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7 min read.

How to Start a Tow Truck Business

Mar 22, 2024 12:32:19 PM

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If you are looking to start your own business in trucking or transportation, then you might consider starting a tow truck business as an option. Tow trucks are relied upon daily in various capacities, whether for hauling vehicles from point A to B, clearing vehicles out of the way, or offering roadside assistance for drivers. Starting a towing company can be a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to enter an industry that has fairly consistent demand. But before you get started, it’s important to understand how to start a tow truck business and the challenges that come with it. Starting a towing business requires careful planning, a clear understanding of the industry, and an effective strategy to keep your business running efficiently. In this article, we'll explain the key steps for how to start a tow truck company so that you can ensure your success.

Understanding the Market


Running a towing business comes with its unique set of pros and cons that entrepreneurs should consider before getting started. On the plus side, the demand for towing services is often considered "recession-proof" as roadside incidents, vehicle breakdowns, and enforcement of parking regulations remain steady despite economic conditions. This business also offers the potential for significant revenue, especially if you can secure contracts with municipalities, businesses, or automobile clubs. There is also a sense of community service in helping motorists resolve roadside situations.


On the downside, starting a tow truck business requires a big start-up cost, primarily due to the purchase of tow trucks and insurance premiums. The towing industry is also highly regulated, requiring adherence to various local and state regulations, which can be complex and potentially time-consuming. Additionally, many towing businesses operate on a 24/7 basis, which means long hours and the need for dependable staff. It also means that building a reputation and client base could take time. While a tow truck business can be rewarding, it demands financial investment, compliance with regulations, and a commitment to excellent service.

Choosing Your Service

The towing industry offers a variety of strategic niches servicing different needs. Before creating a tow truck business, you’ll have to consider which services you want to offer. Here's a list of the different types of tow truck businesses that entrepreneurs should consider:

  • Emergency Roadside Assistance: This involves offering services such as jump-starting or unlocking cars, changing flat tires, and towing vehicles to repair shops. Generally, this type of business assists drivers who face unexpected problems on the road.
  • Auto Salvage and Auction Towing: Specializing in transporting vehicles from accident scenes to salvage yards or auctions, this niche requires working closely with insurance companies and auto auction houses.
  • Commercial Towing Services: This niche requires heavy-duty tow trucks and specialized equipment since you'll be providing towing services for commercial vehicles, including large trucks, buses, and recreational vehicles.
  • Municipal and Law Enforcement Towing: This option first entails securing contracts with government agencies and municipalities since you'll be interfacing with city and law enforcement personnel to tow illegally parked, abandoned, or impounded vehicles.
  • Private Property Towing: There's also the possibility of providing towing services for private property owners, including apartment complexes, shopping centers, and private lots, who need unauthorized vehicles removed from their property.
  • Heavy-Duty Towing: Sometimes even the largest vehicles need to be towed. Towing and recovery services for semi-trucks, buses, and construction equipment will require heavy-duty tow trucks and skilled operators.
  • Luxury and Exotic Vehicle Towing: Providing high-end towing services for luxury and exotic cars demands a high level of care, specialized equipment, and enclosed tow trucks to protect valuable vehicles during transportation.
  • Mobile Mechanic Services: Combining towing with on-site repair services is also an option. This type of business provides minor repairs and services that can be performed roadside or at the customer's location.

Start-up Costs

Tow truck business startup costs vary depending on the scale of your operations and the equipment you choose. Initial expenses include the cost of the tow trucks, which can range from $50,000 to $200,000, depending on the type of truck, towing capacity, and whether the vehicle is new or used. You'll also need to budget for insurance, licensing, permits, office space, payroll, and even marketing. Having startup capital is essential for getting your business off the ground, and sometimes the initial costs can be intimidating. If you do not have the finances yourself, then you will want to know how to get a business loan to start a towing company. Having a business loan will help you finance your semi trucks and other business expenses.

Licensing and Permits

To operate a tow truck business legally, you'll need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. These requirements vary by location but typically include a business license, a commercial driver's license (CDL), and a tow truck permit. Check with your local city or county government and the Department of Transportation to ensure you meet all the necessary legal requirements:

  • Business License: A general license that grants you the authority to operate your business within a certain locality.
  • Commercial Driver's License: Required for drivers operating tow trucks that meet specific size and weight criteria.
  • Tow Truck Operator License: Specific areas require drivers to have a special license to operate a tow truck, in addition to a CDL.
  • Towing Permit: A permit allowing the business to legally tow vehicles on public roads.
  • Motor Carrier Permit: Required for businesses that operate across state lines, ensuring compliance with the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.
  • Parking Enforcement Permit: Necessary for businesses involved in removing illegally parked or abandoned vehicles, usually issued by local governments or police departments.
  • Impound Lot License: If the business includes operating a storage lot for towed vehicles, this license is required and is subject to its own regulations.
  • Oversized Vehicle Permit: Needed for operating tow trucks that exceed certain weight and dimension limits.
  • Indictment Management Permit: Permit for managing indictments, allowing for the towing of vehicles without the owner's consent upon law enforcement's request.
  • Private Property Permit: Authorization for towing on private property, enabling vehicles to be towed without the owner's consent at the request of the parking facility owner.
  • Consent to Tow Permit: Permit granting consent to tow, permitting vehicles to be towed with the vehicle owner's approval.
  • Class B Driver’s License: Class B commercial driver's licenses, qualifying drivers to operate vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds or tow vehicles weighing up to 10,000 pounds.


Insurance is required in the towing industry due to the high risks involved. You will need several types of insurance, including liability insurance, property damage insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. These policies protect your business from lawsuits, accidents, and injuries that can occur during towing operations. Below are some of the insurance options you should consider obtaining when starting a towing company:

  • On-Hook Towing Insurance: Provides coverage for the vehicles you are towing in case they are damaged, lost, or stolen while being towed.
  • General Liability Insurance: Covers injuries or property damage caused by your business operations, protecting you from lawsuits and claims.
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: Specifically for your tow trucks and other business vehicles, covering damage or injuries resulting from accidents.
  • Property Insurance: Protects your physical business property and assets, including office space and storage facilities, from fire, theft, and other damages.
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance: Mandatory in most states, it covers medical costs and a portion of lost wages for employees who get injured on the job.

Purchasing Equipment

Your tow trucks are the core of your business. When starting, you may opt for a single truck and then expand your fleet as your business grows. Consider the types of towing you plan to offer (e.g., light-duty, medium-duty, heavy-duty) to determine the right truck for your needs. Additionally, invest in quality towing equipment and maintenance tools to ensure your services are efficient and reliable.

Building Your Team

Skilled and certified drivers are essential for a successful tow truck business. Hire experienced drivers with clean driving records and the required certifications. Providing ongoing training and competitive salaries will help you attract and retain reliable workers. You might also want to consider hiring administrative staff to handle customer service, dispatch, and billing.

Marketing Your Business

A strong marketing strategy is important for attracting customers to your towing business. Create a professional website, use social media platforms, and consider local advertising to raise awareness of your services. Networking with local businesses like auto repair shops and dealerships can also spread awareness to increase business.

Providing Excellent Service

The key to a successful towing business is providing excellent customer service. Make sure your team is responsive, professional, and courteous when taking care of your customers. Offering 24/7 service can give you an edge over competitors and meet the needs of customers in emergency situations. Consistently delivering reliable and high-quality service will help build your reputation and encourage repeat business.


Starting and running a tow truck business can be a rewarding opportunity, but it often involves navigating challenges, from securing the necessary licenses and insurance to managing operational costs. One key aspect of controlling costs and operational efficiency is managing fuel expenses, which are significant for any company in trucking or transportation. Fleet fuel cards offer a comprehensive solution to this challenge, providing business owners and fleet managers with the ability to monitor and control fueling closely. With features like customized spending limits, detailed reporting, and the ability to track fuel efficiency across vehicles, P-Fleet's fuel card solutions can help tow truck companies optimize their operations. By leveraging the benefits of trucking fuel cards, business owners can minimize their fuel expenses and help increase the overall profitability and success of their company.

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Kira Odlozil

Written by Kira Odlozil

Based in San Diego, CA, Kira Odlozil is the Digital Content Coordinator at P-Fleet. She writes about fuel management, the trucking industry and business-related topics. When Kira isn’t writing, she’s cooking up new recipes, doing yoga, traveling or all of the above.