Towing service

Nobody wants to have to call a towing service, but like a good insurance plan, you’ll want to have quality care on the way when the service is really needed. Towing companies across the United States often provide roadside towing services for cars, light trucks, SUVs, and other light/medium duty towing in addition to a range of other services. How can you find a reputable towing company, what should you consider, and why should you be careful calling just any old tow truck?

Let’s have a look at some of the bread-and-butter services offered by most towing companies in the US:

Common types of towing services

Naturally, a towing company should be able to tow your vehicle away, but there are many types of towing services for different situations and different categories of vehicle. Some common services include:

  • Light-duty towing: cars, trucks, and SUVs are among the most common vehicles to break down on the side of the road or highway. Fortunately, nearly all towing companies will be able to tow away most cars and smaller vehicles with ease. Light towing generally goes up to around 10,000 lbs of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
  • Medium-duty towing: For slightly larger vehicles, medium-duty tow trucks excel at towing Class C motor homes, one-ton pickup trucks, delivery vehicles, small campers & RVs, buses, hitch trailers, and more. Medium-duty towing ranges from about 10,000 lbs to 26,000 lbs of GVWR.
  • Heavy-duty and truck towing: some towing companies specialize in heavy-duty towing for large vehicles such as construction equipment, oversized trailers, and much more. Generally, heavy-duty towing starts at about 26,000 lbs, but the upper limit really depends on what needs to be towed, of course.
  • Flatbed towing: perhaps the most common and best way of towing cars and other smaller vehicles is with a flatbed tow truck. Most reputable towing companies in the US use flatbeds nowadays.
  • Winch and recovery services: sometimes, your car breaks down in the parking lot or in a convenient spot on the side of the road, but what about the times when your car is in a difficult-to-reach location such as a ditch or in deep mud or water? Any good towing company will be able to respond quickly with winch & recovery services designed to dislodge your vehicle from its current location and to prepare it for safe towing.
  • Mobility: naturally, the most important service that a towing company provides is simply towing the vehicle from one place to another. Where is the vehicle going and how far does it need to be towed? Will the towing company be able to respond by dispatching a tow truck and operator to your current location, perhaps stranded on the side of the interstate miles away from home?
  • Operability: many tow truck operators can assist stranded drivers with emergency repairs or roadside assistance, as there is a lot of overlap between these types of services. These will be discussed below.

In addition to these core services, each towing company will have its own specific operating hours and rates. Many towing companies stop answering after midnight, but others will be glad to come and help you out after hours - often for a higher fee. In any case, it’s always wise to ask them the questions of price and availability.

Ancillary services

Most of the time, towing companies don’t just provide towing but rather supplement their companies with many other related services. Since they’re already dealing with disabled or destroyed vehicles, many tow truck operators also double as emergency roadside assistance, able to provide jump-starts, jerrycans for emergency fuel, or automotive locksmithing services.

The specific services offered by each company may vary, so always ask first if they provide the type of service you require. TowGator makes it easy for you to get in touch with towing companies near you, anywhere in the US, that provide a wide range of roadside emergency assistance services, towing, and much more.

Whose vehicle is being towed?

The question of ownership is an important one when it comes to towing. On the one hand, having your own vehicle towed from the side of the highway is a pretty clear indication that you’re taking responsibility for the towing. Another more pernicious type of towing called predatory towing is a whole other kettle of fish.

Predatory towing is essentially a bunch of unethical practices used by towing companies (and sometimes property owners) to price gouge vehicle owners and hold their vehicle as a sort of ransom. What sometimes happens is that property owners will hire parking lot ‘spotters’ to report vehicles immediately to a towing company, who are all too happy to come tow the car away for the tiniest of infractions. Parking where you aren’t supposed to, or perhaps there was no ‘no parking’ sign clearly displayed are both common causes of complaint when it comes to predatory towing.

Although this practice is not illegal, many states have introduced legislation to curb the behaviors that lead to predatory towing. For example, California has passed a bill that aims to give more leniency to vehicle owners before they are forcefully removed by a towing company. This follows on California’s Vehicle Code bill AB 2210, which requires that towing operators release the vehicle unconditionally and immediately should the owner physically arrive before it’s towed away.

If the vehicle you need to have towed is not your own, choose a reputable towing company that does not engage in predatory towing practices. The vehicle owner will not likely be very happy to receive a towing bill no matter the circumstances, but you would be doing a better service by supporting an honest and genuine towing company rather than be met with potential lawsuits or legal disputes that can arise over ridiculously high towing bills.

The towing process explained

Step 1: Find a towing company

Whether you’re at home, in the office, or stranded on the side of the interstate, you’ll need to find a towing company first. Online searches for ‘tow truck near me’ may bring up a few of the more well-known towing companies, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to provide you with the quality rapid assistance you need.

Instead of searching through each website you see on the first few pages of search results (which simply means they have better marketing budgets than their competitors), use an online marketplace for towing companies that have been vetted and approved. TowGator makes it easy to find reputable, reliable, and speedy towing services near you.

Step 2: Negotiate with the towing operator

Once you’ve found a towing company near you using TowGator, get in touch with them easily by phone or email. Not sure how much it’ll cost? Simply request a free, no-obligation quote. Our member towing providers will provide you with a transparent, accurate quote for the expected work to be carried out, so no more nasty surprises from unscrupulous towing operators.

Step 3: Arrange for towing

Once you’re satisfied with the price and have worked out the job with the towing company, you’ll need to arrange for the towing itself. Same-day or next-day services may be ideal for less urgent situations, but if you’re stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night, you want a rapid response (within the hour!).

Step 4: Leave a helpful review

If you’ve gotten your vehicle towed by a company listed on TowGator, go ahead and leave a helpful review if you’re satisfied with the service you received. This goes a long way towards helping small, local, and independent towing companies build a positive reputation. It’s also an excellent way of alerting any future customers of what to expect.

Why choosing a reputable towing service is necessary

It’s quite unfortunate that to many Americans, the towing industry has a bit of a sour reputation. While it is true that there are many less-than-reputable towing companies out there, most tow truck operators are honest and genuine folks trying to earn a decent living. It’s just that the bad apples leave such a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who’s ever had a bad experience.

Here’s why you should choose a reputable towing company:

Avoid price gouging

Towing companies that have a bad reputation tend to be the same culprits that frequently gouge their customers with towing bills that are a few hundred dollars more than they should be. Even worse, the feeling that your car is being held ransom for an unreasonable sum of money isn’t something anyone should have to deal with.

By sticking with reputable companies, you can have greater peace of mind that the prices you’ve been quoted are reasonable and the company won’t hold try to pull a fast one on you. TowGator only permits towing companies that have been thoroughly vetted and approved to be listed.

Superior safety

A reputable towing company will have sufficient expertise to ensure that the towing job will be done safely and without exposing you or others on the road to unnecessary risk. There are tens of thousands of crashes every year in the US from improper towing, many of which could have been avoided with proper caution.


Flatbed towing and using the proper equipment will also better preserve the condition of your vehicle, which is why reputable towing operators will have flatbed trucks on hand for smaller vehicles as well as the winches to yank them out of ditches or wherever they may be, safely.

Experience and reliability

A towing company with a good, positive reputation also likely has plenty of industry experience. They likely also have a good track record of reliability, showing up to the towing location on time consistently. These qualities are important since many times you need the tow truck at your location immediately and without delay.

Cowboy towing companies often lack experience and do not have a positive reputation, otherwise they would obtain the proper licensing (such as a commercial driver’s license in PA, for example) and have their business in good standing.

Fully registered and compliant

The requirements to operate as a legal tow truck operator in the US depends quite a bit from state to state. There is no one-size-fits-all registration for anyone in America to become a registered to truck operator, but generally the first place one should look is to the state’s Department of Transportation.

For example, Washington state has a thorough checklist for anyone looking to transport vehicles in their state. In addition to state requirements, many towing companies operate on an apprenticeship scheme whereby aspiring young tow truck operators learn from more experienced tradespeople. Generally, a GED and some post-secondary continuing education are all that are necessary education-wise, but let’s face it, towing is something that is learned by doing.

Reputable tow truck operators have all of the required registration and licensing in place, are insured for their work, and only employ people that are qualified and responsible to carry out the work. If a towing company is afraid to show you their qualifications, they very likely are operating illegally as ‘cowboys.’

How much should a tow cost?

The cost of towing a vehicle depends on many factors, such as:

  • State and county: your location matters a lot because some states such as Colorado tend to be far more expensive, on average, for towing rates, whereas in Texas the costs are significantly lower than the national average.
  • Terrain and vehicle location: if your car is in an easy-to-reach location such as in a parking lot or on the side of the road, it’ll be a lot easier to load the vehicle onto the flatbed and much less labor is required than if the car is in a ditch or in muddy or tough terrain, for example.
  • Vehicle size: most typical passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs are no problem for a good towing operator, but large, oversized vehicles or trailers often require specialized towing equipment and expertise that can drive up costs.
  • Time of day: most towing companies charge flat rates for call-outs, but these rates can go up drastically after hours, such as after midnight, on weekends, public holidays, etc.

More information regarding towing prices can be found on our prices page, including average prices for towing hook-up fees and per-mile fees in the United States.

Cool facts about vehicle towing in the US

Towing, like most inventions, came about by necessity. Although most of us don’t want to call for a tow truck, it’s a good thing we have them for those sticky situations when they’re absolutely vital. Below are some cool facts which you may not have known about towing in the US:

  • Since 1986, Chattanooga, Tennessee has been home to the International Towing Museum. The museum may not be too old, but the city and museum share a deep history dating back over a century to the birth of the first known towing inventions.
  • The inventor of the tow truck was Alabama native Ernest W. Holmes Sr., who first adapted towing parts to a 1913 Cadillac. He founded the first known towing company Ernest Holmes Co, which still lives on today in Chattanooga as Miller Industries. This means the first tow truck wasn’t even a truck, but rather a classy Cadillac with a retrofitted iron hook and chain.
  • The first tow truck patents date to 1916. Many of Holmes’ wreckers were sent abroad to Europe during both world wars.
  • The world’s biggest tow truck was built in Quebec, Canada. This million-dollar machine comes with an 80-ton boom for all but the heaviest of towing. It is currently used by Mario’s Towing in Kelowna, British Columbia.
  • Towing is a serious business. Tow truck operators and technicians often do more than simply attaching a vehicle to a winch - in fact, most tow truck operators are proficient at emergency roadside repairs, locksmithing, and much more.
  • The most popular type of tow truck used in the US is the flatbed truck. Although historically the hook and chain were widely used (they are still what most people think of when they think of towing), flatbeds are a much safer solution in most common situations.

Where should I look for reputable towing near me?

Finding a reputable towing company near you doesn’t need to be a hassle. Simply enter your ZIP code above to find reliable and trustworthy towing companies where you are. Our platform makes it easy to find qualified tow truck operators near you and to get quick, free, and no-hassle quotes as well as to get directly in touch with them for urgent assistance.