Having your car towed is no fun, no matter the reason. Not only do you have to pay for the initial tow, but they also charge you just to have your car sitting on their lot in the form of storage fees. Additional costs can quickly add up. I have been an insurance adjuster for over 20 years and have looked at thousands of tow bills so I can give you a definitive answer.
On average, towing companies charge around $70 to $150 to tow a standard vehicle. They then charge between $20 to $40 daily for storage. In the city, you can expect to pay less on average since there are usually city contracts in play. In rural areas, the costs are usually at least 50% higher.
In this article, we will cover several topics related to the topic of towing and storing your car, such as whether companies can charge as much as they want and why they charge so much, how to negotiate towing fees. Let’s jump right in!
Can a Towing Company Charge Whatever They Want?
Towing companies are often privately-owned companies, so technically, they can charge whatever they think is fair, related to the market they’re in, and taking into account prices that other towing companies in their area are charging.
This industry is also a fairly unregulated one, with little-to-no legislation in place to regulate how people run their business or how much they are allowed to charge for their services. This is sometimes taken advantage of, and towing companies will end up charging their clients an exorbitant fee to tow and store their cars.
However, a number of states are starting to experiment with ways they can address and mitigate these abuses, especially in the interest of trying to reduce “predatory” towing practices (such as towing away a car parked illegally on a no-park area or private property because of a tip from a “spotter”). They are starting to implement certain regulations pertaining to the fees involved in the towing and storage industry.
Why Do Tow Companies Charge So Much?
There are quite a few factors that influence how much towing companies charge and why they deem it necessary to charge so much.
What you are paying for when someone tows your car is usually a ‘hook-up’ fee as well as a fee to cover the mileage that is run up by the tow truck driver to take your car from its pick-up location to the drop-off location (which is usually either your home or their lot where it is stored until you are able to pick it up again).
If they tow your car back to their lot for storage, you will also need to pay a daily storage fee to store your car in their lot until it can get fixed (if it was damaged) or until you are able to pick it up again (because of legal reasons, for instance).
However, there are other costs that may come into play, depending on where you are located and whether you call them during or after business hours.
- Mileage- The towing “hook-up” fee is usually a flat fee decided on by the towing company, as well as the daily storage fee. However, where your towing service fees may increase drastically is in the mileage fee. The farther your car has to be towed, the more your mileage fee will be. For this reason, you’ll often find that towing fees in cities are less expensive than out in the country since your car wouldn’t need to be towed as far if you lived in a city.
- Gate fee- This one always makes me scratch my head. Some tow companies will charge you just to take you out to your car to either get the stuff out of it (if it is totaled) and/or to open the gate for you.
- Wenching- If the tow company has to get your vehicle out of a ditch or some other hard to reach place, they will charge extra. These fees are legitimate since it can take a considerable amount of time and labor to extra a car from certain spots.
- Time of day- Another factor that influences how much your towing and storage fees will be is whether or not you request the service during business hours. Towing companies will often charge you extra if you need towing assistance after business hours because that would mean that they would need to send someone out, especially to help you after they had already gone home from work for the day.
Towing and storage service fees vary greatly from state to state, as there is not much legislature in place to set out parameters for what towing companies can and should be charging for their services.
The Type of Vehicle Matters
Expect to pay more if you drive an oversized vehicle. Anything non-standard and above the size of a standard SUV will get charges more for everything from hookup to storage. I have seen tow bills for semi-trucks that were thousands of dollars. More commonly, if you drive a box truck you can expect a standard tow to be at least $200 and storage around $50 to $75 per day.
How to Negotiate Towing Fees
If a towing company is charging you an obscene amount of money for their services, there may be a chance that you can negotiate with them to reduce their price. However, it will greatly depend on where you live, as some states and counties have certain rules set in place that will generate a fixed towing and storage charge depending on the kind of car you have as well as the type of storage it will need.
- Talk to the owner or manager- When negotiating your towing fees, the first and easiest thing you can do is go directly to the towing company and speak to a manager or someone who is in charge. Show them your bill and ask them what each charge on your bill is for, and if there is something that seems overpriced, you can negotiate with them to bring the price down. Be nice and non-confrontational to get the best results. Tow companies deal with angry and belligerent people all day long, don’t add on to their headache.
- Call your insurance company- Another thing you can do is to talk to your insurer about the matter. They will likely know if you are being over-charged and will be able to take the necessary steps to negotiate with a towing company to get the fees reduced to an amount that is within range of what should be charged in a case like yours.
- Litigate- The next thing you can do is take your issue to a lawyer and ask them for advice on the matter. It is a good idea to ask a lawyer that specializes in consumer debt relief, as they will know what can and cannot be done in your case. If the lawyer thinks it’s worth a shot, you can take your case to a judicial court or to a bureau of business. This should be your last result and avoided if at all possible.
I have dealt with tow yards for 2 decades and they are generally very nice folks. Overstressed, yes– but nice people just the same. The vast majority are just trying to run a legitimate business and not trying to screw anyone over.
If you just calmly talk to them and tell them your situation, they will almost always help you out if possible. If all else fails, offer to give them a good Google review if they cut the bill down some.
How Much Can a Tow Company Charge for Storage in California?
In California, the state law does not cap the amount of money that towing companies can charge for towing and storage; however, individual cities can, and most of them do. But all cities don’t have the same limit. In Sacramento, for instance, storage fees can be up to $32, whereas they can move all the way up to $100 in Oakland.
Storage fees can vary greatly in California, and towing fees even more so, but you can expect to pay on average $50 per day that your car is stored in a towing company’s storage lot.
How Much Can a Tow Company Charge for Storage in New York?
In New York, the daily storage costs can also vary greatly from city to city. However, most cities do have a limit in place to stop towing companies from charging more than necessary.
The fees for having your vehicle towed vary just as much as the storage fees, but luckily they do have limits to protect you from having to pay a crazy amount of money for often very critical service.
Having to have your car towed is possibly one of the worst things you’ll ever have to do. Whether you were in an accident or whether you’ve run out of gas, getting your car towed is an inconvenience regardless and on top of that, it can sometimes cost you a pretty penny, too.
Not only is getting your car towed a nuisance, but it can also leave you with unnecessary debt and without a car for several days. Towing companies often charge a lot more than they should and add unnecessary charges to your bill. Luckily, the rules are being established that will prohibit towing companies from charging more than they are allowed to in the near future.
I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!
For more, check out Can I Use My AAA for Someone Else?
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