6 Types of Tow Trucks in 2024


As of 2024, in the automotive and towing industries, we can see several types of tow trucks that have evolved and continue to evolve over the years to suit different tasks, from handling small car breakdowns to heavy-duty recovery operations.

Whether you’re considering purchasing a tow truck or need to hire towing services, knowing the right type for the job can save time, money, and ensure safe vehicle transportation.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore different types of tow trucks with pictures and answer the common question, “How much does it cost for a tow truck?” to help you make informed decisions about your towing needs.

Overview of Tow Trucks

Tow trucks are specialized vehicles designed to transport disabled, improperly parked, impounded, or otherwise indisposed motor vehicles. They are essential tools in roadside assistance, enabling the safe and efficient removal and transportation of vehicles from one location to another.

There are several different types of tow trucks, each suited for specific tasks and scenarios. Here is a list of the most common types:

Different Types of tow trucks
6 Basic Types of Tow Trucks
  1. Flatbed Tow Trucks – Featuring a large flatbed that can be inclined and slid back to ground level, allowing vehicles to be driven or winched onto it.
  2. Hook and Chain Tow Trucks – Utilizes a hook and chain to lift the front or rear of the vehicle, allowing it to be towed on its remaining wheels.
  3. Wheel-Lift Tow Trucks – Similar to hook and chain, but uses a metal yoke that lifts the vehicle by its wheels, reducing potential damage.
  4. Integrated Tow Trucks – Often used for heavy-duty purposes, featuring extra axles and integrated arms that are more stable and capable of towing larger vehicles.
  5. Boom Tow Trucks – Equipped with a hydraulic arm (boom) that can extend beyond the end of the truck, useful for recovering vehicles from ditches or over embankments.
  6. Rotator Tow Trucks – Advanced tow trucks with rotating booms, allowing for greater maneuverability and the ability to recover vehicles in complex situations.

Each type of tow truck is designed to handle specific towing and recovery operations, making it important to choose the right kind for the job.

1. Flatbed Tow Trucks

Flatbed tow trucks, also known as rollback tow trucks, are equipped with a large, flat, horizontal bed that can be tilted at an angle to allow vehicles to be loaded onto it. This type of tow trucks are widely used for its versatility and safety in transporting various types of vehicles.

  • Standard Flatbed Tow Trucks: Basic models suitable for towing standard vehicles.
  • Extended Flatbed Tow Trucks: Designed for longer or larger vehicles.
  • Aluminum Flatbed Tow Trucks: Lightweight versions for better fuel efficiency and performance.

Flatbed tow truck in action

Flatbed tow trucks are ideal for transporting vehicles that are inoperable or have been involved in accidents, where traditional towing methods could cause further damage. They are also preferred for transporting luxury cars, classic cars, and low-clearance vehicles.

Situations where flatbed tow trucks are ideal,

  • Accident Recovery: Safely transporting damaged vehicles without further damage.
  • Luxury Car Transport: Ensuring the safety of high-end vehicles.
  • Long-Distance Towing: Providing a secure means of transporting vehicles over long distances.

2. Hook and Chain Tow Trucks

Hook and chain tow trucks are one of the oldest types of tow trucks, utilizing a hook and chain system to lift the vehicle off the ground. A hook is placed around a vehicle’s axle or frame, and chains are used to secure it to the truck.

This method is straightforward but has some limitations compared to newer technologies.

hook and chain Tow truck
A hook and chain Tow truck
  • Cost-Effective: Lower initial investment compared to other types.
  • Simplicity: Easy to use and maintain.
  • Potential for Damage: Can cause damage to the vehicle’s frame or suspension.
  • Limited Use: Not suitable for all types of vehicles, especially newer models with unibody construction.

Hook and chain tow trucks are best suited for:

  • Older Vehicles: Especially those with solid axles.
  • Light-Duty Towing: For smaller cars and trucks that do not require delicate handling.

3. Wheel-Lift Tow Trucks

Wheel-lift tow trucks use a metal yoke that is positioned under the wheels of the vehicle to lift it off the ground. This method is a significant improvement over hook and chain systems, providing a safer and more efficient towing solution.

Wheel-lift tow trucks operate by using a metal yoke or cradle that fits under the wheels of the vehicle needing towing. Once positioned, the yoke is hydraulically lifted, raising the vehicle’s wheels off the ground.

Wheel-Lift Tow Truck in Action

This method differs from traditional hook and chain tow trucks, which lift the vehicle by its frame or axle, potentially causing damage. Wheel-lift tow trucks are preferred for their ability to tow vehicles without touching their frames, reducing the risk of damage and providing a more secure towing solution, hence, is a popular choice for roadside assistance and towing services.

  • Reduced Risk of Damage: Minimizes the impact on the vehicle’s frame and suspension.
  • Faster Loading: The yoke system allows for quicker and easier loading.
  • Weight Capacity: May not be suitable for very heavy vehicles.
  • Cost: Slightly more expensive than hook and chain systems.

Heavy-Duty Tow Trucks

Heavy-duty tow trucks are robust vehicles designed to handle large-scale towing and recovery operations. These trucks are essential in commercial and industrial settings where standard tow trucks may not suffice.

Heavy-duty tow trucks, also known as wrecker trucks, are characterized by their powerful engines, reinforced frames, and specialized equipment designed to tow heavy vehicles such as buses, RVs, and large trucks. They often feature multiple axles for enhanced stability and weight distribution.

Heavy-duty tow trucks are commonly used in,

  • Transportation and Logistics: Towing semi-trailers and tractor-trailers involved in accidents or breakdowns.
  • Construction Sites: Moving heavy machinery and equipment that cannot move on their own.
  • Public Safety: Clearing large vehicles from highways to prevent traffic disruptions.
  • Rotator Tow Trucks: Used for uprighting overturned heavy vehicles.
  • Integrated Tow Trucks: Towing articulated buses and large commercial vehicles.
  • Boom Tow Trucks: Recovering vehicles stuck in remote or challenging locations.

4. Integrated Tow Trucks

When compared to other types of tow truck, Integrated tow trucks are particularly designed for heavy-duty towing and recovery operations, especially in urban and industrial environments.

Integrated tow trucks combine the features of a heavy-duty truck chassis with an integrated towing apparatus. This apparatus typically includes a strong hydraulic boom and winch system capable of handling large vehicles with ease.

Integrated tow trucks are indispensable in industries such as,

  • Public Transit: Towing buses and other large public transportation vehicles.
  • Construction: Moving heavy equipment and machinery on construction sites.
  • Utilities: Recovering utility vehicles and equipment in challenging conditions.
Intergrated Tow Truck in Action
  • Stability: Extra axles and reinforced chassis provide stability when towing heavy loads.
  • Versatility: Capable of handling a wide range of vehicles, from buses to construction equipment.
  • Safety: Advanced hydraulic systems ensure secure towing operations with minimal risk of damage.

For more insights into integrated tow trucks and their applications, you can explore resources like Miller Industries.

5. Boom Tow Trucks

Boom tow trucks, also known as wrecker trucks, are equipped with a hydraulic boom that extends outward and upward from the vehicle. This feature distinguishes them from other types of tow trucks, allowing for versatile and effective vehicle recovery operations.

Boom tow trucks use a hydraulic boom to lift vehicles:

  • Extended Reach: Enables retrieval of vehicles from ditches, embankments, or other challenging locations.
  • Multiple Attachments: Can be fitted with various attachments such as winches and hooks for different recovery scenarios.

Boom tow trucks are commonly used in,

  • Off-Road Recovery: Extracting vehicles stuck in remote or rugged terrain.
  • Accident Recovery: Safely recovering vehicles involved in accidents.
  • Urban Settings: Navigating narrow streets or spaces inaccessible to other tow trucks.
Boom tow truck in action
  • Versatility: Suitable for a wide range of recovery situations due to their extendable boom.
  • Precision: Allows for precise positioning of the vehicle during recovery operations.

6. Rotator Tow Trucks

Rotator tow trucks are advanced recovery vehicles equipped with a rotating crane-like apparatus, providing unparalleled capabilities in complex recovery scenarios.

Rotator tow trucks feature,

  • Rotating Crane: Allows for 360-degree rotation and precise positioning of the crane arm.
  • Heavy Lifting Capacity: Capable of lifting and recovering extremely heavy vehicles.

Rotator tow trucks excel in,

  • Overturned Vehicles: Uprighting overturned trucks and buses.
  • High-Angle Recoveries: Recovering vehicles from steep embankments or cliffs.
  • Tight Spaces: Maneuvering in confined urban environments or construction sites.

Rotator tow truck in action

How Much Does It Cost for a Tow Truck?

Understanding the costs associated with purchasing a tow truck is crucial for businesses and individuals looking to invest in towing equipment. The prices can vary significantly depending on the type, size, condition, and additional features of the tow truck.

  1. Flatbed Tow Trucks: On average, new flatbed tow trucks can cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Used flatbeds may range from $20,000 to $80,000 depending on age and condition.
  2. Hook and Chain Tow Trucks: These are generally less expensive, with new models ranging from $30,000 to $80,000. Used hook and chain tow trucks can be found for $10,000 to $50,000.
  3. Wheel-Lift Tow Trucks: New wheel-lift tow trucks typically cost between $50,000 to $90,000. Used models may range from $30,000 to $70,000 depending on condition.
  4. Heavy-Duty Tow Trucks (Integrated, Boom, Rotator): Prices for heavy-duty tow trucks vary significantly due to their specialized nature. Integrated tow trucks can start at $150,000 and go up to $300,000 or more for new models. Boom and rotator tow trucks are even more expensive, with new units costing anywhere from $250,000 to over $1 million depending on size and capabilities.

The cost to hire a tow truck can significantly vary based on several factors including location, distance, type of vehicle, and the type of tow truck needed. Here are some general estimates,

  • Base Fees: Typically range from $50 to $125. This is the initial charge for the tow truck to come to your location.
  • Per Mile Charges: Can range from $2 to $4 per mile. This is added on top of the base fee and depends on the distance your vehicle needs to be towed.
  • Additional Charges: Fees for after-hours service, heavy-duty towing, or using specific equipment can add to the cost.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of tow trucks and their capabilities is essential for anyone involved in the automotive industry or seeking towing services.

Whether you’re thinking about buying a tow truck or hiring towing services, choosing the right type for the job can save you both time and money, therefore, always consider factors like towing capacity, specialized features, and budgetary constraints to make the best choice for your needs.


What is the most common type of tow truck?

  • The most common type of tow truck is the wheel-lift tow truck. These trucks use a hydraulic mechanism to lift vehicles by their wheels, offering versatility and efficiency in towing various types of vehicles without causing damage.

What is a wrecker tow truck?

  • A wrecker tow truck is a term often used interchangeably with a standard tow truck. It typically refers to a vehicle equipped with a lifting mechanism, such as a wheel-lift or hook and chain system, used to tow cars and light trucks.

Do u tip a tow truck driver?

  • Tipping a tow truck driver is not mandatory, but it is generally appreciated, especially if the driver provided exceptional service.

What is the name of the towing truck in cars?

  • In the animated movie “Cars,” the character representing a tow truck is named Tow Mater which is a type of Hook and Chain Tow Truck.

By Kavindu Motors

Truck Enthusiasts and Truck Parts Dealers based in Sri Lanka

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