Getting stranded at the side of a road when your car breaks down due to mechanical failure or an accident can be both a stressful and unpleasant experience, according to Ernest North, co-founder of Naked.
It's important for your physical safety to get assistance on-site or arrange for your car to be moved to a safe location until it can be fixed.
North says: “If you’re insured, there’s a good chance your insurance company will offer a free towing service from a selection of authorised providers as part of your cover.”
Here is what you should do if your car needs to be towed:
If your car has a mechanical or electrical breakdown
It's crucial that you check what your insurer’s policy is when it comes to breakdowns due to mechanical faults. Most insurance policies will have a limit on what they will cover – the policies will cover either the cost of the tow (for example, R500) or the number of kilometres per tow (for example, 25km).
You can contact your car manufacturer if your car is under warranty, and they should send a tow truck driver to you. It's important to note that insurers typically don’t cover the costs of repairs or replacements when it comes to mechanical issues.
After an accident
Following an accident, you should contact your insurer to arrange a tow truck to collect your car.
North says: “Even if you can start your car, it’s usually wise to avoid additional damage and to rather arrange for a tow if you can pick up any internal or external damage after a crash.”
If your car is towed without your consent
If your car has been towed without your permission, then you should not pay any tow truck services directly. Instead, you should contact your insurer and let them handle the situation.
If the tow truck driver demands payment for the tow, you need to request an invoice showing the cost of the tow and the location of the car and then pass it to your insurer to sort out.
You need to remember that there may be a limit to what your insurer pays if you don’t use the appointed service provider.
Do I arrange towing for others involved in the accident?
North says that third parties should take care of their own towing arrangement.
“Before you leave the scene of the accident, be sure to get the details (names, car registration, contact details, insurance information) from other drivers involved in the accident as well as contact details of any eyewitnesses,” North says.
“Do not offer to pay for the third party’s tow since it could be interpreted as accepting liability. That will make it harder for your insurer to fight in your corner.”
Dealing with tow truck companies
To avoid your car landing in the wrong hands, you should contact your insurer directly and to arrange the tow with them.
Tow truck drivers are not allowed to tow your car without your permission, generally given by the signing of a form. Before you sign the form, make sure that the tow truck driver is approved by your insurer.
North says: “However, if you are badly hurt in the accident, there’s a good chance your car will be removed by the first tow truck driver that arrives on the scene. For that reason, it’s a good idea to put a sticker from your insurance provider on your car.”