Understanding the Different Types of Tow Trucks Available


Vehicles can break down at any given time of day, and often when you are least expecting it. It doesn’t matter whether it happens at the side of the road in town, along the freeway, outside your home, or in a parking lot (especially those times when you’ve just got a huge amount of groceries). When that does happen, you will need the services of a towing company to get your vehicle to the local repair shop or to the junkyard (if your vehicle is a write-off). This is true whether it’s your family or company car or another, larger type of vehicle that you were driving at the time. 

Although all towing services, in principle, are essentially the same – there are a number of different tow trucks (often known as wreckers) used. How do you know which is right for you? That is something you need to consider, as a car that only has slight damage or has broken down but is not beyond repair will need more care when it is being transported than one destined for the dump. The size of your vehicle will also come into play too.

To help you understand what you need a little better, here are the six most common tow trucks available for hire. As well as discussing what they look like, highlighted are the kind of jobs for which they are best suited.

Wheel-Lift Tow Truck

There are some similarities between wheel-lift tow trucks and hook and chain tow trucks, as they have a similar mechanism. The difference is that a wheel-lift truck-style vehicle uses a metallic yoke rather than chains, and is less likely to damage the vehicle it is towing. The metallic yoke hooks under either the front or rear wheels and then a hydraulic lift or a pneumatic hoist is then used to suspend the front or rear side of the towed vehicle to lift it up from off the ground and take it away. 

Vehicles with front-wheel drive are pulled using the entrance wheels. Although this type of tow truck is not nearly as protected or safe as the flatbed-style, they do not cost quite as much to hire.

Hook and Chain Tow Trucks

One type of tow truck that is used to transport a multitude of different cargo is the hook and chain tow truck. While it used to be much more common in the past, it is used less and less, thanks to the amount of pressure it places on the vehicles being towed. 

The wrapped chains used can either scratch or damage vehicles in some way, which is why it’s recommended you only use chain and hook tow trucks for moving cars that are wrecked and being taken to the junkyard, or when you don’t need to worry about the condition of the car. 

It’s also important to note that hook and chain-style trucks can’t be used to move 4x4s and all-wheel vehicles because the drivetrains can get damaged. Because of all the downsides, you will generally find that hook and chain-style tow trucks are used to move wrecked and junk automobiles, as any additional damages caused to the bumper and other parts are not a concern.

Integrated Tow Trucks

One of the more specialized types of tow trucks is the integrated style tow trucks that are used for more heavy-duty purposes. By heavy-duty purposes, it means the transportation of buses or other larger rigs. These tow trucks have additional axles that provide extra strength and stability and they have an arm that is more fully embedded into the truck’s core.

Flatbed Tow Trucks

Probably the most widely used and common kind of tow trucks are flatbed tow trucks. These tow trucks, as the name suggests, feature a long empty flatbed and a flat top, which is moved both downwards and upwards using hydraulics. 

Why are these tow trucks so popular? It could be that it has something to do with just how easy they are to use. All you need to do is drive your vehicle, if possible, up onto the ramp. If that’s not possible, it can be pulled up by the tow truck driver. 

This kind of tow truck is especially useful when it comes to the transportation of automobiles and other vehicles that have either been involved in a road accident or roadside problem. It is not just traditional road vehicles and cars that can be transported using flatbed-style tow trucks; boats and a wide range of other machinery can be moved with them. Further to the fact that they are easy to use, this type of tow truck is also one of the safest. 

Rotator-Style Tow Trucks

If you have ever seen the show Highway Thru Hell, you will probably be familiar with rotator-style tow trucks. These are one of the biggest of all wrecker vehicles. They look similar to huge construction cranes and feature a boom that can rotate through a full 360-degrees and can be extended to as much as 30-feet. 

This means that rotator-style trucks are one of the most flexible and strongest available. However, they are also incredibly expensive, due to the specialist circumstances when they would be most useful.

Tow Trucks With a Dolly

Tow trucks that have dollies are one of the most lightweight options out there and ideal when you don’t want or need to use wheel-lift or flatbed trucks. They feature a dolly, which is a metallic frame that is designed to balance vehicles up from the ground. Interestingly, this kind can be used to transport various vehicles, particularly trucks such as all-terrain models, and even other tow trucks. Many tow companies keep one in their fleet for handling lightweight jobs. 

Now you understand what each type of tow truck is and what it does. This will help you to make the right decision when you are looking to hire one from a local tow truck company.