It’s Monday morning and you’re in a rush to get to work. There’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and the weather is less than ideal. Then, out of nowhere, you’re rear-ended. You feel flustered, but you know to pull to the side of the road to assess the damage and speak with the other driver. All of a sudden, a tow truck pulls up and the operator asks if you need a hand. All you feel is relief knowing help has arrived and you and your car will be taken care of. However that stroke of what felt like luck, could leave you owing a small fortune.
If you’ve driven in a big city like Toronto, Calgary, or Montreal you’ve likely seen tow trucks parked along side major highways waiting to be of service. This may seem like a great idea, especially when you’re in need of help, but what you might not realize is that some operators may not have your best interests at heart. For example, some tow truck operators have agreements with body shops and even healthcare providers, where they get paid a referral fee for bringing customers their way. The issue is that you may not want to be seen by that medical professional or have your vehicle repaired at that body shop. In addition, the referral fee may be charged back to you, or you may have to cover the cost of a re-tow to another location.
To ensure you aren’t taken for a ride you never intended to get on, follow the advice listed below to help keep you, your car, and your wallet protected.
How to avoid a tow scam
- One of the first things you should do is call your insurance company. Whether your car has broken down or you are involved in a collision a claims representative can walk you through the next steps and suggest or arrange for a reputable tow truck driver to come get you and take your vehicle to a reliable repair shop.
- If a tow truck appears on the scene before you get a chance to make the call and you are considering using them, it’s important to check if they are affiliated with a reputable roadside assistance company or automobile association. Remember, you can always say no and tell them you’re working with your insurance company.
- Before you sign anything, carefully read all documents and ask the towing operator to provide you with an invoice that includes a breakdown of all fees, including towing charges and daily storage costs (if applicable). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you feel the cost is too high, never be afraid to check the local bylaws for towing fees and procedures. In the event your tow truck operator asks you to sign off on work from a body shop or car rental company, before bringing you there, don’t. The only forms you should sign from the tow truck operator are for towing.
- When it comes to body shops or car rentals, never give a shop you are unfamiliar with full authorization to begin repairing your vehicle without a detailed breakdown of the work or approval from your insurance company. If you proceed without a clear indication of what the repairs will be, you could face a costly bill that you may be responsible for paying out of pocket. When signing on the dotted line without all the facts, you also jeopardize control of where your vehicle is kept and if/when you can gather your personal belongings.
- Most importantly, remember you are in charge and can decide who is responsible for towing your vehicle, where to have it repaired, and who to get a rental car from (if applicable). Don’t let anyone pressure you into taking your vehicle somewhere you aren’t familiar with. A reliable and respectable tow driver will make sure you feel comfortable and will let you take the lead. If you don’t know of any repairs shops, call your insurance company for a recommendation. They will have agreements with well-vetted vendors to ensure your vehicle is repaired to the highest standards.
Breakdowns and collisions are never fun, and it can be hard to know what to do in the situation. While there are many trustworthy towing operators, companies servicing, and helping Canadians daily, it’s important to be informed and take caution. Your insurance agent can help guide you through what to do and make sure you and your vehicle are protected and cared for.