Tips to avoid tow truck rip-offs in the snow

Extricating your car in snowy or icy conditions can sometimes prove tricky. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Deborah S. of Laconia, N.H.)

Extricating your car in snowy or icy conditions can sometimes prove tricky. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Deborah S. of Laconia, N.H.)

Slide-offs are common during heavy snowfall, and the majority of towing company calls during a heavy snow involve pulling cars out of ditches.

Some shady tow truck drivers may try to profit from your misfortune, so here’s how to avoid towing disasters:

Reputation matters

Do a little research before the snow flies. Check Angie's List to find towing companies in your area and read other members' experiences with them. Add the numbers of a couple of reputable towing services to your cell phone so that you have good help literally at your fingertips.

Ask if the company accepts credit card payments. Some may require cash.

Don’t call me, I’ll call you

Beware the truck driver who shows up unannounced in an unmarked vehicle offering to drag your car out of the ditch.

In states that require a towing license, reputable towing companies will display their Department of Transportation certification number on their tow truck. That certification indicates the company is insured and certified for the job. Should something go even more wrong, you’re covered. 

Licensing of tow trucks varies by state. To find out if it's required where you live, consult our handy Angie's List License Check online tool.

Fair weather pricing

You shouldn’t have to pay a surcharge because it’s cold. If your vehicle is in a really tricky spot and will require a lot of extra work or time, expect that cost to grow.

Get a cost estimate upfront before you arrange for the driver to come to you, and if the estimate seems out of whack from the average, call another company.

Oh Snap!

If you have a smart phone or camera, take a picture of your car before the driver gets there so you can have a record of what it looked like before and after the work.

Sign off

When you sign off on the job, make sure your signature is right below the dollar amount you’re to be charged to minimize the chances that additional charges will be added in there without your knowledge.


Once the job is done, insist on both an invoice and a copy of your receipt to ensure you’re billed for authorized charges only.

Already covered?

Check your auto insurance to determine if you’re paying for roadside assistance and the process you follow. If you belong to a third party assistance organization, be sure you understand your coverage.

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Two problems here, one is the line in the article that states, "Reputable towing companies will display their Department of Transportation certification number on their tow truck." I can assure you we are a reputable towing service and have been in business since 1987 WITHOUT a DOT number because it is NOT REQUIRED. It is only required (at least in Florida) for interstate trucking and those trucks that are over 26,000 pounds gross (that's a heavy duty tow truck, not the one that picks up your Camry or F150). Second item is the comment submitter writing about license. In Florida a tag for a tow trucker says "WRECKER" at the bottom. I have no idea in what state the "towing and repair" tag is used, but I'm guessing something in the northeast. The wrecker tag here carries no draconian requirements like those stated. My insurance is not 20x (I pay $3-4000/year), I am not required to carry any particular amount of insurance; I don't have background checks done (bring it on; I'm a retired Marine); and I don't get inspected by the state. I am also an independent company without a repair shop; all I do is tow and all my customers have their cars towed to wherever they ask me to take them. I'm afraid the writer comes across as somewhat less than professional with his bad spelling, bad grammar, bad punctuation, and lack of capitalization.

Thanks so much for altering us to the issue in this article, John. As you've pointed out, some states like Florida do not require licensing of tow truck services. But other states, do. I have clarified that in the article and provided a link to our License Check tool so that readers can see whether their state requires it. Hopefully, you don't get many calls in Florida this season from distressed vehicles in the snow and ice!

I like the plate idea. WHAT STATE?

after seeing story after story about rip offs i agree and had it my self but there is a simple solution to all of this. just look at the tow trucks plate if its not a repair and towing plate its most likely not a real tow company. To get repair and towing plates the insurance is 20 times more than a truck plate you have to have a back ground check done, 1000000 policy, and a shop inspected by the state. most trucks are running regular truck plates on there tow trucks they dont have the proper insurance and if that car comes off the hook there not covered. Are trucks are logoed with are company name were a real body shop were we can repair your car with a life time warranty. dont let a company thats not a repair shop take your car they will charge you for the tow and storage for what its going to have to go to a repair shop next so let a body shop tow truck tow in once not two times. so remember repair and towing plates or tell them to leave and save time and money

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