Things to Know Before Getting Your Car Towed


So, your car broke down. You’ve called the towing company or are thinking of calling while also looking for tips on making the most of a bad situation. Well, it happens to everyone. 

Maybe, you are in the middle of nowhere or in heavy traffic. Or you have somewhere to be and can’t wait for the tow truck to arrive but are afraid of leaving your car unattended. Or maybe you are worried that the towing company may overcharge or cause more damage while moving your vehicle to the repair shop. 

Whatever the situation is, you are about to get everything you need to find a reputable towing company and have a pleasant experience (given the circumstances). Before we get into it, note that this article assumes that you are using a towing service, not another vehicle, to tow your car. Now that we have settled that, let’s start at the very beginning, even though you may already be a couple of steps ahead.

Find a good spot to park

You don’t want to leave your broken-down vehicle in the middle of the road, even if there is barely any traffic. Get it curbside. Push and ask for help if need be. You also want to avoid any spot that could be considered a traffic violation, such as beside a fire hydrant.

After getting a good parking spot, or even if you can’t get one, the next step is to alert other road users. Do something to make other drivers slow down and avoid hitting your car. 

For example, set cones and flags around your car or leave the hood open. Please avoid the third option if you don’t know much about cars or if the engine is emitting smoke and steam. 

Decide if you need a tow truck

Sometimes you may still be able to drive to the repair shop. For example, if the problem is a flat battery, a jump-start will get your car running again. Likewise, if it’s a flat tire, all you need is a replacement. In any of these cases, you get to avoid the cost and worries of using a towing service.

However, it is better to avoid driving a faulty car. So, here is a Q and A (inspired by AAA) to help you decide whether your car needs towing. Make the call if you answer “No” to the first three questions and “Yes” to the last three.

  • Are the steering wheel and brakes working properly?
  • Are you able to replace the flat tire(s)?
  • Are you able to restart the engine?
  • Is the engine stalling?
  • Are the check engine and oil lights and other indicators blinking?
  • Is there smoke, steam, or noise coming from the engine?

Make the call

Now that you are ready to make the call, you are probably looking for a towing company that will arrive as soon as possible while also providing good service at good rates. The chances of these happening depend on your resources and your ability to do a little research. That being said, there are appropriate parties to call for help.

They include-

  • Your auto insurance company: Your insurance provider deals with similar situations all the time and has a stake in the health of your car. So they have both the resources and motivation to help you get the best and most affordable towing and repair company(s). Ask them for recommendations or to help you make the call.
  • Your credit card company: some credit card companies offer roadside assistance.
  • Your car dealer or manufacturer: this only applies if your warranty is still active.
  • A towing company: You will have to use your judgment more on this one. This tip might help- the company must be reputable and near you.

Whomever you finally get in touch with, give them your exact location, directions and other helpful information. Then ask how long it will take a tow truck to arrive and tell them if you can wait or will have to leave your vehicle behind.

Wait for the tow truck to arrive

At this moment, all you can do is wait. You can do that in the car or somewhere else. It all depends on you. Maybe, while you are waiting, someone that can help may come around. But whether that happens or not, there are three things that you still need to take care of. So, while you wait-

  • Take plenty of pictures: You will need this for insurance purposes. They may also serve as a reference in case the towing company and repair shop try to pass off any further damage (that happened while the car was in their possession) as your fault.
  • Remove your valuables: Take out anything of importance that can be stolen. That includes personal effects and sensitive documents like your driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance papers, etc.
  • Secure your car: This is important, especially if you don’t intend to hang around. Simply locking the doors and windows can discourage breaking and entry, or further damage by forces of nature.

What if you can’t wait

Then this is where we have a slight deviation. Everything that we had discussed up to this point still applies, even from when we talked about “waiting for the tow truck.” But, since you won’t be around to watch over your car or receive the tow truck, you can skip the next tip.

Focus instead on making sure your vehicle is securely parked and that it is easy for the towing company to find and gain access. To do that, give them as much helpful information as possible, leave the key in a predetermined location and be reachable via phone.

Get towed

Once the tow truck arrives, the professional(s) will take over. He will check your papers, hook (using a chain or tow rope) your car to their truck and get it to the repair step. But there are some things that you also have to take care of as well. These include to-

  • Ensure the personnel(s) are reliable: You will have to go with your gut on this one. Just decide if you are willing to trust this person(s) with your car.
  • Check the rates and terms: collect your invoice and ensure that you are not being overcharged.
  • Confirm where they will be taking your car: make sure you have the address and phone number of the repair shop.
  • Disengage the brakes and steering lock: The tow truck driver should take care of this before towing a car. But take it upon yourself to confirm that it is done as failure to do so can damage your car’s brake and steering wheel.