Whether you’re involved in a collision, experienced a flat tire that can’t be fixed roadside or you just can’t get your car started in the driveway, virtually every driver will have their vehicle towed at some point.

Seeing a tow truck arrive on the scene can bring a sigh of relief, but it’s important to know the proper questions to ask and understand your rights when your vehicle is being towed. In January 2017, the Consumer Protection Act was updated to protect consumers needing a tow.

Here are some things policyholders should be aware of whenever they’re in a situation where their car needs to be towed:

Tow Truck Operators Must Have Your Permission to Tow Your Vehicle 

The tow truck industry is a cutthroat one and it’s not uncommon for an operator to show up before they’re even called. While this prompt service can be convenient, it can also result in vehicle owners being taken advantage of. 

Tow truck drivers must display information, such as the provider’s name and phone number, on their truck and must disclose their rates before providing service. The operator must have your permission (or the permission of someone acting on your behalf) before towing or storing your vehicle.

The only exception to this is if police are attending the scene and require you to move your vehicle using the tow operator on site. This may be the case when the car needs to be moved as quickly as possible for safety or to minimize traffic disruption, such as from the side of the highway or a busy intersection.

If the police require you to use the first tow truck on scene, you can always ask them to tow it to the nearest safe location (such as a mall parking lot or gas station) and then call your preferred tow truck service to take your vehicle to its final destination.

You Must Be Informed Where Your Car is Being Towed To

Once you’ve agreed to accept a tow truck’s services, they must inform you where they will be towing your car. While they’ll typically bring your vehicle to a mechanic or storage yard that they have a relationship with, you have the right to ask them to take your vehicle elsewhere. 

If they are unable or refuse to do so, you can request that another operator attend the scene to tow your car to your preferred destination.

You Have the Right to Access Your Vehicle At Its Final Destination

There’s nothing worse than having your car towed and not having access to personal belongings left inside. This isn’t uncommon, whether you forgot to grab things in the busyness of the moment or were unable to due to receiving medical treatment. 

Wherever your car is towed to, they must provide you access to your vehicle to retrieve personal belongings on business days between 8 am and 5 pm. This access must be provided at no charge.

Transparency in Pricing and Payments

Tow truck companies are expected to be transparent in their pricing and payments. As a vehicle owner, do not hesitate to demand this information; if they’re not willing to be transparent then you should request the services of another operator. 

Before a tow truck provides its services, they must disclose their rates to you. They should also inform you if they receive a financial incentive for towing your car to a certain vehicle storage facility or repair shop.

Before receiving payment, they must provide an itemized invoice that lists the services provided and costs. They should also accept credit cards; insisting on cash payments is a red flag that should be avoided. When you pay with a credit card, this creates a paper trail that could be necessary for settling any future disputes around how much was really paid to the company.

You Have the Right to Say No

While we’re all grateful for the tow truck drivers who help us in moments of need, the unfortunate reality is that not all operators have our best interests at heart. If something doesn’t feel right, you have the right to say no and use another operator’s services.

Don’t fall prey to high-pressure tactics at the roadside used by tow operators and make sure you read and understand any document a tow operator is asking you to sign.

Nobody enjoys having their car towed and the last thing you need is problems with the tow truck company afterwards. By knowing your rights and the important questions to ask, you can get the best tow service possible and avoid headaches over payments down the line.

When the time comes to make an auto insurance claim, you want a team of insurance professionals you can count on. Request a quote now to learn about our auto insurance plans and experience the Cayuga Mutual difference yourself.