LIST-en Up! How not to get ripped off by tow truck companies

19 March 2015 - 13:24 By Wendy Knowler
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Six ways to avoid being ripped off by a tow truck company at an accident scene

• If you have insurance, programme the name and number of your insurer’s towing hotline into your cellphone, and call them when you’re in an accident and your car needs towing. If you aren’t insured, programme the SA Towing & Recovery Association (Satra)’s 24-hour line - 0861 0 72872 - into your cellphone and if you're involved in an accident, call them for details of a Satra member in your area. 

2. Never let anyone phone your insurance company on your behalf. What many do is pretend to call your insurer and then tell you they have approval, when they don’t, and you end up paying for the tow as a result.

3. Never sign a blank towing form. 

4. Get all the tow-truck company's details before they disappear with your car - full name of the driver, the company's physical address and landline number, and the registration number of the truck. 

5. Be very clear about where the vehicle is to be towed, and make sure this is written on the form. 

6. If insured, call your insurer soon after your car has been towed to ensure that all is in order. If not insured, and your car has been towed to a tow truck company’s yard, make arrangements to have it collected as soon as possible to avoid sky-high storage fees.

* Ettienne Pel has contacted In Your Corner to point out that the towing organisation he chairs, the United Towing Association of SA (UTASA) - call centre number 0861 188 272 - has many operators in areas which Satra does not cover. And he added three important warnings to the above list:

7. Get the tow truck operator to commit to writing what the costs of towing, storage, admin, recovery and security will be.

8. Never put your signature above the terms and conditions. “Many companies state this on their forms: 'By signature hereto, you agree to the terms and conditions on reverse hereof’, he said. “Motorists who don’t read the back of the form get a fright when they release their vehicles - a massive bill made up, for example, of towing rates of R3,950, storage of R250 per day, recovery of R2,300, admin of R950 and security of R950.”

9. The cars of motorists who are arrested for driving under the influence or who are incapacitated due to injuries, should be taken by the SAPS for safekeeping. A law enforcement officer may not enter into a binding agreement between a tow operator and a consumer.

GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler via email: or on Twitter: @wendyknowler. She's In Your Corner for consumer issues.