How to deal with towing companies

12 minute read Published on Oct 17, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

How to deal with towing companies

There is so much to do after getting into a car accident, from reporting the car accident to calling your insurance company after a minor accident. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, you may also have to call a tow truck. Before you do this, it’s important to understand how to deal with towing companies. We explain this and more below.

Determining if your car needs to be towed

After getting into an accident and verifying your own well-being and the well-being of those involved in the collision, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is, Do I need to call a tow truck? In other words, you will need to determine whether your car is safe to drive or whether it needs to be towed to the nearest repair shop.

To assess whether your vehicle is safe to drive, you will need to carefully inspect your vehicle. Check for fluid leaks, including brake fluid leaks, water leaks, oil leaks, and more.

Next, confirm that all lights are working correctly, especially your headlights and taillights. Examine your side mirrors and rear-view mirrors to ensure that everything is intact, and then check the wheels and tires to make sure that no damage was done to either, e.g. that you don’t have a flat tire. Walk around the car's perimeter to see if the trunk and hood are in good condition, including that they can be opened and closed normally.

Finally, if it’s safe, return to the vehicle and turn the engine on. Take your car for a short test drive that allows you to try the brakes and get a feel for the steering. If both seem normal, meaning you don’t notice any strange noises, vibrations, or resistance, then your vehicle is probably safe to drive home. However, if you have reason to suspect that something is off, it’s best not to risk it. This means that calling a towing company would be your next step.

What to do before having your car towed

If you get into a common car accident and your vehicle is damaged to the point that it can no longer be driven, you will likely need to have it towed to the nearest car dealership or auto body shop. However, before you call a tow company, it’s important to take several steps to ensure a seamless towing process.

Following the steps below can also help you avoid getting scammed or taken advantage of, as there is a growing number of predatory towing companies in Canada and beyond. Before you let anyone tow your car away from the scene of the accident, follow these steps:

Remain calm

There’s no denying that getting into a car accident can be extremely stressful. Do your best not to panic. Instead, remain calm, pull over safely onto the side of the road, check yourself for injuries, and address any time-sensitive hazards.

For example, if you notice that a fire has broken out, get out of harm’s way and call 911 as quickly as possible. If you suspect that you are injured and it is safe to do so, it’s best to remain in your vehicle until emergency services arrive.

Have yourself looked at by a medical professional

If you get into any sort of car accident, even a minor one, it’s a good idea to have yourself looked at by a medical professional. Plenty of injuries may not be obvious at first glance, especially when you’re in shock and the adrenaline is pumping.

Call the police

The next step is to call the police and report the car accident. Calling the police is always recommended, even for minor car accidents, as doing so will result in a police report that can later be used as evidence when filing an insurance claim. It is also worth noting that in some situations, you may be legally required to call the police following an accident and failure to do so can result in hefty fines.

For example, in Ontario, if anyone suffers bodily harm in the collision, if the damages exceed $2,000 in total, or if you suspect someone to have engaged in illegal behaviour, like impaired driving, the police must be called to the scene.

Exchange insurance and contact information with those involved in the accident

Before deciding whether you need to call a tow truck, make sure that you exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Ask for the name of their insurance company, their policy number, their legal name, home address, phone number, licence plate number, and the make and model of their vehicle.

Contact your insurance company

The next step you should take is to contact your insurance company. Your insurer will be able to advise you on next steps. These steps may range from instructing you on how to file a claim to explaining how accidents affect car insurance rates.

However, they can also give you important information relating to a tow, like what a reasonable rate is to pay for a tow truck in your area. They may even be able to recommend certain towing companies in your area.

In some cases, an insurance agent may even be able to call a towing company they have a relationship with on your behalf and arrange for your car to be picked up.

Confirm that your car requires a tow

Next, confirm that your car requires a tow. Some drivers might assume that they need to call a tow truck if they’re involved in the collision, but this may not be the case. If your vehicle came out of the collision relatively unscathed, it may be safe to drive. This means that you would not need to call for a tow. Instead, you can drive away from the accident on your own. That said, it is strongly recommended that you have a professional mechanic evaluate your car following a collision to make sure there is no minor or hidden damage. Generally speaking, if you can answer the following questions in the affirmative, then your car is probably safe to drive:

  • Are the headlights, brakelights, and taillights still functioning as they should be?
  • Are your side mirrors and rear-view mirror intact?
  • Does the braking and steering functionality feel normal?
  • Can you still close the hood of your car?
  • Is your car clear of fluid leaks?

Again, if you answered yes to the above questions, then it is likely safe for you to drive home without the assistance of a tow truck. However, if you answered “no” to any of the above questions or you have other reasons to believe that your car is not fit to drive, such as a deployed airbag, then it’s probably best to call a towing company. If emergency services or the police were called to the scene of the accident, you can ask them for a second opinion if you’re unsure.

Consider calling roadside assistance rather than a towing company

If you are hesitant to call a tow truck, consider calling roadside assistance instead. If you have access to this type of assistance through an automobile association, such as CAA, your vehicle’s manufacturer, or your car insurance company, take advantage and give them a call. It’s important to note that your car insurance policy will only cover roadside assistance if you choose to include this type of coverage in your plan. In addition, even if your policy has roadside assistance, it is not guaranteed that your insurance will cover towing after an accident. The reality is that roadside assistance coverage varies between policyholders.

Prepare your car to be towed

If you ultimately decide that calling a tow truck makes the most sense for you, then it’s time to prepare your car to be towed. Start by taking photos and videos of the scene of the accident and of your car. Take detailed photos of any damage inflicted upon your car. This can all be used when filing an insurance claim. Next, remove all personal belongings, especially high-value items like electronics, cash, and jewellery, from your car before you hand it over to the towing company.

Verify the tow truck company’s identity

When a tow truck arrives on the scene, verify the company’s identity to ensure they are the one you called. Again, predatory towing is on the rise, so it's important to do your due diligence by confirming that the towing company who arrives on the scene is in fact the one you contacted. A clear sign that it could be a scam is if a tow truck arrives on the scene too quickly, especially if you have yet to call a tow truck.

Let the tow truck driver know your final destination

As the towing process continues, make sure to let the driver know your final destination. In other words, let them know exactly where you want your car to be dropped off. This could be your car dealership, an auto body shop, or another repair facility. Remember that you have the right to decide where your vehicle will be towed and who can tow it, so do not let a towing company pressure you into having your car dropped off at a certain location.

Review all paperwork carefully before signing

When a towing company tows your car, they will have you sign a contract outlining the details of the services provided. Just as you would carefully review any contract, make sure to review the paperwork that the towing company gives you before signing it or paying for their services. The paperwork given to you should include an itemized invoice that clearly states how much you agree to pay in exchange for taking the car to a location of your choosing. Whatever you do, don’t sign a contract that does not state, in detail, exactly how much you owe and where you are paying to have your vehicle taken.

Compare quotes to ensure the cost is competitive

Before signing the paperwork and paying the tow truck company, compare quotes to ensure the quoted cost is competitive and reasonable. If you have time, quickly do some independent research to find out how much a tow costs in our neighbourhood. You can also call your insurance agent or an insurance broker like BrokerLink who can inform you about reasonable towing rates where you live. Depending on your municipality, there may be standardized rates that towing companies must adhere to or even upcharge restrictions. For example, in Ontario, the final invoice for towing services cannot be more than 10% above the originally quoted cost.

Pay using your preferred payment method

Some towing companies will try to tell you that you must pay in cash, but this isn’t legal. As a customer, you have the right to pay using your preferred payment method, whether this be cash or credit card. In fact, most towing companies are legally required to accept both cash or credit cards, so don’t let anyone pressure you into paying for towing services with cash. If cash is the method you choose, ask for a receipt to ensure that you have a paper trail. Your insurance company may also reimburse you for the cost of the tow if you provide them with the receipt.

Retain a copy of all paperwork

One of the last steps to having your car towed after an accident is to retain a copy of all paperwork. For example, you will be given a receipt and an invoice. Keep both and take a photo of each so that you have a digital version if needed. Not only is this good to have in your records, but if your insurance company covers towing, having these documents will help you get reimbursed.

Find a way home

Find a way home after the accident. Assuming the law enforcement officer who arrived on the scene has cleared you to leave, you are free to do so as soon as your vehicle has been towed. Ideally, call a friend or family member to pick you up. However, if this isn’t an option, look into the nearest public transit routes or consider hailing a taxi or calling a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. If you are having difficulty securing a ride home after your car has been towed, you can also ask the police for assistance.

File an insurance claim

Last but not least, once you’re home and in a safe and calm environment, get back in touch with your insurance company to begin the claims process. Whether your insurance company covers the cost of towing or not, you will likely need to file an insurance claim to cover the cost of the damage to your vehicle.

Generally speaking, the sooner you contact your insurer after the accident, the better. In fact, most insurance companies require policyholders to notify them within seven days of the accident occurring.

When you get a hold of your insurance company, ask them whether your insurance covers towing, as well as what you need to provide as part of the claims process. Typically, the insurance company will give you a form that must be completed and will ask you to submit all evidence that you have to support your claim.

This evidence should include any photos and video footage you have of the accident, as well as the police report, eyewitness statements, and any associated receipts or invoices, such as repair bills. If your insurance policy covers towing, it’s a good idea to submit a copy of the tow truck invoice as well. Once your claim has been officially submitted, an insurance adjuster will investigate the collision to determine who was at fault and thus who is required to pay the cost of damages.

After the fault determination process is complete, your insurance company will update you, letting you know if your claim has been approved and if so, how much money you will receive and when.

Car insurance and towing in Canada

With so many types of auto insurance out there, you might be wondering if any of them cover towing in Canada. The truth is that your policy may cover towing but it isn’t guaranteed.

Generally speaking, for your insurance company to cover the cost of calling a tow truck and having your car towed after an accident, you will need to have purchased collision coverage or all perils coverage. We explain both below:

Collision coverage

Collision coverage is an optional car insurance coverage that offers financial protection if you get into a major car accident that results in severe damage to your car. If this happens to you, your insurer may issue a payout to help you pay for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it was totalled. Some types of collision insurance take this a step further and pay for not only vehicle repairs but also costs associated with the repair, such as hiring a tow truck.

Please note that if your insurance company offers collision insurance that covers towing, there may be conditions you need to meet, such as using a preferred towing service or reimbursing you for fees associated with towing.

Further, collision coverage can be claimed whether the accident was caused by the policyholder or not. It can also be claimed regardless of whether the collision involved another driver, an animal, or a grounded object on the road. To learn more about how collision coverage works and whether it covers towing, contact BrokerLink.

All perils coverage

All perils coverage is another type of car or motorcycle insurance coverage that may cover towing following an accident. All perils coverages, as the name suggests, is designed to protect a policyholder's car against a wide range of losses and damages. This type of coverage combines certain elements of collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, protecting drivers from damage caused by animals, severe weather, theft, vandalism, water, fire, and more.

Depending on the terms and conditions of the all perils insurance in your policy, this list might also include towing services. All perils coverage has the same deductible no matter the claim, which means whether you have a cracked windshield or you are involved in a collision you will pay the same amount.

Contact BrokerLink to find out more about how to deal with towing companies

Want to learn more about how to deal with towing companies, how to determine if your car needs to be towed, and whether your insurance company covers towing? Contact BrokerLink today. We are auto insurance experts who will be able to answer all of these questions and more. We can explain how collision and all perils coverage can cover you for the cost of towing, as well as offer advice on what to do if your car needs to be towed following an accident.

As auto insurance specialists, we can also give you tips on renewing car insurance or how to save money on auto insurance, such as by bundling or buying multiple auto insurance policies. Get in touch today for a complete breakdown of BrokerLink’s car insurance services or to request a free quote. BrokerLink offers accurate and reliable quotes to all customers over the phone, in person, or using the online quote tool on our website.

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