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The Truth About Tow Yards and Your Vehicle

It is five a.m. on a Sunday morning. Your vehicle has just been involved in an accident, and you need a tow truck. With no body shops open to take your vehicle to, the only option is to allow it to go to a tow yard until it can be dealt with on Monday morning.

Your vehicle will be safe, right?

In many cases, the answer is wrong. As a former claims adjuster for a major insurance company, one of the biggest things seen is tow yards with less than stellar reputations hauling vehicles in and more problems arising out of the treatment towards vehicles. In some major cities, police departments even have contracts with these tow companies, which gives them a steady stream of consumers to take advantage of.

What problems could arise?

If you keep any personal items in the vehicle, do not expect them to be there when your vehicle gets picked up. I had seen many cases where upgraded stereo systems, CDs, iPods, and even shopping bags full of holiday gifts have “mysteriously disappeared” while in the custody of a tow yard. To make matters worse, they insist you sign a waiver stating they are not responsible for any missing items before they will give you the vehicle back.

Additional damage to your vehicle is also very possible. Tow yards are generally crammed so full (for their maximum profit, of course) that it is nearly impossible to even walk between cars. Thus, many additional damages happen during the loading and unloading process. Again, a waiver will be requested for you to sign stating there is no additional damage before they will allow you to move the vehicle.

Another big problem with tow yards is those who have a body shop attached. While there are a few reputable outfits with this type of setup, many are not. Regardless of what anybody at a tow yard tries to tell you, you are not required to use their body shop unless it is of your own choosing. This goes for your insurance company as well. Many state legislatures have laws that allow the consumer to choose his or her own shop. Although companies are allowed to give recommendations but it is ultimately the customer’s personal choice that determines where the vehicle will be repaired.

What is the best recourse when your vehicle has been at a tow yard? First of all, do not delay getting it out of there as soon as possible. Not only is there a potential for disaster the longer your vehicle is there, the yard will charge huge fees each day it is there. If your insurance company is not set to move the vehicle, then pay out of pocket and submit the receipts to them for later reimbursement. Take inventory of all personal items in the vehicle before going to the tow lot. Ask to see your vehicle and check for these items as well as any additional damage prior to signing any waivers.

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