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What You Need to Do Before Getting Your Car Towed

Jan. 4, 2022
4 mins
A tow truck winches a white car on to the truck bed

After getting into a collision, you may need to call a tow truck to get your vehicle to a repair shop. However, it’s important to consider your safety, time and money when requesting service.

Follow these seven simple steps before accepting a tow.

1. Move your vehicle to a safe location

Before all else, make sure you aren’t posing a danger to yourself or those around you. Leaving your car in the middle of the highway or a busy intersection can cause more collisions. Assuming it’s safe to do so, park your vehicle as far to the right of the road as possible. Put on your hazard lights and place cones around your car to warn oncoming traffic.

2. Determine whether your car is unsafe to drive

While your first instinct might be to resort to a tow truck, your car might be OK to drive. If your vehicle isn’t leaking fluid, the hood closes all the way, the lights and mirrors function correctly, and your steering and braking are in-tact, you might be able to drive yourself to the mechanic. When in doubt, ask a police officer if they arrive at the site of the collision. Avoiding a tow truck can save you time and money.

3. Call your car insurance company

Car insurance companies are experts in dealing with collisions. Your insurance representative can give you advice and provide resources like a list of reputable towing companies. Some repair shops might even send someone to pick you up. The more information you can get from your car insurance provider, the better.

4. Identify your exact location

Before calling a tow truck, make sure you can accurately describe where you are. Look around for street signs, mile markers, or exit signs to help explain your location.

5. Prepare your car for towing

After a collision, make sure to take detailed photos of all vehicles involved, the scene of the incident, and any other information that may be useful down the road. Afterward, remove any valuables or necessities from your vehicle, such as your phone, purse, or garage door opener.

6. Read the fine print

Once the tow truck driver arrives, make sure they’re from the company you called. In some cases, drivers may prowl the streets looking for new business, opportunistically rushing to the scene of a collision to try to make a few bucks. These practices are discouraged and do not align with the towing guidelines in Ontario.

Once you get the towing agreement from the driver, review it carefully. You should receive a clear, itemized invoice detailing the costs. Don’t be afraid to try another towing company if the price is too high. Look online to find standard towing rates for your region. Some areas have standardized towing rates, which can help guide your decision.

7. Watch for scams

According to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Ontario, some tow truck drivers, called “chasers,” recommend repair shops without being asked. The tow truck driver receives a referral fee in exchange for bringing the mechanic business. Typically, your insurance company will have a preferred repair shop, which may differ from the one being recommended to you. However, your insurance company is still required to pay whomever you, the policyholder, has chosen to do the work.

That said, FSRA recommends the following:

  • Ensure the truck is from a reputable company like an automotive roadside assistance group or automobile association.
  • Don’t take unsolicited repair shop recommendations.
  • Ask the tow truck driver to take your car to a secure location where an official from your insurance company can access it.

Does car insurance cover a tow?

While your car insurance may cover the cost of towing, each plan is different — that’s why you should contact your insurance company before calling a tow truck. To find a car insurance policy that includes towing, shop around for the best rates in Canada.

Correction issued Jan. 10, 2022: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a person's insurance company may not do business with a repair shop that's recommended by a tow truck driver. This is untrue. As per FSRA, an insurance company is required to pay whomever the policyholder has chosen to do the work. The article has been updated to reflect this.

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The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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