When you've had a car accident, tensions are generally running high. You're feeling stressed out, shaken and emotional; traffic is building up behind you and drivers are getting testy. All you want is get your car off the road andit will be fixed up.
Then a towing service magically arrives. You're instantly relieved. The temptation is strong to sign whatever is put in front of you and get on your way. But there is a truckload of reasons why you should stop, take a deep breath, and keep your wits about you.
Here’s why: Most states have towing service regulations (except WA) because it wasn't that long ago that some dodgy tow truck companies would try to extract the maximum fees from people in shock. Some would even insist drivers sign documentation that locked them into using a specific smash repairer with inflated fees – more than their insurance policy allowed for – leaving them seriously out of pocket.
Here's what to ask the towing service before you agree to their terms:
- Can you wait until I call my insurer to check I’m covered? In Australia, it's illegal for a towing company to pressure you into choosing their services. If you feel uncomfortable, don't let the driver load your car onto the truck until you've talked to your insurer to check your policy covers the service. If you need extra time to think, ask them to take your vehicle to your home address – that way you won't be stuck with exorbitant storage fees. And don't feel bullied if your car is already on the truck – it can be just as quickly taken off.
- What is this form? Why should I sign it? You should only ever sign a regulatory towing authorisation form at the scene of an accident. This should only ask appropriate information about your car and your contact details, so be wary of any form that asks for more detailed info. Read the fine print carefully to check for dodgy terms and conditions. Don't sign if it's blank or incomplete. Also, make sure you get a copy.
- Is your business fully insured? What if something happens to your car in-transit – for instance, it slips off the truck due to being poorly secured and causes property damage? If the driver can show you details of insurance, all the better.
- How many tow trucks does your company have? A larger company will have a fleet of tow trucks and perhaps more accountability, so you’re less likely to experience problems.
- Where will you tow my car? Will your vehicle be taken straight to a smash repairer or will it be put in storage until you can decide what to do with it (specifically for cars that are likely to be written off)? The average storage fees should be around $25 per day, so beware any daily fee that is substantially higher. Make sure you get the address your car's going to, where it will be stored and the full towing fee – and remember, you're legally entitled to choose where your vehicle is towed.