Being in a car accident is stressful enough without having to deal with the costs of towing and storage on top of repairs. Does insurance cover towing your vehicle after an accident? The answer depends on who’s at fault, your specific coverage and other factors.
This guide will cover:
- What insurance covers towing costs after an accident
- When you have to pay out of pocket
- Tips to minimize towing and storage fees
- How to get the right coverage
Knowing what to expect can help you be prepared financially if towing becomes necessary after a collision.
Does Insurance Cover Towing if You’re Not at Fault?
If another driver caused the accident, their liability insurance should cover the cost of towing your vehicle. This falls under their property damage liability coverage, which pays for damage they cause to your car.
Towing and storage fees are considered part of the overall loss payout. So if you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer, towing and short-term storage should be covered up to policy limits.
However, you’ll need to confirm a few things:
- The other driver’s insurer accepts full liability for the accident
- Their policy limits are adequate to cover all damages
- Towing is explicitly listed as a covered expense
If liability is disputed or their limits are insufficient, you may pay out of pocket for towing and seek reimbursement later. Talk to their insurer upfront to verify coverage.
What If You’re At Fault for the Accident?
If you caused the accident, your own policy should cover towing costs, but only if you carry the right coverage. Here are the possibilities:
Collision coverage: If you have collision insurance and hit something (another car, a pole, etc.), collision will pay for towing subject to your deductible and limits.
Comprehensive coverage: Hits with animals and other comprehensive losses often include towing to a repair shop. Your deductible applies.
Roadside assistance (RSA): RSA specifically covers towing and labor costs for disablements. It’s usually an affordable add-on.
No coverage: With liability-only insurance, towing is not covered if you’re at fault. You pay out of pocket.
Before an accident occurs, talk to your insurer or agent about your coverage for towing expenses if you cause a collision. Policies vary, so don’t assume you’re covered.
What About Storage Fees After Towing?
Towing your car is just the starting point. You’ll also need to pay storage fees to the tow yard or auto repair shop while your car sits there waiting for insurance adjustment and repairs.
Unlike towing fees, damage policies usually don’t cover storage explicitly. But your insurer may reimburse you for reasonable storage fees as part of the total loss payout:
If you’re not at fault, ask the liability insurer about covering storage costs. Provide invoices documenting the fees.
If you’re at fault, submit invoices to your own insurer and request reimbursement for storage up to your coverage limits.
Don’t assume storage fees are automatically covered. Talk to your insurer.
Unfortunately, you may be stuck paying storage fees out of pocket beyond a certain time limit or amount, so act quickly.
Can I Ever Avoid Paying for Towing?
There are select cases where the towing company will waive the fee:
If a police officer requests a tow after an accident, fees may be waived.
Some car insurance companies own their own tow trucks and don’t charge customers. But this isn’t common.
If you’re a AAA member, you can get free towing miles after an accident, depending on your membership level.
Otherwise, you or an insurer will need to pay the towing company. Very rarely will a tow company waive its fee altogether after dispatching a truck.
Tips to Minimize Towing & Storage Costs
While towing coverage can reimburse you later, it’s smart to minimize your out-of-pocket costs too. Here are some tips:
If drivable, drive your car to the repair shop rather than getting it towed.
Negotiate rates in advance if you must call a tow truck yourself after an accident.
Ask about mileage limits and get towed to the closest approved repair shop.
Have your car towed to your home first if allowed by local ordinance. Then you can arrange delivery to a shop later.
Retrieve your car from the tow lot ASAP to avoid storage fees piling up.
Review storage fee terms upfront and negotiate discounts for paying quickly.
How to Get the Right Insurance for Towing
Here are some suggestions to make sure you have adequate coverage in case towing is ever needed:
Add roadside assistance if your policy doesn’t already include it.
Carry collision and comprehensive coverage if you want surefire protection.
Increase liability policy limits so an at-fault accident doesn’t hit your wallet.
Ask your insurer directly what’s covered for towing and storage fees.
Read the fine print of any policy before signing up. Don’t assume towing is included.
See if your insurer partners with any towing companies for discount rates.
Getting in an accident is bad enough without the financial stress of paying for your car to be towed and stored. While insurance may reimburse you later, understanding exactly how towing coverage works after a collision provides peace of mind.
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