If you are a one-person show trying to run a successful tow company, a carrier, and conventional truck will go a long way. However, every tow truck has its use depending on the type of job you are called to do.
1. The Conventional Tow Truck AKA the Wrecker
Wreckers have evolved in the last decade by integrating booms and wheel lifts. A boom is an extension on the back of a tow truck that helps recover vehicles from an embankment or ditch.
In the past, car owners disliked wreckers because of the way a vehicle was towed with one. Newer wreckers have wheel lifts and winches that pull cars on a dolly rather than attaching to a car’s bumper. Additionally, they come in several sizes depending on the area you are in and the size of vehicles that you’re towing. This is great for when you need a smaller tow truck to get cars out of tight spaces that your flatbed can’t fit in.
2. Flatbed AKA Roll Off, Roll Back, or Carrier
When in doubt, send a flatbed tow truck! Many people may not know if they own an all-wheel drive or not. 4×4 and AWD vehicles – an increasingly popular feature on many crossovers and SUVs – can’t be towed behind a truck and must be hauled on a flatbed.
A flatbed tow truck has a bed that can be hydraulically leaned and moved to ground level so that the vehicle can either drive on or be pulled up the ramp by a winch. This is especially useful for vehicles that are immobilized, whether due to mechanical failure or having been in an accident.
3. Integrated Tow Trucks
Integrated tow truck beds are the best for busy areas with high traffic such as the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles. An integrated tow truck bed has a wheel lift and boom integrated into a single unit. All of the towing controls are inside of the cab which allows the tow truck driver to remain in the truck while backing it up to the disabled vehicle, lifting it and pulling it out to a safer spot to finish the tie down process.
Integrated tow trucks are specialized for heavy-duty recoveries. These trucks have extra axles for greater stability, with the arm deeply fixed into the core of the truck in order to transport big rigs or buses.
4. Hook and Chain Tow Trucks
The hook and chain method is less commonly used but still has its place with a full-service tow company. This option is much faster than any other method which means getting the tow truck driver out of dangerous areas without further delay, but that speed comes at a cost.
A hook and chain tow truck operates with literal chains wrapping around the bumper, frame or axle of a wrecked vehicle, then lifted by a boom winch. This can lead to damage or scratches on the vehicle being towed, or may not even be possible on newer vehicles whose bumpers are made of lightweight fiberglass. Additionally, this type of tow truck can’t be used when the vehicle being towed has 4×4 or all-wheel drive because of potential damage to the drivetrain. This may be a good option, however, for a situation where the vehicle is a clear total loss.