Hydraulic Tilt Trailer Towing a Sports Car

How to Start and Operate a Towing Business

Is the Towing Business right for you?

By Wally Cass Towing Owner/Operator and Instructor

Starting and operating a tow truck business can be a real challenge but owning your own tow truck business can also be very rewarding. After all you are your own boss and you have no one to answer to other than keeping your accounts happy with timely and courteous responses to the motorist in distress. You can also do whatever you like in between calls as long as you don't rome to far away from your towing accounts.

There are also some negative aspects to operating your own tow truck business which I will explain later, but for now I am going to dispel some myths that it is expensive to start your own tow truck business.

I have read some towing articles and most of them state you need a large sum of capital to get started in the tow truck business but I am living proof this is not the case. It all depends on the type of tow truck business you plan to start and operate.

If you plan to do impounds or repossessions then yes you will need much more capital. The costs involved in running a towing impound yard are more than most people can bear upon starting a tow truck business, However there is a more economical way to get started in the tow truck business which will not cost you a arm and a leg to get started.

Try starting as a independent tow truck operator towing strictly for the motor clubs, retail accounts and local auto repair shops. You can work directly from your home which also has it's advantages come tax time. Did you know that you can write off part of your mortgage as a home office? You will also avoid all the other expenditures such as leasing or purchasing real estate.

I started my tow truck business on a shoestring back in 1995. It may not have been glamorous starting with a Ford f-150 and a used tilt car trailer but it got me started in the tow truck business with very little investment. My towing website for reference is TowingTransport.com. I already owned the truck and the cost for the used car trailer was minimal. Who wants to take out a loan for expensive towing equipment? I sure didn't.

Not Glamourous But it Worked.

The tow trailer only had 3500 lb. axles which also tilted with the bed and this definitely needed improvement. The rear axle took all the weight. Not a very good tilt trailer design and let's face it, it looked like crap! It did however allow me to start my towing company.'

For economical reasons I also decided to tow only in the light duty class, all cars, motorcycles and pick up trucks up to one ton (excluding one tons). The one ton class is the start of the medium duty class.

I drove every kind of tow truck out there and my years of prior experience told me the hydraulic tilt car trailer was the only way to start my tow truck business. I knew the hydraulic tilt car trailers had a huge advantage over conventional flatbed and wheel lift tow trucks when it came to damage free towing, due to the low profile loading angle of a car trailer. Also being that it was a goose neck, fifth wheel type setup, I could jack knife the trailer, getting into spots that conventional flatbed tow trucks could not get into.

Advantages of starting a tow truck business with a hydraulic tilt towing trailer:

  • Low profile loading angle for damage free towing. Tow exotic cars and low riders.
  • You don't have to worry about the drive train (such as the transmission) on the vehicle being towed. "Unlike a conventional tow truck where you might have to get out the dolly wheels and place them under the drive axle which is labor intensive."
  • Towing motorcycles is easy and requires no additional equipment.
  • I don't have to go through the truck scales because I am under 16000 GVW.
  • I can get into some really tight places as opposed to a conventional flatbed tow truck.
  • Insurance is cheaper.
  • I can disconnect the trailer and still use the truck for service calls or personal use.
  • The tow truck is more comfortable to ride in (softer suspension).
  • Cheaper to purchase or to build (I have trailer plans available).

After my tow truck business was established and I had a steady income rolling in, I decided that It was time for newer towing equipment and frankly, no one built the type of equipment that I wanted to use for my towing business and I couldn't find the proper trailer plans, So I decided to build my own towing trailers.

This is the New and Improved Trailer.

The objective was to build the trailer with the lowest possible loading angle and yet have the fender height remain low enough for all vehicle doors to clear the fenders when the doors are opened. The outcome was: the trailer bed height is only 17.5 inches off the ground and only requires the bed to tilt one and half feet to hit the ground. I couldn't have been happier with the trailers low profile loading angle and opening the vehicles door when loaded cleared the trailers fenders easily.

car door clears trailer fender

The cost to build this trailer was approximately $10,000 in materials. I easily justified the use of a credit card to purchase the materials as this was a income producing purchase and the debt could be paid back in only a couple of months, therefore the interest was minimal. I used only the best materials I could find. I used Torflex 7000 lb dual axles with built in suspension which did not require additional suspension parts like leaf springs and hangers. Therefore the maintenance costs were diminished. I also used diamond plate steel decking which not only looked good but vehicles with a missing wheel or two would slide off easier. If you decide to use a trailer with a wood deck the vehicle missing a wheel will only dig into the wood and will not slide off. Even winching the vehicle on the trailer with a wood deck could be a problem.

If you are looking for a conventional tow truck at around $10,000, More than likely it will be junk and a older model. So I was happy to invest $10,000 in towing equipment that was brand new and built the way I wanted it to perform. The trailer has passed the test of time and has lasted over 13 years and is still working today! The trailer has paid for itself many times over. Sign up below to get the trailer plans!

gooseneck  hydraulic tilt trailer
New tilt car trailer for towing

car trailer in the tilted position

The trailer does not have to tilt very far. The Strobe light was a bit much and later removed. A red light bar was later added to the truck (as noted beloow right)

car trailer
                     with fender folded out

The fenders were originally made to fold out using hinges for those extra wide loads but were welded closed after awhile as they were not needed.

hydraulic tilt car trailer 
					 loaded with willys coupe
How the tow truck
		  and trailer look today

two flatved towing trailers that I built in 1997 and 1998

If you decide that you want to build your own trailer then you will also be very pleased with the looks and performance of this towing trailer. Upon inspection for it's first registration, the state patrol officer told me it was the nicest towing trailer he had ever seen and he instantly titled the trailer. Wow! I knew I had done something right! If you would like to purchase the trailer plans to build this trailer then sign up and get instant access to the trailer plans.

Now for the cons of owning a tow truck business.

This is the worst problem! Your time off from work will practically be non existent especially during startup. After all you can not afford to lose your accounts. I remained on call 24/7 for my first two years. I did not take vacations as I did not have employees yet. Once I started to hire help it was a relief but it also brought on other problems. As a new employer I assumed the driver knew his role and everything went fine with my first employee but the second one had a slightly different style. He would take friends or family along with him for rides or pull stumps out of his back yard with the towing equipment. You need to have a written policy for employees and have them sign it. I eventually gave up on hiring employees mainly because of the expenses and the accounting. On behalf of the employee I had to pay expenses into labor and industries, unemployment compensation, Medicare and Social Security. This had to be done every payroll whether you have one employee or a hundred. It really was a hassle, at least for me anyway's. Maybe you will decide to do it yourself or you could hire a business partner or maybe you will decided to hire an accountant?

I have really only begun to cover the basics of starting a tow truck business and how it is possible for you to start your own tow truck business. I have developed a online training site which explains the towing business in complete detail.

Information that you will find in the Members area

There are videos explaining how to tow vehicles in the light duty class, unlocking vehicles, winching, recoveries and showing proper towing equipment. I discuss the differet types of tow trucks such as the wheel lift tow truck versus the flatbed or rollback tow truck, the good and bad aspects and why you may consider a flatbed tow truck advantageous over the wheel lift. (ultimately less work and no worries about the drivetrain of the vehicle being towed). Below are just some of the topics covered.

  • How to Tow and How to hook up to a vehicle properly, Videos and detailed descriptions show you how to hook up to a vehicle properly. The most common mistakes while hooking up are explained. You must have this information to prevent damage claims.
  • Business planning, what you will need to get started in the tow truck business.
  • Accounting, keeping accurate records, invoicing, billing, taxes, office equipment, supplies, etc.
  • Everything you should know about Motor Clubs,how to contract with the motor clubs and which ones are the best including: rates, addresses, phone numbers, towing areas, length of times allowed to a call, billing methods and more.
  • Advertising, some of the best ways to advertise your tow truck business and one of my favorite places to advertise for free!
  • Insurance, Learn how to purchase commercial towing insurance and the details.
  • How to get business accounts, methods I use to get accounts even if the business already has a dedicated towing provider.
  • Service calls, explains the best way to perform service calls and the equipment used.
  • Safety, how to operate safely to prevent injuries to you and the public.
  • Winching, how to winch properly, (common mistakes while loading a vehicle), procedures, safety, how to winch a vehicle out of a tough situation, taking care of the winch and cable.
  • Preventing Damage Claims, learn from my experience what not to do and how to avoid damage claims.
  • Common Forms, download forms online, prevent damage claims for pre-existing conditions, dispatch sheet.
  • How to unlock a Vehicle in under three minutes, modern method to unlock vehicles, "do not use slim jim on vehicles" (Video) avoid damage to the electronics in the door.
  • Towing equipment. using the right towing equipment is essential. Choosing the right equipment will save you money and time. I explain my must have requirements for towing equipment not only for towing but also for service calls. I explain in detail how the towing equipment is used.
  • Plans for building a Commercial, Gooseneck, Fifth Wheel, Hydraulic Tilt, Towing Trailer, Get the plans to build the best commercial towing trailer. These plans have never been released and I make them exclusively available to you after you sign up.
  • How to tow a motorcycle, Learn how to hook up to a motorcycle properly. I explain how to tow a motorcycle using a flatbed and what not to do. Prevent damage claims.
  • Tire changes, Learn some of the tricks I use on those stubborn tire changes and some of the problems you may face. Be prepared!
  • Jump Starts, You need more than just a set up jumper cables! I explain why and how you will benefit from using the proper equipment.
  • Towing Resources, I list my favorite places to shop for towing equipment and parts.There is also useful information in the forum located in the members area. Members can ask questions and join in discussions. I will also answer your questions.

I have explained briefly how I got started in the tow truck business at a very minimal cost. I already knew how to tow but I had no idea how to operate a complete tow truck business or what it entailed. I had to learn from trial and error what worked best in all areas of the towing business. I had no experience such as contracting with the motor clubs and I sure wish I had this type of towing information available to me when I started my business. Fortunately you now have all this towing information available to you from someone with over 25 years experience.

Ok now it's your turn. Go ahead and sign up.

Still undecided? You can also read what members are saying.