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Maybe you have broken down, had an accident, or for some reason, your vehicle won’t start. What should you do?
In each of these uncomfortable, sometimes traumatic situations, moving your vehicle may require the services of a tow truck. If this is a new experience for you (one which we do not wish on anyone!), we would like to offer some comfort in guiding you through the process.

What is my first move?

If your vehicle is insured, start by contacting your insurance company to find out about your options. Some packages offer full cover for one tow, whilst others may partially assist with the costs. Whatever the case, getting some professional advice before making any decisions is a wise step to take. You may already know that your insurance company offers towing coverage; you can directly contact the emergency towing assistance number given by your insurer.

If you do not have insurance, try finding out about different towing companies – their services and rates. This may seem daunting, especially when in an emergency situation. A good place to start would be to consult with friends and family, if possible. Having someone you trust vouch for a particular company may grant you some peace of mind in the decision-making process. Alternatively, look out for reviews, or accredited company names. 

What are my rights?

Most importantly, it remains your decision regarding which towing company you would like to make use of, as well as where you want your vehicle to be dropped off. Motorists are sometimes pressured into making a decision quickly, but it is key that you take your time and feel comfortable with what you decide. Remember, your vehicle may not be removed without your confirmed consent (only in the case of serious injury or physical inability to contact a towing service, will a police officer or member of the emergency crew have to make this decision for you).

Police involvement

Although in most situations you will have sole authority over the removal of your vehicle, in special cases, this responsibility will belong to the South African Police Service (SAPS). If there has been a road accident in which –

  • a person was killed;
  • a person was seriously injured;
  • the driver was arrested for driving under the influence of liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect; or
  • the vehicle was somehow connected with the commission of an offence,

the police will have jurisdiction over the removal of the vehicle. The central command centre will dispatch a contracted towing service provider, who will then take the vehicle to a police facility for safekeeping and/or further investigation.

Where does my vehicle go?

There are multiple options when it comes to the destination of your vehicle once it has been towed. Again, unless you are in some way incapacitated, or the police has had to take over, this detail remains your choice alone. Here are a couple of places you may decide to send your vehicle to, depending on its state:

1) An Inspection Centre

If your vehicle is insured, having it taken to an inspection centre is a good start. Here, an assessor will be able to judge its condition, and advise you on whether or not your vehicle needs to be written off or whether it can be repaired. Whatever the case, getting specialist advice in line with your insurance policy is always helpful and will help you make a definitive decision on your next move.

2) A Repair Service Centre

If your assessor has suggested that fixing the vehicle is possible, it can be taken straight to a repair centre, provided there is one open at the time. Again, which centre your vehicle should be taken to is completely up to you. If you do not have any preferences, it may just be taken to the nearest one. If you do not have insurance, this is where you could send your vehicle first thing. A basic assessment can also be done here, and will allow you to avoid moving the car twice.

3) The Junkyard

This is where written-off vehicles are taken. It is recommended to only take your vehicle here if it is a definite write-off and is not insured.

4) A Residential Address

If your vehicle is being towed outside the working hours of inspection or repair centres, having it dropped off at your home or at that of a friend or family member, will keep you from having to pay additional storage fees.

What will I pay?

The bill for a towing service often catches people by surprise, because of supposedly unknown costs. These may include charging for the actual service, the distance travelled, storage and administration fees (if your vehicle needs to be temporarily kept at a facility), security, and VAT.

Before your vehicle is taken anywhere, make sure you have a very clear agreement regarding what you will be paying. Ask as many questions as you need to, and read all forms thoroughly to avoid being caught off guard.

As mentioned earlier, if your insurance package covers towing charges, you may be able to evade shelling out too much, or anything at all. With this, however, take time to confirm with your insurance company which costs will be covered – sometimes the towing service will be included, but storage fees will not.

Additional tips

  • Gather key information about a tow truck operator before your vehicle is removed. This includes the company name, address and contact number of the dispatch unit, name of the driver, and the registration details of the tow truck.
  • Remove any valuables (including things like jumper leads) before the vehicle is towed away.
  • Towing companies should offer updates on the estimated arrival time of the tow truck, as well as when your vehicle has been safely dropped off at its destination. This can go directly to your insurer; however, you may request that this information be shared with you too. Keep your phone on loud and close by, in case you receive SMS confirmation or calls to check that everything is on track.
  • Try your best to stay calm during the process, and take your time to make important decisions.

Getting involved in an accident, or having your vehicle let you down can be an incredibly stressful situation and may leave your mind in a scramble regarding what to do first. We at Tow Truck Services hope that this guide has been useful in leading you through each stage of a vehicle removal, and wish you all the best on this journey.