I drive an older car that I always knew would break down some day in a bad place and need towed. I figured I could always easily look up the number of a towing company using my phone's internet service if I ever needed to. Recently, my car started making an alarming sound that led to me pulling off the road while driving down the highway. It then wouldn't start back up. I grabbed my cell phone and went to do a web search to find a local towing company, and I realized I had used up all of my data plan for the month! It was late at night, so I had to call and awaken friends until someone answered who could help. I created this blog to help others avoid the same embarrassment as me. Always keep the number of a tow truck company in your car.
Are you thinking of buying a non-running fixer-upper that's half buried in someone's back yard? Are you halfway through a restoration project on a car that doesn't run and isn't registered yet? If you need to get your project car home or to a garage for some mechanical work, there are a few things you need to know before you call for a tow truck. Here's what the auto towing company will ask and what you need to sort out so you can get your car where it needs to go.
Where is it?
Project cars are often in inconvenient locations or in less-than-ideal conditions for the towing company. When they ask where it is, they need to know the street address and where the vehicle is situated, especially if it's well away from a driveway, parking lot or another easy-to-access area. You also need to be accurate with you description so the towing company can calculate how long the job will take. The operators also need to be able to get to the vehicle. If the car has been sitting in a yard or barn for years (or decades) it might be covered with junk or sunk deeply into the ground or blocked by other vehicles or debris. You need to make the car accessible before the driver gets there.
Is it registered?
Some towing services won't tow an unregistered vehicle. This means they might not tow your work in progress, regardless of your state's rules. In some states, a car needs to be registered to be pulled by a tow truck because its wheels will be touching the road. Other states allow an unregistered vehicle to be transported on a flatbed with no problem, but your state may require a transport permit or sticker. Before you arrange for a tow, you'll need to have the legal paperwork and permits whether you've registered the car or not. Don't rely on hearsay either – a quick call to your state motor vehicle office can tell you what you need. It's better to be prepared than to expect the towing company to break the law for you.
Is it insured?
Some companies won't tow an uninsured vehicle. Even if your project car isn't roadworthy yet, you can usually get a temporary insurance policy for transporting a vehicle. It may be for a single trip, a defined period of time, such as 14 days, or for a limited number of miles.
Even if you're excited to get your project car home, or to finally take it to the custom paint shop, don't assume that the towing company can just pick it up and take it. Before you call, make it easy on the driver and take care of all the legalities. Also, make sure the driver can access the car and get it on the towing vehicle safely. The better prepared you are, the faster the operator can get your project car where you need it to go.