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Follow these five steps to avoid falling for common tow truck scams

It might seem like a miracle — a tow truck pulls up to the scene of your collision minutes later and offers to tow your car. However, this may be too good to be true. Some tow truck companies are paid to bring vehicles to a specific repair shop or impound lot that will charge you high fees. These fees may not be covered by your insurance company, resulting in a hefty bill that you didn’t plan on paying. Here are five steps to take after you’ve been in an accident to avoid common scams and hire a reputable tow truck company.

1.    Speak to your insurance company

Before you hire any tow company after an accident, call your insurance company. They can advise you about your coverage, what reasonable towing rates would be for your situation, how you should proceed and preferred repair facilitates. If you have roadside assistance with your insurer, consider using that service. If you can’t get in touch with your insurer you can still have your vehicle towed, just keep the following tips in mind.

2.    Determine whether your vehicle needs to be towed

Some tow truck companies will try to convince you that a car in drivable condition needs to be towed. If you think your car is drivable and there are no fluid leaks, your headlights and taillights are working properly, your mirrors are intact, your steering and braking feel correct, and your hood can close securely, you likely can drive your car to a mechanic yourself.1 A police officer can also help you assess if you should drive your vehicle. 

Woman on phone with a car accident in the background.3.    Call the tow company and arrange the details

Call a tow company that is recommended by your insurer or a police officer, is a part of a roadside assistance program or has reputable reviews online, and make sure that the tow truck that shows up matches the company you called. You have the right to decide where your vehicle is towed, so do not be pressured otherwise unless the police require that your car be taken to a Collision Reporting Centre or a police station first. 

4.    Check for the truck’s licence number

Some large municipalities in Ontario, such as Brampton, Hamilton, Mississauga, Toronto and Windsor require that tow trucks have and display a municipal licence number.2 If you’re in one of those municipalities, check for the licence number on the truck to confirm it’s a legitimate business. 

5.    Review the contract and payment

A tow truck company must give you an itemized invoice to review before they tow your vehicle. Do not sign a blank contract or work order, and make sure it outlines exactly what you’re paying for. Compare the cost with what your insurer estimates as a reasonable rate or with local tow rates you can find online. You are not obligated to pay in cash, all tow truck companies must also accept credit cards. Keep the receipt and all paperwork for your records and for your insurance claim.

You may find it difficult to remember these tips after a stressful car accident. Download CAA’s Towing Bill of Rights and keep a copy in your vehicle to refer to if you are in need of towing assistance. 

If you have questions about your car insurance policy’s coverage for roadside assistance or towing, call an OTIP broker at 1-800-267-6847

1. Economical Insurance
2. Financial Services Commission of Ontario

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