Emilio DeLeon feels lucky to be out driving today. He just got his car back from a towing company.
“I was driving in Capitol Hill (in Seattle), turned down the wrong street, and then i got stuck in the snow.”
DeLeon says his goal was to get the car moved from a slippery hill, to a safer location a few blocks away. He used his cell phone to find a tow company that could respond and when one company was too busy, he called another that placed high in his search results.
“Well, on the phone when I called them I thought I heard 195 dollars -and the phone cut out.” DeLeon explained..
Once his car was on the truck, DeLeon says he was told the hourly rate $995 plus extra fees, not $195.
“I was expecting something completely different, and then once my car was hooked up, and then they give me the amount. One thousand and three hundred dollars!” DeLeon said.
DeLeon said the driver offered to unload his car and leave it, for $600. Then agreed to $400. While he tried to figure out how to come up with the money and get his banking app to function properly he says the driver gave him a business card and to towed his car to the tow lot.
DeLeon said once he walked home and called about picking up his car he got the run around. First, he says he was told he could pick up the vehicle that night, then he was told it have to be in the morning. When he arrived in the morning he was told he had to pay an overnight fee.
The charges totaled $2,493.77 Which he paid.
“Not everyone can afford these fees! And if you can’t afford them, then they just take your car and how are you going to make it to work? ” sad DeLeon.
While state and city laws dictate towing fee maximums when your car is ordered towed by police or private property owners- like parking lots and private businesses – there are no limits when you call for the tow.
Our random tow company survey found some use what they call “inclement weather” pricing.
We got two quotes for $193 per hour. One quote was $225 per hour. Yet another was $315 per hour. They all had a 1 hour minimum. It’s supply and demand.
Regulators say given the increased hazard and extra time involved in towing vehicles in ice and snow, some increase in fees is reasonable. But if you feel a towing charge is unreasonably high, be sure to file a complaint.
“I’m very concerned about reports of price gouging.” said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement to KOMO News.
“The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices. If anyone believes they are the victim of unfair or deceptive business practices, they should contact my office.”
In addition to filing a complaint with the state Attorney General, you should also report excessive towing charges to the state Department of Licensing and the business licensing department in your city.
Just remember, raising hourly rates by $50 or even $100 may be considered reasonable under certain circumstances- and it’s not against the law. But make no mistake, there are bad apples out there.
Emilio DeLeon did file complaints. Seattle regulators says they are following up. In addition to DeLeon’s complaint, the City of Seattle’s Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Protection Division reports receiving another complaint today from a car owner who was charged $6,500 dollars for a tow from a collision site to a body shop.
Bottom line: Don’t settle for the first company that pops up on a search. Less- than- reputable companies have been know to game search engines so they’ll be among the first results you see. Same with locksmiths and plumbers.
If you can, get recommendations from local body shops you trust, or consider joining AAA Washington, which can provide a list of approved tow operators they trust to help members with when their own trucks are tied up.
Always clarify and compare hourly rates ahead of time. And do not let the tow crew touch your car before you verify the charges in writing.
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