Because towing rates are not regulated in South Africa, motorists should be aware of the following:

  • Accident tow rates are higher than mechanical breakdown towing rates and are charged for any insurable risk where damage has been caused to the vehicle, either due to criminal activity or an accident. Quotes can range from R1,000 to more than R5,000 for an urban accident tow irrespective of distance, which could be two blocks or 20 km.
  • Be aware of the additional charges that can be added to your towing bill. Storage fees at a tower’s yard are charged on a daily basis and can mount up quickly at over R100 per day. Additional charges are sometimes reflected as recovery costs, administration costs, security costs or with some other label that you could find difficult to challenge. Your R2,000 tow could soon end up at R6,000 and growing.
  • Beware the tower who offers you a free tow. No one works for free and the costs will be passed on to you in some form at a later stage, and at a rate you did not negotiate.

Not all towing operators are unscrupulous

While it is true that there are many unprincipled tow truck drivers out there, many towing operators do still offer a valuable service. To avoid unreliable operators, be aware of some of the ways in which you can be fooled at a time when you are angry, disoriented and not thinking clearly.

You can avoid a bad situation by taking note of the following:

  • Tow truck drivers are often paid on an incentive basis and therefore will want to persuade you to allow them to tow your vehicle.
  • Tow truck drivers might have an affiliation to a panel beater(s) which could influence their behaviour in relation to the towing destination, despite your clear instructions in this regard.
  • Ensure that you receive a towing slip; this is a receipt for your vehicle. When signing a towing slip ensure your vehicle details are filled in correctly. Check that the tow destination is filled in with the address you want your vehicle taken to. Make very sure that the agreed-upon towing rates are filled in. Ensure that the tow truck driver’s name, company and tow truck registration details appear legibly on the towing slip. Look out for the tow truck driver’s signature on the towing slip – it must be there.
  • Remove all valuables from your vehicle before towing – don’t forget items in your boot such as laptops and smaller items such as sunglasses and CDs.
  • Ensure that non-removable items and accessories such as CD shuttles and expensive mag wheels are listed on the tow slip. Also include the make of the tyres and spare wheel.
  • Do not let anyone call your service provider or insurer on your behalf. You won’t know if the person on the other end of the line, authorising your tow, is legitimately from your insurer or service provider unless you make that call yourself. Therefore, ensure that you have the relevant numbers on you or in your vehicle.
  • You might be told that the AA does not do accident towing or that the towing company on the scene is affiliated to the AA. The AA does do accident towing using its own AA-branded yellow tow trucks and selected towing contractors. Only if the AA Emergency Call Centre verifies the tower as an AA accredited contractor and only if the tow truck driver can quote the case number provided to you by the AA call centre, should this be accepted.
  • You might be presented with official-looking documentation detailing brands, including the AA’s, to which the towing company is supposedly affiliated. Do not be swayed – make your own call to your service provider or insurer.
  • Wild stories have surfaced of tow truck drivers using cellphone jammers at accident scenes, being in possession of police radios and creating road conditions to promote accidents. Whether these allegations are true or not, be vigilant. If you are suspicious of any activity of this nature, report it to the authorities.

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