When a flat tire or broken down car has left you stranded, you need a professional, trusted towing company that can take care of the situation as quickly and safely as possible. If you're close to home, it's easy to ask for recommendations from friends or family, but what if you're out of town or it's the middle of the night and you don't know where to turn? Knowing what to look for on the spot can help ease your worries that you and your car will be cared for the right way. Here are four things to look for in a towing company.
How a tow truck service determines their rates will vary. Many of them charge by the mile while others charge a flat rate, provided you're not exceeding a certain distance. A majority, however, will charge some combination of both. This includes a hook-up fee as well as a per-mile cost. The company should be willing to tell you what they charge when you call and re-confirm at the tow site. Be sure that any documents you sign have a price that matches the quote you've been given.
So what can you expect to be charged?
If you look at the national figures, you can expect to pay anywhere from $75-$125, with an average of $109. But if you live in a major city, it could be much higher.
Another thing to consider is where your vehicle is going. If you don't have a mechanic or another safe place to have the car towed, you might need the towing provider to store your vehicle for you. Most reasonable companies will keep their fees to around $20-$30 per day.
If you can, check the state and local ordinances where you are, as many of them have laws that determine the maximum amount a towing service can charge. Washington state and the city of Houston are two such locations that place those sorts of limitations. Even Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a heavily trafficked tourist location, has a maximum rate set at $175 with a max $25 a day storage fee.
You wouldn't put you car in the hands of just anyone. That's why ensuring the company you call on has professional drivers who are adequately trained to hook up your car and get it safely to its destination is paramount.
There are institutions that provide coursework and certifications to tow truck drivers. The Towing and Recovery Association of America and the Professional Truck Driver Institute are two such organizations. Drivers have to take an exam in order to receive their certification.
While these certifications are not necessarily mandatory in every state, it does show a level of professionalism, and the training itself can help put your mind at ease. Even if these certifications are not held, the representative you speak with should have no qualms about discussing the qualifications of their drivers.
It's possible you'll have a friend you can call on to come and pick you up. But what if you don't? It's important to find a towing company that is happy to give you a ride to a safe place with your car in tow. This might be to the mechanic's, or it could be to a hotel if you're out of town.
The laws on whether or not a tow truck company must hold a license varies from state to state, but most locales do require some sort of proper licensure. For example, in the state of New York, tow truck drivers must be at least 18 and hold a special Tow Truck Driver license. If that person runs their business for a profit, they must also have a Tow Truck Company license. In the state of California, all that's required is a Class B driver's license.
The best way to know for sure what's required is by visiting your particular state's DMV website.