Many things could leave you stranded by the side of the road. You could get a flat tire, run out of gas, or a nasty pothole could crack your suspension. But whatever the scenario, one thing’s certain — your car won’t be going further on its own.
Not only is being stuck on a road frustrating, but it could also be dangerous. Poor visibility around corners could lead to someone crashing into your broken car. Your vehicle could also block a busy road.
For all these reasons, you must get your car towed away fast. But towing services can be exorbitantly expensive. Fortunately, you may already have a way to get cheap — or even free — towing without realizing it.
Read on and find out how to get a car towed for free, or at least cheaper than calling a commercial towing service.
7 Tips on How to Get Your Car Towed for Free (or Cheap)
The key to getting your car towed fast and cheap is being prepared. Too many drivers don’t have a plan for what to do when their car breaks down. Not being prepared for emergencies behind the wheel can be both costly and dangerous.
But the good news is that you may already have your ticket to free or cheap towing in your wallet or on your phone. Here are a few ways to get free towing service — or at least one that won’t break the budget.
1. State Safety Service Patrol
In many states, like Virginia, the Department of Transportation maintains a Safety Service Patrol (SSP). The SSPs provide quick and cost-free roadside assistance to people whose cars are stuck on busy highways or interstates.
Depending on the state, the SSP may not provide actual towing services. But they can help you avoid calling a tow truck altogether — which will definitely save you money.
All SSP officers can help you move your car off the road, assist you in changing tires, jump-start your engine, or bring enough fuel to get you to the nearest gas station. They can also call a towing service of your choice if they can’t tow your vehicle themselves.
Does your car’s warranty still active? Then good news — the automaker just might be able to tow your car.
Whether or not you get the service for free depends on the terms of your warranty and whether you drive a new or used vehicle. You should also be aware that many automakers will only tow you to their nearest dealership. But even that certainly beats being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
For the full details of whether or not you can get towing from your automaker, check your owner’s manual and warranty documentation. You can also call your local dealership.
3. Car Insurance Companies
Many car insurance companies offering comprehensive insurance policies will have a roadside assistance program you can add to your plan. Granted, the add-on probably won’t be free, but in general, it doesn’t add much to your monthly bill.
A typical car insurance roadside assistance program costs a few dollars a month and you might be able to get a discount if you pay annually. Even if you only ever use the assistance program once, you’re still likely to save money when compared to hiring a professional towing service.
Ask your insurance company for more details about their roadside assistance policies.
4. Credit Card Companies
Sometimes, the help you need comes from the place you least expect it. Many people don’t know that their credit card might get them out of roadside trouble. But some credit card companies do indeed offer towing services.
For example, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover all offer cards that come with a roadside assistance program. Their fees are also likely to be lower than a towing service provider’s.
Visa, for example, will tow your car anywhere within 5 miles for a flat fee of $69.95. It’s not free, but you are almost guaranteed to save money.
5. Wireless Service Providers
Unfortunately, many wireless service providers seem to the phasing out their roadside assistance programs. But there are still some operators out there who will help you get off the road.
If you do get a tow truck through your phone service provider, you can expect it to be much like getting one through a credit card company. You’ll have to pay a fee, but it’s still likely a bargain.
Your wireless service provider can tell you whether they still provide roadside assistance. If they do, you just might have a service worth hanging on to.
6. Car Clubs
To many people, car clubs — like AAA or Better World Club — are the first thing that pops into their minds when they wonder how to get their car towed for cheap. And car clubs certainly offer comprehensive roadside assistance.
Of course, these services are restricted to their members. The basic membership for both AAA and BWC sits around $60/year at the moment. But once again, that’s cheap compared to dedicated towing services.
7. Local Auto Repair Shops
One of the best ways to get truly cost-free towing is to call the local car repair shop you frequent. Some shops offer towing services for their customers. And since you probably would’ve taken your car there to be fixed in the first place, you won’t have to pay for the tow.
Local shops often have range limits on how far they can tow your car. For example, Advanced Automotive offers free towing within 10 miles of our Chantilly or Warrenton shops, while also operating long-haul towing services.
How Much Does Car Towing Cost?
It can really pay off to think in advance about who you will call in the case of an emergency. That’s because most ordinary towing services can cost you a fortune.
If you can’t get anyone else to tow your vehicle, the police will use their own tow trucks or call a towing service, depending on their arrangements. This is the most expensive option. Towing services requested by the police can cost you $200 or more — per hour.
Compared to police-requested towing, commercial towing services are cheaper — but still not cheap. Every company has its own starting cost and billing method. Some of them bill you by the mile, while others charge by the hour. Some companies offer flat-rate fees, but their prices are generally very high.
The national average cost of towing services is around $100. However, the price can go much higher depending on the time of day, type of vehicle, and the towing distance. That’s why you should consider your cheap towing options well ahead of the time you need them.
How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Roadside Assistance
So, let’s say something’s gone wrong with your car and you need assistance. It might be tempting to hop out of your car and call a tow truck right away. But that’s not what you should do.
A stuck car can be very dangerous, both to you and other road users. If you find yourself stranded, follow the below steps to ensure everyone’s safety.
Get Off the Road
If your care can move at all, make sure to move off the road. The best place to go is a flat, open area on the right shoulder of the road. But any spot will do in a pinch — just get off the road.
Make Sure You’re Visible
Turn your emergency blinkers and hazard lights on as soon as you realize your car won’t be going any further. If it’s safe to get out of your car, you should also pop the hood and set up emergency triangles or flares. This way other drivers can give your vehicle a wide berth, while the tow truck driver can spot you easily.
Secure Your Vehicle
If your stopped car gets rear-ended, it could get pushed back into the traffic. It could also begin rolling down a slope. After you’ve stopped, turn your wheels away from the road and engage the hand brake to keep your car securely in place.
Consider Staying in the Car
If you’re stranded in the middle of a busy highway or interstate, don’t leave your vehicle before helps arrives. If you must get out, leave through the door that’s facing away from most of the traffic. Once out, never leave your vehicle and go looking for help — you could get lost and be in even greater danger.
Call for Help
Once you and your car are safe, you can start calling for help. The first number to call should be 911, whether or not your car is blocking traffic or anyone’s been injured. Only call for a tow truck after you can be sure you, your car, and other road users are safe.
Get Free Towing in Chantilly and Warrenton, VA
It’s particularly crucial to have an emergency towing plan in northern Virginia. Our weather conditions are — unfortunately — tailor-made for leaving you stuck by a road. The humidity in the summer months could pack dirt in your car parts until they break, while in the winter, the roads might as well be ice skating rinks.
Advanced Automotive offers free towing in the Chantilly or Warrenton areas. Our auto repair clients can get their cars towed cost-free within 10 miles of our full-service shops. We also offer long-haul, insurance, and emergency towing.
We’re the highest-rated AAA towing service in northern Virginia. You can trust that our truck operators get your vehicle to our technicians quickly and safely.
For Advanced Automotive towing services, call (703) 952-3221