have all the details of who towed your car and the company’s contact information.  

When retrieving your vehicle, request an itemized receipt. Make sure the towing company’s logo is on the invoice. 

Avoid unsolicited services from towing companies

This is most common in auto accidents or if your vehicle gets stuck in bad weather. Out of almost nowhere, a tow truck will show up to save the day. However, these so-called traffic chasers are working a scam to charge a ridiculously high amount. Before accepting any tow, be sure to get the price. Asking the police or your insurance company to arrange the tow can save you from this scam. 

Join a roadside assistance club

AAA and other roadside assistance clubs can save you a lot of money on towing, especially if the cause is vehicle failure or bad weather. Memberships cost less than $50 to $150 per year and provide a certain number of tows or unlimited tows up to 100 or 200 miles, depending upon the membership level. This can be a huge cost saver, especially if you drive an older car you want to keep running forever

Have collision coverage on your insurance policy to lower towing costs

If you’re involved in an accident, collision coverage can be a major cost saver.  It will cover the cost of repairs, towing, and storage regardless of who’s at fault. Collision coverage is highly recommended for expensive or newer vehicles. 

Those are the best ways to reduce costs associated with towing. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can save money during the stressful event of a car tow. 

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