How to Avoid Being Ripped off by Your Punk Tow Truck Driver

Six steps to help stick it to pesky wreck chasers.

byShari Gab| UPDATED Mar 20, 2018 10:20 AM

Chances are if you need a tow truck at all, your day is already broken. But like it or not, vultures come to prey on the most vulnerable and that reality most certainly bleeds into the towing industry in NYC. 

By name, “wreck chasers,” are out there eagerly awaiting your misfortune and ready to rake you over the coals. 

According to a report from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, New Yorkers in particular are at great risk following accidents for being scammed by towing companies. The survey, in coordination with PCI’s other member companies, states that New York State ranks fifth in most need of legislation in regard to towing among all of the 50 states. 

PCI’s insurance industries lay out a handful of the below-the-belt tactics that the towing companies use, including:           

  • Creative billing practices such as levying fees and charges to increase the bill
  • Charging exceedingly high daily storage rates
  • Making it difficult to recover a towed vehicle 
  • Creating obstacles to gaining access in order to get personal effects

On the public policy side, there’s some room for improvement beginning with eliminating the federal pre-emption on state regulation of accident and breakdown towing. This would allow states to protect drivers from shady towing practices and fees the same way they currently do for “non-consent” towing. 

Beyond that, invoices should itemize all tow charges for transparency and owners should be provided with crystal clear information about storage fees and storage facility hours. There should also be special attention to when storage facilities would be closed and the car can't be released. And the number one, and quite an obvious measure of reform would be to prohibit wreck chasing, where an unsolicited truck arrives on the scene of an accident. 

But while policy moves at a glacial pace and wreck chasers fight for their right to parlay, PCI does offer a helpful checklist for motorists to avoid scams. Here’s a tidy breakdown of driver’s rights.

  • You can refuse a tow for any reason
  • You may choose who will tow your vehicle
  • You decide where your vehicle will be towed
  • You should get an itemized statement of the charges
  • You should receive a copy of the towing authorization form 
  • You should request to see a valid towing permit and company identification

All good things to know before you get towed.