Tow trucks are an essential part of any city’s automobile services. Hundreds of vehicles break down and are left at the side of the road for help, or many vehicles are illegally parked daily. Tow truck businesses have their work cut out for them as they take to the streets and transport vehicles to repair shops and impounds across the country. If you are planning to start a tow truck business, it can be helpful to learn the types of tow trucks, their functions and uses, and, of course, their cost.
Tow trucks are essential to our automobile-filled society as these commercial vehicles inevitably break down or otherwise need to be transported for one reason or another without moving themselves.
Tow trucks are used to recover these broken down, illegally parked, or impounded cars to where they need to be. It is useful even for regular automobile owners to be familiar with different types of tow trucks. If they ever need to hire one, calling on a specific one is more appropriate for your vehicle or situation.
Tow trucks are also distinct from other vehicle transports like car carrier trailers as they are often only capable of moving single vehicles at a time. While on the other hand, car carrier trailers move multiple vehicles simultaneously.
Several types of tow trucks available on the market in different configurations have their pros and cons. Here, we will discuss some common types of tow trucks, how they work, how they are used, and how they stack up against each other. As a bonus, we will also talk about the tow truck business and the prices you can expect for tow trucks on the market.
Types Of Tow Trucks
Many types of tow trucks are available with different capabilities to suit different situations. The kinds of tow trucks are divided into their use and the vehicle size they can tow.
There are six types of tow trucks that we will discuss here. These are:
Flatbed Tow Truck
Flatbed tow trucks are different from the classic tow truck look that comes to mind. This tow truck has a large flatbed behind it, allowing you to load a whole vehicle onto it for transport. There is a ramp on the rear of the flatbed. This can slide out and tilt downwards towards the ground, allowing the vehicle to be towed to drive up onto the flatbed and be secured with a winch.
Afterward, the tow truck may then transport the vehicle safely. However, certain weight limits cannot be exceeded when loading a car onto the flatbed, so it is essential to keep that in mind.
The advantage of this type of tow truck is that it keeps the vehicle completely off the ground for the journey, and this is one of the safest ways to tow vehicles. It has a minimal risk of damage.
Another reason you would need this type of tow truck is if the vehicle that needs to be moved is totaled. This means it is possible to tow the car regularly on the road as its wheels may no longer be capable of moving or supporting its weight.
Hook And Chain Tow Truck
The hook-and-chain tow truck was one of the world’s most common types of tow truck. This particular truck is the “classic” tow truck that comes to mind when considering a tow truck.
With its arm with chain and hook dangling from behind, this truck works by affixing a hook to the front bumper or axle of the vehicle to be towed. Afterward, the boom on the vehicle will lift half of the car into the air, with its rear wheels keeping in contact with the ground. The car can then be towed to its destination.
This is a tried and tested design that started the tow truck industry. Today, however, it is not commonly seen anymore. This is because of the relatively extensive potential damage it can cause to the vehicles it tows. This is due to all the chains being wrapped around and the towed vehicle being only partially off the ground, with the rest still in contact with the road.
Despite this, the hook and chain tow truck can still be seen transporting totaled cars, as damage done to them is not a factor anymore.
Rollback Tow Truck
Rollback tow trucks are very similar to flatbed tow trucks. Both types of tow trucks have flat platforms on their backs that they use to transport their towed vehicles. The difference, however, lies in their method of loading.
A rollback tow truck has a specialized hydraulic system to tilt the entire flatbed, allowing the vehicle to be quickly loaded onto the platform. This ease of loading makes this type of tow truck more suitable for towing cars that have been damaged in such a way that they cannot be loaded onto a more rudimentary flatbed tow truck.
This additional hydraulics system makes these tow trucks more forgiving when compared to the simpler flatbed trucks on damaged vehicles and equipment that are more sensitive to damage.
This also makes this tow truck better suited to emergencies since the flatbed can be tilted; it can more easily adapt to irregular terrain and spaces often present in vehicular accidents.
Wheel Lift Tow Truck
The wheel lift tow truck is one of the most common types of tow trucks today. It operates very similarly to the hook-and-chain tow truck. It also lifts the front portion of the towed vehicle and pulls it with its rear wheels still in contact with the road.
The difference is in the way it lifts the vehicle. A wheel lift tow truck has a yoke attached to the back of the car and goes under the towed vehicle’s front wheels to lift it off the ground. Lifting the front wheel is the most common method, but if the car to be pulled is in a difficult spot that makes it hard to get to the front wheels, the truck may also remove the vehicle from the rear wheels.
These trucks are standard now because of their operation simplicity and quickness. Operators with this kind of truck can arrive at the scene, hook up to a vehicle, and start towing in mere minutes.
And since no chains or hooks are involved, the damage risk is much less than with a traditional hook and chain tow truck. The yoke is also quite a stable platform and also reduces any damage potential involved.
Integrated Tow Truck
An Integrated tow truck is one of the more powerful types. These large trucks tow similarly large vehicles like buses and trucks. These types of cars often break down and need towing services.
The integrated tow truck is explicitly built to handle larger vehicles that more common types struggle with. These tow trucks include an arm in the center of its rear platform that connects to the vehicle’s front wheel to be towed, lifting them off the ground. This heavy-duty arm is very stable and allows the tow truck to handle loads significantly heavier than the tow truck itself.
Owners of regular cars or even SUVs and Vans will not need the services of an integrated tow truck, but busses, trucks, and mobile homes do.
Semi Tow Truck
A semi-tow truck is an oversized towing vehicle. It is enormous compared to the other types of tow trucks. It is a semi-trailer truck with a large flatbed in tow where it loads the vehicles or even heavy equipment for transport.
A semi-tow truck is usually only used for large-scale operations such as transporting construction vehicles and equipment. These are already out of the realm of cars that a regular towing operation will have at their disposal, but you still see them traversing the highways with large motor vehicles (or several) or even boats in tow.
Tow Truck Prices
Another thing that may interest both clients and business owners is tow truck prices. This includes the price of hiring one as well as the price of acquiring a tow truck. In this section, we will look at some of the costs of purchasing a tow truck for your business and the standard costs of towing services.
Purchasing A Tow Truck
The prices of tow trucks can vary significantly based on the types of tow trucks they are, the brand, and whether you purchase them brand new or used, to name a few.
Generally, tow truck prices range from $10,000 – $50,000. It is not an insignificant amount, but it can be helpful to skim through various online marketplaces with listings for both new and used tow trucks to get a good idea of the particular kinds of trucks you are looking for generally cost.
Towing Service Cost
Towing services usually charge a base fee plus a fee for every mile towed. On average, hiring a tow truck service will cost about $75 – $100. In this context, we assume you are using an average car.
Most towing companies will charge an initial fee of $50 for the first 5-10 miles of towing, with a further payment for every succeeding mile traveled. Usually, the rate is $2 – $4 per mile. Many factors affect the cost of towing, such as location, distance traveled, type of vehicle to be pulled, and even time of day.
Towing services can run you anywhere from $50 for an essential service to $300 for a higher-end towing company with more specialized equipment.
The Towing Business
The towing business is a stable industry and is often only marginally affected by major economic downturns. No matter what the state of the economy is, some vehicles need to be towed. You may want to get into it.
You may have noticed in the previous section on the prices of tow trucks that starting up a towing business involves some substantial costs. And you would be right. Aside from the cost of the vehicles, there are other associated costs.
Another such cost is the licensing fees that have to be paid to obtain the class B licenses needed to run these tow trucks. Permits are also required from the state where you will operate, as additional permit licenses from the municipality or highway departments. It would be best to contact local clerk offices to find all the licenses needed to start operations.
Other Businesses That Use Tow Trucks
Tow trucks are seen in many different fields, as when large numbers of vehicles are involved, it is helpful to have the ability to tow them when needed. Major highways and toll roads usually have tow trucks dedicated to only that road, which their road authority handles.
Public institutions like police departments, fire departments, transportation authorities, and even the military operate fleets of towing vehicles. Both to tow their service vehicles and enforce traffic laws and regulations.
This, however, requires a large fleet of vehicles and a good variety of tow trucks that cater to different situations. These institutions may own only some tow truck types and will often resort to contracting private towing companies. This means there is a lot of business available for private towing companies.