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Do You Know Your Towing Rights?

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-05-06
Too many motorists have fallen victim to tow trucker bullying - and not even insurance can protect you once you've made a bad decision. Know your rights and walk away a winner.

It’s difficult to control all aspects of our life. One example of such an event – which is often entirely out of our hands – is a car accident. We can’t predict when or where it will happen and we can’t always avoid them entirely. We can’t control how other motorists behave on the road. What we can, and should control, are the events which take place after such an event. 

How we behave and the choices we make in this moment are absolutely pivotal. We’ve gone over a few of the basics – the steps you should take, what you should and shouldn’t say or do, etc. 

One of the many other aspects to keep in mind is how to approach towing in the event of your car ending up totalled. Few South Africans are aware of their towing rights – and in this article we’re going to bring some of those rights to your attention.


We’ve all heard stories about people who have had their vehicles towed away from the scene of an accident without their consent. The vehicles are then taken and stored somewhere, often at an excessive daily rate, and the owners find themselves under even more financial strain than they should be.

Not only that, but if you’re insured against loss or damage to your vehicle, many insurance companies will refuse to honour your claim if your car has been towed away by a random company. Insurers will only utilize the services of known and trusted towing companies, which the insurer will recommend and arrange in the event of an accident.

The AA (Automobile Association) has frequently cautioned motorists against using unknown towing companies and urged drivers to be aware of their rights.

The AA has also stated that tow trucks do provide an essential service to motorists who find themselves stranded, and it’s important to note that not all tow truck operators are blatant criminals. There are many companies that are accredited service providers, and these operators adhere to firm rules and ethics.

It is important for motorists to understand they are in charge of the vehicles, and that they do not have to be intimidated into doing anything they don’t want to do. Being covered through insurance is the best option, but even without it, no-one has the right to take your vehicle without your consent.

Know Your Towing Rights

Here are a couple of tips, from the AA, to help you out in the event of an accident or crash.

  • First and foremost, if you have car insurance, you need to contact your insurer or broker straight away. More often than not, your policy will include cover for towing and your broker will be able to advise you on the proper steps to take. Don’t allow anybody else to contact them on your behalf – least of all a tow truck operator at the scene. Do not be lulled by their sweet words of reassurance.
  • If you do not have car insurance, it is your right to choose a tow truck driver. If you’re incapacitated or unable to contact a towing company at the time, emergency personnel or the police on the scene will make that decision for you.
  • Most importantly, and as with anything in life, always double-check and read through any documentation carefully before signing. It’s best to establish costs upfront, and in writing. Know how much this service is going to cost you – including per kilometre rates and storage costs.
  • Take down all the relevant information from the tow truck operator before allowing him to even hitch your vehicle. This includes the name of the operator, registration number of the tow truck, the name of the company, company registration or association registration number and the address of both the company office and the storage yard. Don’t be shy, take a photo of your vehicle with the tow truck before it leaves.
  • Remember to remove all valuables from your vehicle before they drag it away. Just in case. This is South Africa, after all. 

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