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What to do if your car needs towing after an accident

It's easy to pick the first tower you see. But give it a bit more thought, or else you might get dragged into a bad deal.


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After an accident, the last thing you want to deal with is all the administration that goes along with it: exchanging details, calling up the police and figuring out where your insurance leaves you in all of this. But after taking care of yourself and anyone else involved in the crash, you need to take equal care of your car.

There are plenty of bad towers out there who will pounce on an accident as a chance to make some quick cash out of unsuspecting victims. In some states, companies will pay a "spotter's fee" for people to report a crash to them so they get in first. Read on to find out what you need to know to avoid getting taken in.

Need towing cover? Get roadside assistance from $7 a month

Name Product Call-outs (Unlimited/4 per year) Joining Fee Fuel Replacement Locksmith States Available
Budget Direct Roadside Assistance
No joining fee
From $6.70 per month.
NRMA Roadside Assistance
No joining fee
From $9.99 per month. 24/7, nationwide coverage available.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Roadside Assistance Accidental Damage Choice of Repairer Agreed or Market Value
Budget Direct Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Awarded the 2019 Finder Award for the Best Value Car Insurance, this policy offers solid coverage at a low cost. Budget Direct’s claims service has received a 4.2/5 based on nearly 5,000 customer reviews.

Who it might be good for: People who want a comprehensive policy without breaking the bank.
Youi Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Youi Comprehensive Car Insurance is one of the few providers to include roadside assistance in their policy. You'll also get access to YouiRewards which gives you discounts on furniture, parking and more. Youi also have a live chat feature on their site to talk through any questions.

Who it might be good for: People over 25 who want comprehensive cover with a focus on customer service.
Woolworths Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Woolworths catch our eye due to some unique perks like a price beat guarantee, where they'll beat any current comparable Comprehensive renewal notice if you're over 25. You'll also get 10% off your grocery shop once a month, and can add roadside assistance onto your policy for just $7.35 per month.

Who it might be good for: Woolworths shoppers and those that want to take advantage of their Price Beat.
Virgin Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Finalists for the 2019 Finder Awards for Best Value Car Insurance, Virgin Comprehensive provides a good level of cover for a decent price. You'll get 15% off on your first year’s premium when you buy online and get access to their hail hero service. Plus, get a $100 e-Gift card when you purchase a new policy by 30 November 2020 (T&Cs apply).

Who it might be good for: People who want a comprehensive policy that's affordable.
Qantas Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: You'll be able to pick and choose how comprehensive you want your cover to be thanks to optional extras like roadside assistance, choice of your own repairer, and the option of agreed or market value. Plus, you'll earn Qantas Points when you join and get access to the Qantas Wellness App.

Who it might be good for: People who love collecting frequent flyer points.
Coles Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Coles have two-tiers of comprehensive car insurance to choose from. You'll earn double flybuys points at Coles supermarkets and you can get $10 off your Coles grocery bill every time you redeem 2,000 Flybuys points. If you're over 30, you can get roadside assistance free for a year.

Who it might be good for: Coles customers and Flybuys collectors.
Stella Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Stella’s a female-focused insurer. They'll cover you if your car is damaged as a result of domestic violence. They offer higher cover for baby gear than most, with up to $2,000 cover for prams, strollers and child seats. You get a free Bauer magazine subscription when you sign up and a portion of your premiums go to supporting female-led businesses.

Who it might be good for: Someone who wants a female-centred car insurance policy (they'll cover men too!).
Kogan Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Kogan comes with all the perks that most comprehensive car insurance policies include but you'll also be entitled to some benefits on their online store. This usually comes in the form of a gift voucher or discount if you buy online. Plus, Kogan offer a pay as you drive option, which could be good if you're not on the road that much.

Who it might be good for: Kogan shoppers and those that don't drive much.

Compare up to 4 providers

What should I do when I need a tow following an accident?

It's hard to keep your wits about you when you've just been involved in a harrowing crash on the road. But if your car is damaged enough that it can't go anywhere by itself, chances are you'll need a tow to get it off the road and have it seen to. To avoid the potentially predatory practices of questionable tow truck operators, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Contact your insurer. Before agreeing to anything, call up your insurer and find out what they actually cover. Towing costs may not be covered by your policy. Either way, your insurer may be able to arrange a tow for you with somebody they trust.
  • Ensure the tow service isn't dodgy. Just because they were the first to show up on the scene doesn't mean they're what you need. Depending on what state you're in, there may be particular identifiers of legitimate businesses. For example, in NSW, all licensed tow trucks will have "TT" as the last two characters on their registration.
  • Know what you're signing. The only thing you should ever sign from a tow company is a standard towing authority form. Double check the fine print! If the form looks more like a contract or some kind of pamphlet, don't sign it. You have the right to contact anyone you need to before agreeing to the service to make sure it's legitimate. It shouldn't ask anything more than details about the car and contact information. Keep a copy of whatever you sign.
  • Know where your car is going. Make sure you know who is towing your vehicle and the address where it will end up. This will help prevent it being "carnapped" by an unscrupulous provider.
  • Empty your car of valuables. If you're able to, remove anything of value from your vehicle. It's very easy to rob things from a wrecked car hooked on the back of a tow truck or stored inside a yard.

Where should I have my car towed?

When getting a tow, you decide where it will end up, unless the police request to have it taken in. You can usually pick between a few locations, including your own home, a mechanic's workshop and the towing company's holding yards.

Be careful when having it taken to the towing yard. Depending on your state, you might have somewhere around 2 days before you start accruing expensive storage costs of $40-$60 a day. If there are any delays in dealing with your insurer or arranging repairs, these storage costs can add up real quick.

If you're ever unsure and it's practical to do so, have it taken to your own home. Assuming you have somewhere to put it, you won't have to worry about any extra storage fees when it's sitting in your garage or driveway. However, keep in mind that you may have to arrange for a second tow in order to get it repaired.

Towing regulations in different states

The rules around towing differ depending on where you are in Australia. Some places are highly regulated and some have barely any rules at all. Here's the geographical breakdown:

StateTowing Regulations
  • Fees are regulated
  • Contact anyone you need to before signing an authority form
  • Decide who tows your vehicle and where
  • Tow truck drivers must have an accredited towing certificate and accident towing vehicles will have a registration plate with four numbers followed by TT, for example "0357-TT"
  • Tower must provide a complete quote of all fees and charges
  • The regions of Melbourne, Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula have a crash allocation system – tow trucks are assigned to particular accidents
  • There are regulated fees in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula
  • Standard towing authority forms
  • Decide where your vehicle is towed
  • Accident towing vehicles will have "TOW" in their registration
  • Neither fees nor accident towing practices are regulated
  • A tow roster system operates throughout the state
  • There are regulated fees and practices in urban and densely populated regions; this might not be the case elsewhere
  • Fees are capped at a fixed maximum for the first 50km of towing, with the price including 60 minutes of on-the-scene work preparing the vehicle
  • Free storage at the yard for the first 72 hours
  • Tow truck drivers must have an accredited towing certificate
  • No fee regulation
  • Darwin has a crash allocation system; elsewhere you'll have to arrange your own tow
  • Standard towing authority forms
  • Tow truck operators must disclose the towing fee before towing your vehicle
  • Fee negotiation is allowed
  • No fee regulation
  • Companies pay "spotter's fees" to ensure they get there first
  • Long history of dodgy practices
  • Standard towing authority forms
  • Never sign anything that doesn't show the total cost of the service
  • Fees are regulated
  • Crash allocation system in Adelaide; organise it yourself elsewhere
  • Standard towing authority forms
  • Decide where your vehicle is towed
  • Must settle any outstanding fees before you can pick up your car
  • Neither fees nor towing practices are regulated
  • Arrange your own tow or have the police arrange it
  • A towing roster exists in the territory

Picture: Shutterstock

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