A yearly survey lists Houston and Dallas the worse cities for towing hassles.
According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, consumers complained most about excessive rates and fees of towing companies.
“When your vehicle gets towed you can run into some trouble with charges that aren't clear or seem excessive, or difficulty getting your vehicle out or getting access to it to get your personal effects out, or even inspect it to see if it's damaged,” says Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines at PCIAA.
However, Jeanette Rash at Houston-based Fast Tow blames body shops who mislead stranded drivers into signing confusing paperwork.
“If you don't have a relationship with a body shop, get them to take it directly to the vehicle storage facility where the fees are all regulated, then call your insurance company and call your body shop of your choice,” she says.
Houston City Council currently is considering a proposal to rein in body shops after one owner and three employees were arrested in 2016 on felony charges of organized crime.
“The fine print on there says if we don't get to fix your car we're going charge you roughly around $1,500 in order for you to get your car back and we're going to require you to pay cash, all sorts of things that you're signing and people don't even realize it,” says Ken W. Ulmer at Houston-based Safe Tow.
Passmore suggests knowing who to call before you're stuck in that situation.
“People aren't aware they have roadside assistance coverage either through their insurer or if they're in an auto club, and sometimes even credit cards have assintance in things like that,” he says. “If you have a trusted mechanic, they might be able to give you the name of a towing company they work with.”