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CarKid1989
CarKid1989 Dork
11/30/10 9:40 p.m.

I have been thinking about this for just about ever.

I have been tossing around the idea of buying a newer used tow truck, most likely a wrecker not a flatbed.

This would be for a business opportunity. ( i might be able to get a towing contract from my dads company but that is up in the air, and hoping for a city towing contract maybe)

Writing out this post i can tell i need to do a lot more research on this topic but i was wondering if anyone had experience or could offer any insight.

Thanks

patgizz
patgizz SuperDork
11/30/10 9:53 p.m.

lots of insurance

MrJoshua
MrJoshua SuperDork
11/30/10 9:57 p.m.

Tow companies are the devil.

fastmiata
fastmiata Reader
11/30/10 9:58 p.m.

I dont know about your area but there is probably not a more political business than the tow truck industry. There is a towing and recovery assn that you may want to check into. Each jurisdiction seems to have its own procedure for assignment for towing opportunities. Some use actual contracts but in my area, they use what is known as the rotation(meaning that the authorities rotate the assignments where no preference is stated between the companies who comply with the unwritten rules for that jurisdiction) All hell breaks lose if one of the companies feels like they didnt get their chance on the rotation. Prior to the rotation, the companies would dispatch their own wrecks and leave it up to the drivers to fight over the tow. Yes, physically fight at the wreck scene. A great business.

I have represented several towing companies in my day and was even fired by one company who felt that I was too nice for their rough and tumble image. I objected when the owner got into a physical altercation in the hallway of the courthouse with a baliff. Can you guess what the result of that case was?

aussiesmg
aussiesmg SuperDork
11/30/10 9:59 p.m.

Be sure about the wrecker, the flat bed can be used for more opportunities, like moving heavy equipment, tools, race cars, forklifts etc.

I don't presume to know your business better than you but it just seems a bed is more flexible

alex
alex SuperDork
11/30/10 10:01 p.m.

I've been thinking about doing the same thing with my dad. Fortunately he's a lawyer with some (rural) city/county connections, and we have insurance people in our family so we might be a little ahead of the curve.

Fenced lot + rollback + insurance + contracts = some small measure of profit to offset auto habits?

Input welcome indeed.

Ranger50
Ranger50 Reader
11/30/10 10:36 p.m.

Overhead is the killer. Got to keep the truck on the road at all costs or you ain't makin money. If you think insurance is going to be $1k/mo, triple it or more. If anything I would rather drop my cards at every dealership service advisor and manager in 50 miles and hook up with CrossCountry or whoever deals with the dealer tows.

Brian

ditchdigger
ditchdigger HalfDork
11/30/10 11:37 p.m.
MrJoshua wrote: Tow companies are the devil.

+1,000,000

Tow companies are like funeral companies. The rape you when you are at your most vulnerable, no sweet talk, no lube, just the most punishing fees they can extract.

Wally
Wally SuperDork
12/1/10 12:52 a.m.

I worked for one for about 8 years. I would go with a flatbed if i were buying one truck. Otherwise you have to pass on awd cars and suvs, most sports cars and high end cars. It also gives you the ability to move two cars at once. Before I bought a truck I would go to work for a company first. Look for a large company that does AAA or Cross Country. This will get you some training on someone elses equipment and insurance and see if it is something you really want to do. If you are going to be on a police list or do roadside assistance you will have to be avalable 24/7, and may be require to have multiple trucks.

If you decide to go ahead with it, once you buy a truck go around to every shop and gas station in the area. I would hit all the 24 hour gas stations at night and hand out cards. If someone came in looking for help you were in the fresh in the clerks mind and they gave out your number. Also stop by some of the other tow companies and try to talk to someone in charge. Most companies generally have a few guys with trucks that they trust to handle their excess work from time to time.

I almost went into owning my own truck but some things fell through about the same time the city hired me so I passed but it was the most enjoyable job I ever had. One thing to keep in mind though is that to make money at it you live with the truck. My wife and I went on dates in it, and more than once we stopped off at an accident or changed a flat between dinner and a movie.

Keep in mind though that like some of the opinions above show, you're dealing with people at a bad time, and some good people skills go along way. I have been lucky as I am pretty good with people to the point that I have had people tip me after I impounded their cars, and some of them became regular customers with us and our body shop.

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
12/1/10 5:59 a.m.

A good tower can make a lot of money. However, I've seen more come and go in my time doing estimating than I can count. The overhead is VERY expensive. You've got to be available round the clock or pay someone else to do it. The other tow companies will all hate you and do their best to steal your work. You need to learn about extracting cars from impossible locations, flipping them over (safely) and how to tow everything from cars to bikes to destroyed trailers. Then you need a storage lot where people will abandon cars with zero value that you'll spend hundreds getting legal ownership of before you can dispose of them.

Go work for one for awhile and then ask this question again.

Klayfish
Klayfish Reader
12/1/10 6:23 a.m.
ddavidv wrote: A good tower can make a lot of money. However, I've seen more come and go in my time doing estimating than I can count. The overhead is VERY expensive. You've got to be available round the clock or pay someone else to do it. The other tow companies will all hate you and do their best to steal your work. You need to learn about extracting cars from impossible locations, flipping them over (safely) and how to tow everything from cars to bikes to destroyed trailers. Then you need a storage lot where people will abandon cars with zero value that you'll spend hundreds getting legal ownership of before you can dispose of them. Go work for one for awhile and then ask this question again.

^^ This. I've been in the auto insurance claims business for years, including appraising, so I've seen countless tow companies too. What ddavidv wrote is dead on. Plus, get the "lay of the land" where you plan to run your business. Here in the Philadelphia area, there is such a turf war that tow company employees have literally shot each other and burned the other companies truck/building.

If you've got the cash to start a heavy equipment tow company, that can be good business. I routinely pay $5000-$12,000 for a heavy equipment tow, especially for trucks that roll over.

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
12/1/10 7:02 a.m.

It's also a good business to get your knees broken if you piss off a competitor.

Just saying...

Wally
Wally SuperDork
12/1/10 7:06 a.m.

Who would have though New York was so much safer than the rest of the country.

xd
xd Reader
12/1/10 7:08 a.m.

Bribe the girls in the front office of every insurance agency within 50 miles with gift cads, gift baskets, candy, visa gift cards. Those are the first people that talk to someone after an accident. My mom can automatically know which tow company or body shop has been in her office by where all the cars that week are being sent.

spitfirebill
spitfirebill Dork
12/1/10 7:49 a.m.

When I have called a tow company myself for something that I had control over, I have been treated just fine. When they were called by john law and we got the rotation, we have been totally reamed (except for once and that guy was super).

mndsm
mndsm Dork
12/1/10 7:54 a.m.

I hate you people, I just want you to know that. I came in here, looking for something to read, and in the time it took me to digest this thread, I decided I needed a flatbed to haul spare cars of mine around, and am wondering to myself how I can trade a Taurus that I paid 100$ for, and a Chevy half ton that I don't even own (yet, the deal is pending) for a flatbed tow truck. Not for working mind you, but because I don't trust anyone with my cars, and the most logical thing for me would be to own my own tow truck.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
12/1/10 8:16 a.m.

A family friend who has a towing business here and has towed cars since the 50's (hundreds of thousands I would guess) was run over by his own tow truck while hooking up a car. He survived, but the broken ribs and punctured guts were certainly no fun. Know what you are doing before you start playing with heavy, hydraulic equipment.

jrw1621
jrw1621 SuperDork
12/1/10 8:24 a.m.

I am sure that it came from the GRM forum but once there was a discussion here that involved a tow truck operators web forum. The drivers would post pictures and stories of amazing recoveries, etc..

Does anyone remember this or have the saved link?

Xceler8x
Xceler8x SuperDork
12/1/10 8:53 a.m.

Legalized thievery where I live. I know people need jobs but that is a business that needs heavy regulation and draconian enforcement of those regulations.

DILYSI Dave
DILYSI Dave SuperDork
12/1/10 9:21 a.m.

I've considered specialty recovery. Off road and such. I have no interest in responding to wrecks to deal with fender bent camrys and having a yard full of dead POS's and Pit Bulls. But if I lived in some place like Moab, then I think that an off road recovery rig would be a pretty sweet gig.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette HalfDork
12/1/10 9:30 a.m.

repoman.com there are magazines tow times ect , we pay about 3 gs a year insurance . My buddy has a brand spankity new red ford dually with a sneaker lift for repos and would be great for dealer tows 29k he just wants out maybe 8k miles gas automatic he paid 36 plus 4 for the lift so great deal . Get a good word out you can beat everyone with $50 dollar tows to the dealer type towing . $55 for the hook and 3 bucks a mile is the norm here in my county . Sheriff rotatiuon is nice but might require wheel lift and winch capabilities

Strizzo
Strizzo SuperDork
12/1/10 9:40 a.m.
Xceler8x wrote: Legalized thievery where I live. I know people need jobs but that is a business that needs heavy regulation and draconian enforcement of those regulations.

+1

around houston, i'm suprised they even make it to half the calls they go to, 70+ mph in a 45 zone in a tow truck while weaving in and out of traffic is not uncommon to see several times a day on westheimer

SVreX
SVreX SuperDork
12/1/10 9:57 a.m.

Consider:

You get a call at 5:30 PM. Wreck blocking lanes of traffic needs immediate response.

When you get there, a car is upside down leaning on the concrete center divider. It's got rush hour traffic blocked in one direction, and it's hooked on the divider. Getting it off the divider will require lifting on the opposite side of the divider while pulling from the side traffic is blocked, then rolling the car or dragging it upside down. The rubberneckers on the moving side of the divider are passing at 70mph within inches of the wreck while not looking at their driving. Forgot to mention- it's on a blind curve, and it's pouring rain.

Such is the life of a tow truck operator...

It would not shock me if 25% of the extractions are dangerous conditions, excluding the repos, which are a LOT more dangerous.

Just saying...

cghstang
cghstang Reader
12/1/10 10:11 a.m.
jrw1621 wrote: I am sure that it came from the GRM forum but once there was a discussion here that involved a tow truck operators web forum. The drivers would post pictures and stories of amazing recoveries, etc.. Does anyone remember this or have the saved link?

I remember that thread, I think Baxter provided the link. There was a MG flipped over still attached to the trailer it was being towed on as I recall.

slefain
slefain SuperDork
12/1/10 10:12 a.m.
  1. Buy tow truck.
  2. Find abandoned cars on the side of the road.
  3. ??????
  4. Profit!
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