Your rights when using a tow truck

There are laws to protect your rights with regard to accident towing services.

Before an accident-damaged vehicle can be towed from the scene of a crash, the tow truck driver must:

  • take reasonable steps to explain the extent of your right to choose the tow destination
  • take reasonable steps to provide you with the fact sheet, Towing from an accident scene - your rights [PDF 745Kb]
  • provide a copy of the Authority to Tow (which sets out the towing agreement) to the person who signs it.

Signing the Authority to Tow

A vehicle damaged in an accident must be moved from any position where it may cause a hazard or traffic congestion. If your vehicle cannot be driven from the accident scene, you are liable for the cost of the tow.

Your vehicle cannot be towed from an accident scene until you sign an Authority to Tow, which sets out the towing details that have been agreed upon with the tow truck driver.

If you are unable to sign the Authority to Tow, a police officer or authorised VicRoads officer will sign on your behalf. You will still be liable for the cost of the tow.

Choosing a tow destination

You can choose to have your vehicle towed to any destination up to 125km away. The tow truck driver must tow the vehicle there, provided you agree to pay at the time of the tow. You have the right to pay by your choice of cash, credit card or debit card.

If you cannot pay by cash, credit or debit card at the time of the tow, the tow truck driver may refuse to tow the vehicle to your chosen destination. If you agree to pay later, the driver will tow the vehicle back to the tow truck depot instead.

Touting for repairs is prohibited

There are strict laws prohibiting a tow truck driver or any other person from touting or soliciting for repair work at an accident scene. As the owner/driver of a damaged vehicle, you do not need to decide where to have the vehicle repaired at the time of the tow, unless you choose to do so.

Seeking advice

As the owner/driver of a damaged vehicle you have the right to contact whomever you choose for help in deciding:

  • where to have the vehicle towed
  • where to have the vehicle repaired.

Storage of the vehicle

If the vehicle is towed to a tow truck depot, it must be stored in a secure area at all times. You can check whether this will be under cover or outside and can ask the cost of each option.

Your rights at the depot

If you pay all outstanding towing and storage charges, the depot must release the vehicle during standard business hours, usually 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. If you have approved any repairs, you are also required to pay for them.

The depot must offer you the opportunity to pay for any outstanding charges by your choice of cash, credit card, or debit card.

Outside the Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula Controlled Area, some depots may be exempt from standard business hours. However, these depots must still be contactable by mobile phone and must still maintain a suitable level of customer service.

Towing complaints

If you have a complaint about a towing service, you should first try to resolve the complaint with the towing operator. If this isn't possible, the procedures for accident towing and trade towing are as follows:

Crash towing complaints

To make a complaint please contact the Heavy Vehicle Services, Compliance Operations Group. 

Call: (03) 9881 8787

If you wish to make a complaint in writing, please complete the tow truck complaint form [PDF 67Kb] and return it to: 

Email:      accidenttowing@roads.vic.gov.au 
Address:  VicRoads - Regulatory Services
                12 Lakeside Drive
                Burwood, Victoria, 3151

We investigate all complaints regarding tow truck operators or drivers. Outcomes of complaints are advised by letter or telephone to the complainant, where the complainant has provided personal details. Any anonymous complaints will not receive advice regarding the outcome of their complaint.

If you are unhappy with the outcome, contact the Victorian Ombudsman for further advice.

Trade towing complaints

Trade towing complaints can be referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria (External link).

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