Towing in the USA

Posted on November 26 2018

This blog refers specifically to the laws of various countries regarding the towing of a car or truck by a specialty wrecker or tow truck.

The towing industry is known to have substantial potential for abuse, as towing most often occurs in difficult situations, without many options for the consumer to turn to. In addition, in certain situations, towing operators may initiate a towing procedure that is unwarranted, and the consumer may be forced to make a payment to the operator before the vehicle is released. Various consumer citizen protection laws have been enacted by many jurisdictions to protect the consumer for predatory towing or predatory towing charges.

Other laws may govern training and licensing of tow truck operators and businesses, safety equipment, safe practices, and special permits for operating on certain roadways or in certain areas.

Towing law in the United States


In the United States, several states have laws that regulate the circumstances under which a car may be towed. Some of these laws are designed to prevent "predatory towing" whereby a legally parked vehicle is towed — or an illegally parked vehicle is towed by a towing operator unaffiliated with the parking facility (private or public) — in order to charge high fees from the owner.[7][8] Even when the predatory tow is stopped, if the vehicle is already hooked up to the tow truck in any fashion, the car is essentially disabled until the operator releases it, and the operator can therefore extort money from the consumer.

Even where towing is performed legally, and even with the consumer's request for a tow, the towing company gains physical possession of the vehicle. The towing fees may be unexpectedly high in the absence of regulation.

In some jurisdictions, kidnapping laws may ban the towing of occupied vehicles. The majority of states require additional mirrors for the vehicles, that tow something behind them[9]. The requirements and regulations differ from state to state. In general, towing mirrors are an addition to the factory vehicle mirrors, that allow seeing farther. The standard mirrors are crafted to reflect what is behind the vehicle, and when a trailer is towed, they reflect the trailer. To see what’s behind it, one needs bigger mirrors that span the coverage of what’s behind the trailer. There are three main types of the towing mirror:

  • Permanently mounted mirrors. They screw into the fender or door of the vehicle and remain in place.
  • Clip-on mirrors. They mount right on the OE mirror by means of a plastic housing, that completely envelopes the mirror that is on the vehicle.
  • Extension mirrors. This type of mirrors is mounted to the OE mirror with the help of a bar, that is clipped onto the edge of the plastic mirror housing.

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