Getting Your Car Towed to a Mechanic: Our Simple Guide

You’re driving on a quiet road, and suddenly your car makes that dreaded noise — or worse, you see smoke coming from under the bonnet.

We’ve all been there, and it’s a situation that can quickly elevate stress levels.

Finding yourself in need of a car towing service isn’t something anyone looks forward to, but when your vehicle decides to throw in the towel, it’s a necessity.

This guide aims to talk you through the entire process of getting your car towed to a mechanic.

From recognizing the signs that your car needs professional attention, to choosing the right type of towing service and what you need to do to prepare your vehicle for the tow, we’ve got you covered.

So, let’s dive in and alleviate some of that stress.

The Different Types of Towing Services: Finding the Right Fit for Your Vehicle

When your car breaks down, it’s not just a matter of calling the first towing company that pops up on your smartphone.

The type of tow truck and the towing method used can have significant implications on the safety and condition of your vehicle. In the UK, you’ll encounter various types of towing services, each designed for specific circumstances and kinds of vehicles.

Let’s delve into the most commonly used types to help you make an informed decision.

Standard Tow Trucks: The Jack-of-all-Trades

The standard tow truck, also known as a “wrecker,” is what you might envision when you think of towing services. These trucks use a hook and chain or a wheel lift to elevate the vehicle’s front or rear wheels, leaving the other set on the ground.

When to Use It:

  • Standard tow trucks are suitable for short distances and less expensive vehicles.
  • Ideal for moving a car that has broken down in a narrow space, like an alley.

Potential Challenges:

  • This method can add wear and tear to your vehicle, especially the wheels and undercarriage.

Flatbed Tow Trucks: The Premium Option

Flatbed tow trucks feature a long, empty bed at the back that can be inclined to ground level, allowing your vehicle to be either driven or winched onto it. Once loaded, the car is securely strapped down.

When to Use It:

  • Perfect for high-end, luxury, or vintage vehicles that require extra care.
  • Suitable for long-distance towing.

Potential Challenges:

  • Usually more expensive than standard towing services.
  • Not ideal for tight spaces due to the truck’s size.

Motorcycle and Specialty Towing: Niche Needs

In some cases, you might need towing services that cater to specialized vehicles like motorcycles, caravans, or even boats. These specialty services use equipment tailored to secure and transport these unique forms of transport.

When to Use It:

  • For motorcycles, scooters, and other two-wheelers.
  • For oversized vehicles or trailers that require specific types of equipment for safe towing.

Potential Challenges:

  • Limited availability compared to standard and flatbed services.
  • Costs can vary significantly based on the type and size of the vehicle.

Integrated Tow Trucks: For Heavy-Duty Concerns

These trucks are equipped with extra axles and an arm that is much more embedded in the core of the truck. They’re designed for heavy-duty tasks like towing buses, lorries, or large trucks.

When to Use It:

  • If you’re dealing with a heavy vehicle or special circumstances, such as an accident where a standard tow truck won’t suffice.

Potential Challenges:

  • Most expensive among all types.
  • Typically not necessary for standard consumer vehicles.

By understanding the different types of towing services available in the UK, you’re better equipped to make an informed decision that suits your vehicle’s specific needs. This is crucial for ensuring your vehicle arrives at the mechanic’s shop in the best condition possible.

How to Choose a Towing Company

Selecting the right towing company is more than just a quick search and a phone call.

Your choice could impact the safety, condition, and overall cost involved in getting your vehicle to a mechanic. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of what to consider when choosing a towing company in the UK, so you can be confident you’re making an educated decision.

Credentials Matter: Licensing and Insurance

Before you even think about the price or proximity, ensure that the towing company you’re considering is fully licensed and insured. This information is usually available on the company’s website or by asking them directly.

Why It’s Important:

  • Licensing indicates that the company meets industry standards and regulations.
  • Insurance protects you in the event of any damage or accidents during the towing process.

Do Your Research: Reviews and Recommendations

Take a moment to read online reviews or ask for recommendations from friends or family. This step can provide invaluable insight into the company’s professionalism and quality of service.

Online Reviews:

  • Check websites like Trustpilot or Google Reviews.

Word of Mouth:

  • Personal experiences from people you trust can offer real insight into what you can expect.

Comparing Costs: The Pricing Breakdown

Understand that the cheapest option is not always the best one. Towing costs in the UK can vary depending on various factors, such as the distance to be covered and the type of tow truck needed. Here’s what you should consider:

Flat Fee and Per Mile:

  • Some companies charge a flat fee for the pickup and then an additional cost per mile to the mechanic.

Type of Vehicle:

  • Special vehicles like motorcycles or caravans may incur extra fees.

Location and Availability: The Logistics

Consider the towing company’s location in relation to where you are and where your mechanic is situated. Also, ensure that they offer 24/7 services if you find yourself stranded at odd hours.


  • A nearby company may reach you faster and could be cheaper due to lower transport distances.

24/7 Service:

  • Confirm that the company can assist you at any time, especially if you frequently drive during off-hours.

Questions to Ask: Be Informed

Before confirming the service, here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What is the estimated arrival time?
  • Is your truck and driver certified for my type of vehicle?
  • Are there any additional fees that I should be aware of?

Prepping Your Car for the Tow

You’ve done your due diligence and selected a towing company that meets all your criteria. Now it’s time to prepare your car for the tow.

Properly prepping your vehicle can help ensure a smooth towing process while minimizing any potential damage.

Here’s your go-to checklist for getting your car ready.

Document the Condition: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Before the tow truck arrives, take a few minutes to document the current condition of your car with photographs. Capture all angles, focusing on any existing damage, so you have a record.

Why It’s Important:

  • Provides a baseline in case of any potential disputes about damages incurred during towing.
  • Useful for insurance claims, should the need arise.

Remove Personal Belongings: Safety and Security

You’ll want to remove any valuables, electronic gadgets, or important personal items from your car before it gets towed.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Towing companies are generally not liable for lost or damaged personal items left in the car.
  • Important documents like your driving license, vehicle registration, and insurance should also be removed and kept safely with you.

Secure Loose Parts: An Ounce of Prevention

If there are any loose parts or accessories on your car, like a removable stereo or a GPS mount, secure them or take them out.

Steps to Take:

  1. Remove any removable electronics like stereos or dashcams.
  2. Secure loose internal items that might shift or break, like air fresheners or items hanging from your rearview mirror.

Disable the Alarm: A Silent Journey

It’s easy to forget, but remember to disable any car alarms to prevent them from going off during the tow.

Why It’s Crucial:

  • An active alarm can be a nuisance and could potentially disturb the towing process.
  • Some tow truck drivers might refuse service if the alarm cannot be disabled.

Inform Your Mechanic: The Heads-Up

Give your chosen mechanic a quick call to let them know that your vehicle is on the way. This heads-up allows them to prepare for your car’s arrival and begins the repair process more swiftly.

What to Inform:

  • The estimated time of arrival.
  • A brief description of the car issue, so they can start preparing for the diagnosis and repair.

Double-Check: The Final Once-Over

Before the tow truck arrives, go through this checklist one more time to make sure you haven’t missed anything. This final step ensures you’re entirely ready for the towing process.

The Towing Process: Step-by-Step Guide to What Happens Next in the UK

You’ve made the call, prepped your car, and now you’re waiting for the tow truck to arrive. The actual towing process can feel daunting if you’re unfamiliar with how it works. In this section, let’s go through the step-by-step process of what happens from the moment the tow truck arrives to when your car is safely delivered to the mechanic.

Step 1: Verification and Paperwork

When the tow truck arrives, the driver will first verify your identity and the vehicle details. They’ll usually have paperwork that outlines the service details, costs, and any terms or conditions.

What You Should Do:

  • Verify the driver’s credentials to make sure they’re from the company you called.
  • Read the paperwork carefully before signing anything.

Step 2: Initial Vehicle Assessment

The tow truck driver will assess the condition of your car to determine the best towing method. They’ll choose between a standard, flatbed, or specialized truck based on your vehicle’s needs.

What You Should Do:

  • Discuss any specific concerns you have about your vehicle, such as an electronic parking brake or specialized tires.

Step 3: Prepping the Vehicle for Towing

The driver will prepare your car for towing. This usually involves aligning it correctly, attaching the towing hooks, and securing the vehicle.

What You Should Do:

  • Step back and allow the professionals to do their job, but don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have any concerns.

Step 4: The Towing Begins

Once the car is securely attached, the tow truck driver will commence the towing process. They’ll typically inform you of the route they’re taking to your designated mechanic.

What You Should Do:

  • If you’re not riding in the tow truck, make your own transportation arrangements to the mechanic.

Step 5: Arrival at the Mechanic

Upon arrival, the tow truck driver will safely offload your vehicle at the mechanic’s location. They’ll usually handle all the necessary adjustments to ensure the car is safely on the ground.

What You Should Do:

  • Check your vehicle for any new signs of damage that might have occurred during the tow.
  • Complete any remaining paperwork, if necessary.

Step 6: Payment and Receipt

Finally, you’ll need to take care of the payment for the towing service. Most companies in the UK accept various forms of payment, including credit/debit cards.

What You Should Do:

  • Obtain a receipt for the services rendered. This is crucial for any future issues or if you need to make an insurance claim.

Dealing with Costs and Insurance: Navigating Financial Aspects of Car Towing in the UK

After the initial shock of dealing with a car breakdown, the next concern that likely comes to mind is the cost. Towing services are rarely free, and depending on various factors, the prices can add up. But fear not, understanding how to navigate the financial aspects, including insurance options, can make this process less stressful. Let’s dive into how you can handle these concerns.

Understanding the Cost Structure

Towing companies generally have a two-part cost structure: a flat fee for the initial pickup and an additional per-mile charge for the distance covered.

What You Should Know:

  • Prices may vary based on the time of day, type of vehicle, and even the kind of tow truck used.
  • Always ask for an itemized cost breakdown.

Budget Towing Options

If you find the towing cost prohibitive, consider the following:

AAA Membership:

  • In the UK, being a member of a roadside assistance program like the AA can provide you with free or discounted towing services up to a certain distance.

Local Council Recovery Services:

  • Some local councils offer emergency towing services, typically at a lower cost. However, they may have longer response times.

Using Your Insurance

If you have comprehensive car insurance, you might be covered for towing services. Here’s how to proceed:

Check Your Policy:

  • Review your insurance policy to see if towing is covered and under what circumstances.

Contact the Insurer:

  • Call your insurance company to confirm coverage and understand the claim process.

Get Documentation:

  • Make sure to collect all necessary documentation, like receipts and photographs, as your insurance company may require them for reimbursement.

Paying Out-of-Pocket: When Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Sometimes your insurance might not cover the towing cost, or you may find it easier to pay out-of-pocket and not make a claim.


  • Don’t hesitate to ask if the towing company offers any discounts or if there’s flexibility in the pricing.

Payment Options:

  • Most companies accept multiple payment methods, including credit cards. Some even offer payment plans.

Making a Claim: Post-Towing Steps

If you’re using insurance to cover the towing costs, ensure you follow through with the claim process.

Submit Documents:

  • Send in all the required documentation, including the towing receipt, to your insurance company as soon as possible.

Follow Up:

  • Keep track of the claim status and follow up as needed. Timeliness is key to a successful claim.

Handling the financial aspects of car towing doesn’t have to be a headache. By understanding the cost structure, exploring budget-friendly options, and knowing how to work with your insurance, you can navigate this situation with ease and confidence. Just remember, the goal is not just to get your car towed, but to do it in the most economically sensible way.


From the moment you realize you need a tow to finally receiving the invoice for the service, the process of having your car towed to a mechanic can be filled with uncertainty and stress. However, being equipped with the right information can turn an otherwise frustrating experience into a manageable, even straightforward, event.

By carefully choosing a towing company, prepping your car properly, understanding the towing process, and knowing how to handle the costs and insurance aspects, you’re not just surviving the ordeal—you’re mastering it.

Knowledge is your most valuable asset in times like this. We hope this comprehensive guide has empowered you to make informed decisions, alleviating some of the stress that comes with car breakdowns and towing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How quickly can I expect a tow truck to arrive?

The arrival time for a tow truck can vary based on several factors such as location, time of day, and the towing company’s current workload. However, most companies aim to arrive within 30 to 60 minutes. Always ask for an estimated time of arrival when you make the initial call.

2. Can I ride in the tow truck to the mechanic?

In the UK, it’s generally permissible to ride in the tow truck to the destination. However, the number of available seats may be limited. It’s best to clarify this with the towing company when you make the service request.

3. Is it possible to have my car towed to my home instead of a mechanic?

Yes, you can usually have your car towed to a location of your choice, whether it’s your home, a repair shop, or elsewhere. Keep in mind that the cost may vary depending on the distance to the destination.

By anticipating potential challenges and questions, you’re one step ahead in the game. Safe travels, and may your future journeys be smooth and free from the need for any more towing services!