If you need to get your vehicle towed it’s a stressful situation. Now you have to worry about tow truck scams as well? How is that even a thing?

Unfortunately it is a thing. So let’s talk about it so you can understand what to look out for and how to avoid being scammed when you need a tow truck.

Previously towing in Canada had been regulated by local bylaws.  However, in 2017 the government of Ontario created new laws to help protect people on the road in need of a tow truck for any reason.

The majority of Ontarians aren’t even aware that there are industry regulations that have been in place now for years. The majority of tow truck drivers are honest decent people just trying to earn a living. However not everyone is out there looking after your best interests. So you need to know what your rights are so you don’t get fleeced.

Your Rights When Getting a Tow

The biggest thing on your mind when you need a tow truck might be the cost. Nobody wants to get ripped off or get wrong information and find out later when the insurance bill comes around.

To make your life easier CAA has published a towing bill of rights which you can read online or print out for easy reference to understand your rights as a motorist. Basically here’s the big takeaways that you need to know-

  1. It is your right to choose who tows your car or truck unless you were instructed by the police otherwise.
  2. You must sign your permission before any tow truck can begin towing your vehicle. Exceptions to this would be if you hold a CAA membership etc.
  3. You have the right to receive a detailed invoice from the towing company which provided service before having to make payment.
  4. The maximum they can be charged over the originally quoted price is 10%.
  5. Payment can be made by credit card and does not have to exclusively be cash.
  6. It is your right to be able to access your vehicle during normal business hours where your vehicle is being stored in order to access your own personal items.
  7. You have the right to be informed by the tow truck driver where your vehicle will be taken.
  8. The tow truck driver must inform you if they’ll be receiving any additional fees (Such as a referral fee from the towing facility or from the mechanic where your car goes.)

Am I Being Chased?

Not to alarm you but you might be chased. Not that kind of chase. What this means is a tow truck driver “Chasing “down a potential toe without being requested by the individual or the police. Some tow truck drivers are unscrupulous and wait for collisions to happen then sweep in quickly to cash in even if the vehicle does not need to be towed.

Drivers are vulnerable in the situations involving in any kind of collision so it’s important to know your rights and what the industry standard so you’re not taken off guard or taken advantage of in a stressful situation.

Be sure you understand any documents you signed from a tow truck driver. A bait and switch tactic that could be horribly effective is signing papers to only later realize you actually approved a work order instead. Now your vehicle might be held hostage and you’re stuck with the bill for services you don’t remember requesting or approving.  If the owner of the vehicle doesn’t pay up or the insurance company refuses to pay then the repair shop can legally sell the vehicle

You’re Not Alone

In an emergency situation you might be approached by a number of tow truck drivers offering you immediate towing services. This is a very tempting situation however, it is not easy to verify if this is a reputable towing company and you’re not going to end up getting the bad end of this deal. It’s advisable in a roadside emergency situation to wait for the police who can ensure the tow truck driver is a credible and reputable professional. Additionally contact your insurance company immediately so they can advise you. Your insurance policy may cover part or all of the towing involved.  At this point you can either contact a reputable towing service in your area to quickly and professionally assist you and get your vehicle towed to the garage of your choice if needed. Just taking things one step at a time when the stress is really high can help you avoid getting scammed and regretting it later.

Hopefully you will never need a tow, but it’s better expect the unexpected and be prepared by knowing your rights in advance when things are calm and you can think clearly. It doesn’t hurt to touch base with your insurance provider so you understand what’s covered in what situations. The rules and regulations vary from province and territory so be sure to check your own locality so you understand your rights so you don’t get taken for a very expensive ride.