How Car Towing Regulations Work

By: Josh Clark

Car Towing Insurance

Your towed car got loose. Who's going to pay for this? If you don't have the right insurance, you are!
Your towed car got loose. Who's going to pay for this? If you don't have the right insurance, you are!
Frances Twitty/iStockPhoto

The scenario described on the last page about the detached car careening through traffic was grim. Let's say it happens to you. Does your insurance cover damage to your car? Other cars? Other people's medical bills? These are a few questions you're going to want to pose to your insurance agent before you head out on your Great Towing Adventure.

To get to the bottom of this, HowStuffWorks recommends you place a call to your insurance agent before you tow anything at all. Whether you're towing your car, boat or even lawn equipment on a tiny trailer, you want to make sure you're covered in the case of an accident.


­Auto insurance generally extends to towing scenarios, but policies vary by company and by state. While policies are different, there are some rules of thumb when it comes to insurance and towing. Firstly, in the case of an accident where the vehicle in tow causes an accident, say, by sideswiping a car in traffic, you're likely going to have two claims. The first will be a collision claim to repair any damage done to the car you're towing. This claim will come from the collision insurance policy you have on the car you're towing. Don't have collision insurance on the car you're towing? Don't tow it! HowStuffWorks couldn't find a policy where coverage of the lead car extended to the car in tow. You'll have to maintain two policies to cover both cars.

When a car in tow hits another car, another claim will likely be filed. This will be a liability claim made against the lead car's insurance policy by the innocent bystander whose car was hit by your towed car. This claim will usually go against the lead vehicle, since in most cases, hitting another vehicle with a towed car is an act of negligence or bad driving on the part of the lead car's driver.

Clearly, it would be a real nightmare to damage another car with the car you're towing. You would likely have two claims to file, which could raise your monthly insurance premiums. There are two lessons to be learned here. First, never tow a car without ensuring your have the proper insurance coverage. Second, it's a good policy to practice towing your car. Get the various maneuvers down, and don't assume you're a towing pro. You may be unpleasantly surprised to find that you're totally inept with a car in tow.

Again, coverage for towing cars varies by company and state. Don't take our word for it: Contact your insurance agent before towing anything. Once you do, and you've got a little practice under your belt, you'll be ready to set out for that new life across the country with confidence.

For more information on towing and other related topics, visit the next page.

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More Great Links


  • Lankford, Kimberly. "Auto club or towing insurance? - questions and answers about financial management." Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. November 1999.
  • Sanchez, Joann. State Farm Insurance agent. Personal interview. October 21, 2008.
  • "If you already have a tow vehicle." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • "Towing laws listed by state." Towing World.
  • "Why a tow brake, and which one to choose?" U.S. Gear.