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.
Some tow truck operators may have agreements with body shops and even healthcare providers, where they get paid a referral fee for bringing customers their way, therefore it’s in their best interest to pressure you into using their services.
The issue is that you may not want to be seen by that medical professional or have your vehicle repaired at their preferred 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.
If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you understand the whirlwind of emotions that can overcome you at that moment, and some nefarious tow truck drivers will take advantage of your vulnerability.
To help ensure that you aren’t taken for a ride you never intended to get on, you need to understand what your options are.
Understanding Your Rights
If you live in Ontario, according to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, you have rights as an auto insurance consumer. For example, not only do you have the right for reasonable repair of your damaged vehicle, but you also have the right to choose a repair shop, tow operator or vehicle rental company.
What if I don’t live in Ontario
At the time of writing this article, this new law is only enacted in Ontario.
However, if you have auto insurance, your insurance company may have solutions to help with your towing or repair needs.
Understanding Your Towing Options
Finding a trustworthy towing company may not be your first thought after being involved in a collision, but it should be a priority if you want to ensure your vehicle is handled properly and to help avoid unexpected costs.
Some insurance companies offer roadside assistance to help customers who need a tow. If your vehicle is under warranty with its manufacturer, check to see if they offer roadside assistance.
Understanding your Repair Options
Many insurance companies have partnerships with trustworthy repair shops that are sometimes known as Preferred Service Centres. Once you file a claim, your insurance company would work with these Preferred Service Centres to help fix your car.
What Are the Benefits of Working With a Preferred Service Centres?
- Convenience. It can be challenging trying to find a quality repair shop. Once you contact your insurance company, they can put you in contact with the repair shop that’s right for you.
- Trustworthy. You can also rest easy knowing that you are working with a body shop that has been approved by your insurer and they have an established business relationship.
- Access to Car Rentals. A Preferred Service Centres can often arrange a car rental. This can save you the hassle of finding one on your own.
- Direct Billing. Preferred car repair shops can bill your insurance company directly. This can be helpful if you are unable to make a payment immediately.
- Better Customer Service. Since they work in partnership with your insurance company, Preferred Service Centres are often required to provide updates about the status of your car. You may even get repair estimates approved faster by your insurer.
For Allstate customers, these types of businesses are known as Priority Repair Option (PRO) Shops. Not only do they offer a guarantee of the repair*, but they also have an extensive network for sourcing parts, and customers may be eligible for Allstate’s *Claims Satisfaction Guarantee.
So now that you understand your rights, towing and repair options, we have some tips on how you can protect yourself from a tow scam.
How to Avoid a Tow Scam
- Call your Insurance Company. Assuming that you are alright and don’t need immediate medical attention, you should call and speak with your insurance representative. 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 Preferred Service Centres.
- Check Their Credentials. If a tow truck does appear on scene before you have a chance to speak with your insurance provider, it’s important to check if they are affiliated with a reputable roadside assistance company or automobile association. If they are, great. Do not allow them to take you to any repair shop that is not associated with your insurance provider.
- Do Not Sign Anything Without First Reading It Over. 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, 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 your vehicle there, don’t. The only forms you should sign from the tow truck operator are for towing.
- Do Not Authorize Any Repairs Without First Speaking With Your Insurance Provider. 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 securing 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 (or when) you can gather your personal belongings.
- Take Control of the Situation. 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 repair shops, call your insurance company for a recommendation.
While it may be scary to experience a car accident, always remember that you do not need to succumb to the first available option. Assess the situation and remember that you will always have additional options to help you make an informed decision.
Disclaimer: This information and the websites referenced are provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice. Allstate does not control or guarantee the accuracy of any content on any third-party site. Allstate is not responsible for the privacy practices of any third-party site.
* Certain terms and conditions apply. Contact your Allstate claims professional or local agent for more details.