Did your car break down somewhere off the beaten path and won’t start back again? Were you about to make your morning commute, but the car’s just not budging? If that’s the case, you’re probably going to have to call a tow truck to come and pick you up. But before you can call anyone, you start rummaging through your wallet, thinking “What is this going to cost me now?”
Today, I’m going to answer all of your car towing questions to make you feel at ease the next time you have to call for help.
Why Might You Need the Tow?
There are a couple of situations when calling for a tow truck is unavoidable, and it usually involves car accidents. If your airbags have deployed or your car is no longer in driving condition, it’s best to call for help.
But most often, people call tow trucks for something they could’ve easily fixed on their own. For example, if your car battery is dead, instead of calling for a tow, use jumper cables to restart your vehicle.
So the next time you hit the road, make sure you bring your emergency equipment with you. Also, remember to bring a spare tire and jumper cables.
The Average Cost of Towing a Car
I want to start off by mentioning that the prices in towing services will vary from one place to the next. How much you pay will also depend on the type of insurance you have and the distance of the tow.
With that said, the average cost of most local tows for a five to ten-mile radius is around $50 to $125. But if it’s a long-distance tow, a company might charge you a $75 hook up fee and anywhere between $2 to $4 per mile.
So depending on your vehicle’s size and the towing company’s policies, here are the most common rates:
- Five miles: $50 to $125
- Ten miles: $65 to $135
- Twenty miles: $105 to $185
- Fifty miles: $165 to $300
- Hundred miles: $325 to $450
Towing companies do offer plenty of services that have nothing to do with towing. For example, if your car shuts down in the middle of nowhere because you ran out of gas, you can call a tow truck driver to bring you some.
Also, they can jumpstart your car or change a flat tire. You can even call them if you’re trapped inside your car or stuck somewhere. They can help pull you out and you might not even need a tow.
Things That Will Influence the Towing Cost
When you call for a tow truck and explain your situation, they’ll factor in a few things when calculating the price. They’ll take into account how big your car is and how long they have to drive to get to you. Also, they’ll check what time it is and how difficult the towing conditions are.
The Size of Your Car
All of the average rates and prices I mentioned earlier apply to standard, four-door sedans. But if you’re driving something bigger, like a large SUV or a truck, the price might go up a bit.
Of course, every towing company will have its own rates, but it’s worth checking when you call for a tow. Most often, if you have a bigger vehicle, you can expect to pay around $10 to $30 more.
In addition to the size, you might have to pay a bit extra if you drive a luxury car. To tow your vehicle, the towing company needs to bring special equipment, and employ special techniques. So it’s best to let them know what kind of car you’re driving before they come to rescue you.
You might also have to pay more if you’re calling for a truck after business hours, or anywhere between 9 PM and 6 AM. Again, companies have different definitions for what “after hours” means, so the rates may vary.
But if you’re calling late at night, you can expect to pay a flat fee between $5 and $150. Also, some companies will charge extra if you call them during the weekend or on a national holiday.
The Distance and Minimum Rates
Most tow truck companies have minimum rates to cover their basic costs of operation, like gas. Usually, these rates start at around $50 and they’ll cover a five-mile radius. So even if you just need a tow to a mechanic’s shop that’s a mile away, you’ll still have to pay that minimum rate.
Hourly Rates Vs. Flat Rates
You also have to remember that, at the end of the day, every towing company has its own rating system. Some might have flat rates, no matter where you are and when you’re calling. But more often than not, if you’re in some remote place that’s only accessible by dirt roads, expect to pay more.
Get Lower Towing Rates by Using Roadside Assistance
If you’re stuck in a ditch somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, and you’re calling for a tow truck at 2 AM, your towing rate is going to be high. Luckily, there is a way around it and you can lower that price or not have to pay at all by having roadside assistance.
Depending on the company, it might help you pay off towing charges between $50 to $150. On the other hand, the company might offer to pay mileage charges instead of flat rates and will cover between 20 or even 100 miles.
If you’re calling a tow truck because you’ve been in a car accident, an insurance company will most likely cover the cost of the entire tow. It will do that regardless of whether you have roadside assistance or not.
Some insurance companies will send an agent to file your accident claim and call a tow truck on your behalf. Of course, that all depends on the insurance company’s policies.
When you join any of these companies, they will cover your towing cost up to 100 miles. Of course, they also offer different perks and benefits, including the additional services I mentioned earlier, like bringing you gas.
The biggest benefit of having roadside assistance is that they’re trustworthy and have flat rates. So instead of having to call a tow truck company that you know nothing about, you can call one of these companies to bail you out.
If you’re often traveling to different states or driving long-haul routes, you should consider upgrading your membership. For example, the Motor Club has an Elite Plan that will reimburse you for a bigger amount.
But before you settle on any company, consider the different prices and what kind of benefits they have. You should also look at the renewal fees, as they differ from one company to the next.
Another benefit of being a part of these membership clubs is that you can get discounts on hotel stays, flights, and car rentals.
Avoid Paying Too Much (Towing Scams)
Unfortunately, there are countless unlicensed and shady towing companies that will take advantage of you. They can have hidden mileage fees or charge insane amounts of money for storage.
For example, you might find a company that claims to charge only $20 for a 5-mile tow but actually add on huge rates. What’s more, they might try to charge you exorbitant daily storage fees that can go as high up as $150 per day.
Some towing companies might appear as knights in shining armors, “accidentally” finding you on the side of the road. These companies actually listen to police scanners and try to poach jobs from licensed companies.
If that ever happens to you, politely decline help, and call either roadside assistance or a reputable towing company. No matter how desperate you are, don’t fall for these scams because they’ll end up costing you a pretty penny.
Finding a Reputable Towing Company
One of the best ways to avoid falling for a towing scam is to do your research beforehand. You should start by looking at how long the company’s been in business and check out their reviews.
If you’re having second thoughts about a company, go to the DMV’s website and check if it’s insured. Once the tow truck driver arrives on the scene, ask to see their ID and proof of licensure.
Take a picture of your car after it’s been attached to the tow truck, but before the driver leaves. That way, if something goes wrong and the company damages your vehicle, you have solid evidence.
Even if you’re stranded somewhere with a car that’s broken down, don’t panic! Grab your phone, do a quick, but thorough, Google search and find a reputable towing company near you. As long as you avoid those deals that sound too good to be true, there’s little to no risk of getting scammed.
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