Towing a car can be expensive, especially if it needs to be towed a long distance or requires special services, like getting towed on a flatbed truck or needing towing services on a holiday or a weekend.
The high cost of towing a vehicle means many drivers could benefit from having roadside assistance, sometimes known as a towing and labor policy, whether they purchase it as part of their car insurance coverage or through a separate third-party provider like AAA.
How much does a tow truck cost?
The average cost of a tow truck in the U.S. is $109, according to J.D. Power. But towing rates vary significantly based on when you need a tow, how far you need to be towed, and what type of tow truck is required for your vehicle.
Drivers who have roadside assistance coverage as part of their car insurance policy or as a separate service will usually pay less for a tow than someone who doesn’t have some type of towing and labor coverage.
Towing and roadside assistance
While towing is typically part of any roadside assistance package you purchase, the two services aren’t always connected. According to Kent Robbins, roadside assistance expert and owner of Lock & Go Roadside in Pensacola, Florida, it’s common for the services to be separate.
“Some companies do both but, generally, it's one or the other. Tow companies that don't have a dedicated roadside vehicle can (and do) take roadside calls, but then the [service companies] have to pay tow prices for a service that doesn't require a tow truck.”
When asked about how much customers should expect to pay for towing if it isn’t covered by their roadside assistance plan, Kent said, “There's no hard and fast rule about towing.”
“Some variables include whether or not they are the only tow company in a particular area, what time of day it is, and, frankly, they can charge whatever the market will bear. So, if there's no coverage, shop around [for] the best rates.”
How much does a tow truck cost per mile?
According to J.D. Power, the average per-mile cost for a tow truck is between $2.50 and $7 per mile.
But the cost of a tow will depend on a number of factors, like when you need it (you’ll pay more for towing on the weekend or during a holiday) or why you need it (towing a vehicle after an accident is more expensive than towing a vehicle that broke down on the side of the road.)
Average towing cost
5 miles or less
5 miles to 40 miles
40 miles to 100 miles
Up to $600
If you have any special circumstances to consider, you’ll probably end up paying more for towing. For example, if your car is stuck and requires winching, you’ll probably pay more than someone whose car needs to be towed out of their driveway.
The type of tow truck used will also impact how much you pay for a tow. There are two main types of tow truck: wheel lift tow trucks and flatbed tow trucks.
Wheel lift tow truck
A wheel lift tow truck has hydraulic booms with a crossbar at both ends that can fit under the wheels at either end of your vehicle, depending on the type of transmission. This lets them lift one end of the car so that only two wheels are left on the road.
A wheel lift tow truck is commonly used for two-wheel drive vehicles, especially when they only need to be towed a short distance. Wheel lift tow trucks are also narrower and easier to maneuver than a flatbed tow truck, and are cheaper for the tow company to purchase.
Because of this, it is usually less expensive to have your car towed by a wheel lift tow truck than a flatbed tow truck.
Flatbed tow truck
A flatbed tow truck has a slanted platform that can be lowered to the ground, allowing your car to be driven or winched onto the platform (and secured with chains and straps) so it can be moved.
Cars are less likely to receive further damage after an accident on a flatbed tow truck than if they are towed by a wheel lift tow truck. And because none of the wheels touch the road, the transmission isn’t affected by towing.
Flatbed tow trucks are more expensive to buy than a wheel lift tow truck and more difficult to use when the customer’s car is hard to reach, so it is usually more expensive to have your vehicle towed on a flatbed truck than by a wheel lift truck.
How much does it cost to tow a semi truck?
The cost to tow a semi varies depending on a number of factors, but it can go as high as $1,700 or more, according to an expert at Daniel Towing, of Lewisville, Texas. But keep in mind that cost varies significantly from one company to another based on your location and other factors.
If you drive a semi truck or other large vehicle, it is important to do some research and find out which towing company has the lowest prices in your area before your truck breaks down and needs a tow.