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Friday, October 18, 2019

These Tow Truck Tricks are No Treat

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
Picture this: You’re out driving along a lonely stretch of highway late at night when your Check Engine light comes on.  A minute later, your car engine dies and you coast to the curb.  Popping on the flashers and opening the hood, you get out to see if you can determine what caused your car to stall.  Only the problem isn’t evident.  The serpentine belt is still firmly attached and there isn’t a hint of smoke or any fluid leaking from under the vehicle.  Just as you head back to call for a tow truck, one appears from out of nowhere.  Seeing you standing there, the tow truck driver winds down his window and asks you if you need some help.  What would you do?

If you’re like most stranded motorists, the answer is obvious.  You’re only too happy that a tow truck happened along.  You think to yourself, “Why wait for who knows how long for the motor club to dispatch a tow truck when providence sent one to my rescue?”  While this presumption might seem like an all too logical choice, you could be in for a rough ride.

1.      Rogues on the Road – Rogue tow trucks are a scourge that most motorists don’t know exist, until they find out the hard way.  Whether you readily acquiesce to let these rogues of the road tow your vehicle, or succumb to their high-pressure hard sell tactics, once your car, truck or van is on the hook, so are you for who knows how much.  Like it or not, rogue towing companies aren’t looking to help stranded motorists.  They roam the road hoping to help themselves to a handsome reward.  Or worse, they plan on holding your vehicle hostage in their tow yard until you cough up the cash. 

Image courtesy flickr
2.      No More Mister Nice Guy – While some rogue operators come on strong, others turn on the charm when they pull up to offer you assistance.  Others misrepresent themselves as having been dispatched by your insurance company, auto club or even the police.  They look to pray on stranded motorists or those who have just had an auto accident.  The Cheshire Cat grin these slippery operators put on as they ask you to sign a document that permits them to tow your disabled vehicle will quickly evaporate the minute you reach their tow yard.  Then the gloves will be off when the shakedown begins.  Fail to pay through the nose and you’ll find your vehicle impounded behind a chain link fence.   

3.      Driver Beware – Finding out you’ve been had by one of these rolling rip-off artists will be little compensation when you consider what it will take to reclaim your vehicle.  While you can complain to the authorities and your insurance company, the rogue operator will simply show them the document you signed authorizing the tow.  While you can file a complaint with the BBB or online, this does little to deter dyed-in-the-wool rogue operators, since they don’t exactly rely on word of mouth to solicit new business.

4.      What you can do. – Never accept a tow from an operator you don’t know.  If you call your insurance company, leasing company or auto club to request a tow truck, always make sure you get the name of the company they are going to dispatch.  If a truck with the wrong name or no name pull up to claim they were dispatched by AAA or your insurance company, call the toll-free number you used to order the tow and verify that this was the towing company sent.  If not, tell the driver, “Thanks but no thanks.”  If the driver tries to pressure you into letting him tow your vehicle away, tell him to back off or the next sound he’ll hear will be a police siren after you call the cops. 

Image courtesy PxHere
5.      Before you sign on the dotted line – Always make sure you read any agreement you are asked to sign before you let a tow truck driver hook up your vehicle.  On the agreement you need to see a printed price list, as well as documentation of where your vehicle is going to be towed, if it isn’t going to be taken to a location of your choosing.  You also need to demand to see a rate sheet that details all storage fees and miscellaneous charges that may apply once your vehicle is towed.  If the tow truck driver refuses to provide all of the above, refuse to let him hook your vehicle to the truck.  If the driver insists on having you provide him with your insurance information, this is also a sure sign that he’s up to no good, especially if it was your insurance company that supposedly arranged the tow.  Also, never let a tow truck driver suggest an auto repair facility, since it’s possible he is in cahoots with the mechanic.  If you are out of town when you find yourself in need of auto repairs, call your insurance company or auto club to get a referral. 

6.      How rogue operators happen to be nearby when you need a tow. – It’s no accident tow truck drivers are Johnny on the spot when it comes to stranded motorists.  That’s because they troll the airwaves by monitoring police scanners or pay finder’s fees to spotters who keep on the lookout for stranded motorists.  So profitable is it, that it’s not unusual for a number of tow trucks to show up at the scene of an accident looking to cash in.  While some of the operators are legitimately called out by the police, never assume that’s the case if you’re ever involved in an accident.

7.      Know Your rights – When it comes to towing, Florida motoristss have rights.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is so do tow truck operators.  Here are a few facts you need to know:

a.       The vehicle owner may dispute a wrecker operator’s lien in writing on a form provided by the DMV.  
b.      A wrecker operator recovering, towing, or storing vehicles is not liable for damages connected with such services, theft of such vehicles or vessels, or theft of personal property contained in such vehicles. 
c.       A wrecker operator is required by Florida statute 713.78 to provide a fenced in and guarded lot to store vehicles.
d.      A wrecker operator may not operate a wrecker, tow truck, or car carrier unless the name, address, and telephone number of the company performing the service is clearly printed in contrasting colors on the driver and passenger sides of its vehicle.
e.       For more information on statute 713.78, go to

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. It's surprising to many people how many crafty conmen are out there waiting to put the bite on us all.

  2. I try to keep my automobile in tip top shape just so I never have to deal with tow companies.


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