Drivers Education

How Much Can a Tow Company Legally Charge?

How much can a tow company legally charge? Whatever the reason, getting your vehicle towed can be frustrating. You would have to pay for the initial tow and the vehicle storage fee. The extra costs accrued tend to add up pretty quickly. Most car towing companies charge $70 to $150 for towing a standard vehicle. Storage charges will take up another $20 to $40 daily. The costs are lesser in cities due to city contracts. However, rural communities have a higher charge.

Let’s get right in! In this article, we aim to cover topics related to car towing and storage. We will discuss topics such as:

  • how much can a towing company legally charge;
  • can a towing company charge whatever they want;
  • why do towing companies charge so much; and
  • how to negotiate the towing fees

How Much Can a Tow Company Legally Charge?

Can a towing company charge whatever they want?

Most towing companies are privately-owned entities. The implication of being privately-owned means that they can levy whatever price they see fit. These companies base their levies relative to the current market realities. They also consider the prices other towing companies charge within the same region.

Another issue with the towing industry is that it is largely unregulated. Without proper legislation dictating how such businesses should run, the companies are left to charge as they see fit.

One respite coming the way of citizens is that several states are toying with ideas regarding these towing agencies’ unfair treatment of clients. Some states have begun implementing laws concerning fees charged by companies operating in the towing and vehicle storage industry.

These ideas are meant to check these towing companies’ abuses and predatory practices. An example of such predatory practice is towing vehicles parked on private property based on tips from spotters.

Why do tow companies charge so much?

Several factors are involved when determining the towing charge a company should apply. These factors usually influence the reasoning behind excessive charge. When you are charged a towing levy, what you are asked to pay is in two parts;

  • The hookup fee – is charged for hooking your car to the towing truck.
  • The mileage fee is charged regarding the distance the tow driver covers when taking your vehicle. The drop-off location could either be their storage point or your home.

Read also: you could get car back with suspended license

Vehicles stored at the towing company’s storage area attract a daily storage fee meant to cover the cost of vehicle storage till you get it off their lot. Other costs may be included in your fee and may depend on your location and time of calling the business for help (during or after office hours).

Factors affecting your towing charge

While the towing agency usually decides the daily storage fee, you usually rack up more charges with the mileage. The farther your vehicle is towed, the more you would have to pay. This explains why towing fees in rural areas are more expensive than in cities. Vehicles in the city are not towed for long distances, compared to rural areas.

Gate fee

This is the charge levied by the towing company for taking you out of the vehicle during an accident or to open the gate to you. This charge is a no-brainer and often leaves many confused and in shock.


Wenching charge applies when the towing company helps to get your vehicle out of a ditch. It also applies when the vehicle is towed from a difficult terrain or area. Rugged terrain or ditches requires extra labor and time to pull the car out.

Time of day

The time of day you request help also influences the value of your storage and towing fees. You get charged extra when towing requests are made after official business hours. This is because they would have to pay extra to send someone to assist you in getting out of your distress.

The charges for towing and storage services differ vastly from state to state, as there isn’t much legislative framework guiding and regulating the operations of the towing industry.

Vehicle type

You would be expected to pay more if your vehicle is a prominent type. Vehicles above the standard SUV will attract more charges, including hookup and storage. Large vehicles are heavier to hook up to the towing and will require more manpower to lift and take up extra storage space.

Negotiating your vehicle’s towing fees

When charged an excessive amount of money by a towing company for a service rendered, you can negotiate for a price reduction. Your ability to negotiate will depend on the state you live in and if your state has a framework guiding the charges to be levied on you for towing and storing. Some counties have fixed tow and storage prices depending on the car’s size, vehicle type, and required storage condition.

When negotiating a fee reduction from your towing company, you should ensure you talk to the manager or owner. The owner or manager should be one of the first persons you reach out to in a towing company. You can discuss your bill details with them and request an explanation of the charges received.

Next, you can lay out your points as to why you believe the bill is overpriced. Then negotiate on reducing the value of the bill. Negotiation should be persuasive and non-confrontational to get the correct result. You mustn’t upset the person in charge.

Another method of negotiation is to involve your insurance company. You should call your insurer so they can get involved in the matter. As protecting your interest is their job, they would have the required expertise to determine if you are overcharged or not and help to request a downward price reversal from the towing company.

Lawyers skilled in consumer debt relief will know what to do concerning the towing and storage levy. Ask your lawyer – you can likewise request consultations with your lawyer when you feel your towing company has overcharged you.

Such a lawyer must be skilled in consumer debt relief. If he is convinced you are overcharged, you will have the option of charging the case to a judicial court or a bureau of business. However, this should be the last result and be avoided if possible.

It would be best if you calmly negotiated with them, discussing the difficulty of your challenge, and most will be glad to reduce your bill. You can also promise to give a great review of the company on google in exchange for a reduced towing and storage charge.

How much can a tow company charge for storage in California?

In California, for instance, no state law limits the amount of money towing companies charge for offering their service. Individual cities are given the privilege to set their limits. Not all cities within California set similar limits. For example, Oakland has a storage fee of about $100. This price can be down to $32 in Sacramento. But all cities don’t have the same limit. Within the state, the towing and storage fee varies a lot from city to city, but on average, you can expect to pay $50 daily when your vehicle is towed to a company’s storage location.

How much can a tow company charge for storage in New York?

Like in California, the daily storage costs charged by towing companies vary from city to city in New York. Many cities in New York have a cap to stop towing companies from exploiting their clients unnecessarily.

Generally, te towing fees are:

  • Regular Tow fee: $185.00
  • Heavy Duty Tow fee: $370.00
  • Overnight Storage fee: $20.00—NYPD

Syracuse, for example, has a Code of Ordinances which states that storage costs shouldn’t exceed $25 daily, while in Marlborough, the cap is placed at $75 daily. The towing fee, however, varies as much as the storage fees, but the city councils’ limits help protect clients from paying excessive charges for this service.

Read also: if you don’t want to pay, do this…

Final thoughts

There is always a possibility of getting your car towed, which is one thing we never intend to do. Whatever the scenario, accident or empty fuel tank, it is an inconvenience and might be costly too.

Despite the inconvenience and cost, using a towing and storage service will leave you without your car for a while. This can also make transportation somewhat uneasy for you. It would be best if you were careful to ensure your towing company doesn’t add too much to your bill. Luckily, rules are being established to limit the excessiveness of some of these companies.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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