2022 Towing cost strategy, process, and price-affecting factors

What affects the cost of towing service in Hong Kong?

Imagine when your car suddenly breaks down on a highway, and you need to call a towing company to tow the car away. Now if you haven't purchased any insurance with towing protection, you have no choice but pay for it yourself. Towing your car is definitely a last resort, but as a driver you should be prepared for various road conditions. In today's Kwiksure feature, we'll take a look at reasons for towing, service charges, considerations, and factors that affect towing costs.

Why do you need a tow?

There are a thousand reasons for towing a car, you name it, your car breaking down on the road, battery suddenly dying, tire bursting, running out of gas, crashing, etc. In short, basically when a car suddenly fails and cannot be driven, the driver needs to call a tow truck to tow the car to the garage for further inspection and maintenance.

In addition, there are also drivers who collect famous cars, or for car shows. These cars are not intended to be driven at all. The owner pays a towing company to hoist the vehicle, put it on a trailer's tailgate, and transport it to the garage or exhibition ground.

Call-to-tow procedures and precautions

In the event of a traffic accident in the middle of the road, the car owner should turn on the hazard warning lights, and then drive the car to a safe location such as the shoulder of the road or a passing place before calling for a tow truck.

If the car breaks down in a tunnel, you should call the tunnel management company first. The tunnel company will tow your broken down car to a safe place such as the tunnel entrance. However, you will be charged an additional towing service fee.

Please note that the driver must keep the hazard warning light on while waiting for the tow truck, and should ensure that the road is safe before leaving the vehicle. Otherwise, they should stay in the car and wait for help to avoid accidents while waiting.

Related topic:

[Traffic Accident Claims] On-the-spot handling and settlement instructions after a collision

Common Factors Affecting Towing Costs

The towing company will ask the driver the following questions related to the car or the situation. These may affect the towing charge.

What type of car do you drive?

Towing service is mainly carried out by large, medium, and small towing trailers based on the size of your car. Large trailers are equipped with heavy-duty suspension arms capable of towing large vehicles heavier than 30 tonnes; medium-sized trailers are usually equipped with suspension arms and extra-long rear shovels, which can tow buses, small vehicles, medium and heavy goods vehicles, etc. Usually, these two types of trailers are in charge of towing cars involved in serious accidents, such as tipping over. This is why they have components such as suspension arms and rear shovels to tow broken-down vehicles, or even lift them completely off the ground.

Most drivers only need a small towing trailer with wire ropes, rear shovels, and rollers to tow their vehicle.

Drive wheels

Depending on your drive wheel configurations, that is, which wheels are driven by the engine, the towing company will provide different trailers, in order to avoid damaging the axles and the gearbox.

Front-wheel drive means that the front axle of the car is the power axle, and the rear axle is not connected with power parts. The trailer will use the rear shovel to lift the front wheels off the ground, and then fasten them and release the brakes, so that the unpowered rear wheels run against the ground. If the rear wheels of the car are damaged and unsuitable for driving, the trailer will first lift the rear wheels off the ground with a reel before towing the car away.

On the contrary, rear-wheel-drive vehicles will have the rear facing the tow truck. The trailer will use the rear shovel to lift the rear wheels off the ground, leaving the unpowered front wheels running.

As for four-wheel-drive or electric-hybrid vehicles, the whole vehicle needs to be lifted and towed away. Auxiliary trolleys are installed on the front and rear wheels on the pulley frame to lift the whole vehicle off the ground. For 4WD-SUVs or low-floor supercars, a flatbed trailer will be used to hoist the car to a flatbed at the rear of the truck to avoid damaging the differential.

Was your car involved in an accident?

If your car was involved in an accident, then it is likely that the car may have been damaged to a certain degree. The degree of damage depends on the extent of the accident, like whether the impact was light or heavy. In this case, the towing service will have to make decisions on how safely and appropriately the vehicle can be towed away. Depending on the state of the car, options to transport the car could involve one of the following:

  1. Flatbed tow truck
  2. Integrated tow truck
  3. Hook and chain tow trucks
  4. Wheel-lift tow truck

The above types of towing trucks will have different call-out costs as they specialize in different situations and for vehicles. 

Is your towing request an emergency requirement?

If you have just suffered an unexpected breakdown or an unfortunate road accident, and you would like the towing service to immediately provide assistance, then the rate at which they attend can also affect the cost of towing. For emergencies, this would mean an immediate response and lead to a higher call-out cost, than a non-urgent request.

Where do you want us to tow your vehicle?

A general rule of thumb is that the further the distance your car needs to be towed away, the more expensive the service will be, and vice versa. 

Where is the location of your vehicle now?

Similar to the above, if your vehicle is considered far to pick up from the location of the towing service, and the towing service is required to pick up your vehicle. The overall costs can be higher when compared to a shorter pick up distance.

Are the keys to your car with you?

This is quite an arbitrary factor to consider, but without a key to your car, the towing service may find accessing or transporting your vehicle more difficult.

Does your car have operable wheels?

If your car was involved in an accident with the wheels affected, then it could make towing more difficult. A specialist towing truck or specialist vehicle may be required to lift and transport the car. In this case, the cost of calling out the appropriate vehicle to assist could cost more.

Do towing companies only provide towing services?

Towing companies also provide other services. For example, if you cannot start your engine because the battery has ran out/stopped working?, towing companies can provide you with a jumper cable to transfer electricity to your vehicle for a fee of HK$350 to HK$600 per rental. Some towing companies provide replacement or refilling services, depending on the price of the tire, plus a labour fee of HK$300 to HK$550. Furthermore, there are tow companies that provide door unlocking services.

What should I pay attention to if I need towing in a tunnel?

As mentioned above, if your vehicle breaks down in a tunnel, the insurance company will arrange to first move the broken vehicle to a safe place such as the tunnel entrance, where you will wait for a tow truck. The charge at each tunnel varies.

Trailer charges in various tunnels in Hong Kong

Tunnel

Charge (HKD)

Cat. A

Cat. B

Cat. C

1, 2

3

4, 7

5, 6, 8

Aberdeen Tunnel
Central - Wanchai Bypass Tunnel
Cross-Harbour Tunnel
Eastern Harbour Crossing
Lion Rock Tunnel
Tate's Cairn Tunnel
Shing Mun Tunnels
Tseung Kwan O Tunnel
Kai Tak Tunnel
Lung Shan Tunnel
Cheung Shan Tunnel
Tuen Mun - Chek Lap Kok Link
Airport Tunnel
Scenic Hill Tunnel

Per Time

$140

$175

$215

Western Harbour Crossing

Min. Charge
Per Hour

$220

$370

$570

Long Duration

Per Hour

$850

$1,000

$1,150

Tai Lam Tunnel

Min. Charge
Per Hour

$220

$400

$600

Long Duration

Per Hour

$880

$1,200

$1,440

Tsing Ma Control Area

Per Time

$260

$450

$600

Tsing Sha Control Area

Per Time

$280

$600

$600

 

Hong Kong Tow Truck Fee

In Hong Kong, the price of a day trailer ranges from HK$400 to HK$800. The price at night and late-night hours will be more expensive than daytime by HK$250 to HK$400. However, there are also towing companies that charge flat rates regardless of the time of day.

As mentioned above, the longer the distance, the higher the trailer fee. Same-area towing is usually cheaper, cross-area or cross-harbour towing is more expensive. If the tow truck has to pass tunnels, bridges, or needs to take a ferry on its way to the garage, the towing company will charge the relevant fees. Taking a trip from the New Territories to Hong Kong Island as an example, the tunnel tolls actually account for the largest portion of the towing fee.

Some tunnels, including the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, Lion Rock Tunnel, Aberdeen Tunnel, Shing Mun Tunnel, and Tseung Kwan O Tunnel, even require trailers with vehicles to go through application procedures before passing through. The towing company needs to apply to the tunnel administration first, presenting supporting documents of the tow truck (including identity documents, telephone numbers, addresses, licenses, etc. of both the trailer driver and the owner of the towed vehicle), and then pay an administrative fee of $82 to arrange for a construction vehicle to escort the tow truck. The administrative fee for the WHC is $90, and an additional $30 for each additional axle landing.

Some towing companies are reluctant to go through the application process. They will avoid these tunnels, preferring to detour through roads and tunnels that do not require application, but the journey will be longer.

In addition, towing companies may charge double under extreme weather conditions (such as typhoon signal No. 8, black rainstorm, etc.) In events of serious accidents, towing companies may also charge extra for handling vehicles that have fallen down a hill or tipped over completely. Extra charges may also apply if the vehicle is towed indoors, for example, in a garage or parking lot. The lower the ceiling, the higher the fee.

Lastly, if the vehicle is towed abnormally, for example, auxiliary supporting rollers are needed, wires need to be pulled out, or parts need disassembling, additional charges apply.

Does my car insurance cover tow service?

While tow-trucks or specialist towing vehicles are helpful in an emergency situation, the overall cost of requesting for their services can be expensive. Fortunately, with the right car insurance plan, your vehicle may be covered. It is therefore imperative that you read the terms and conditions of your car policy, and know what is and isn’t covered in terms of towing your vehicle.

Generally, almost all third-party car insurance policies will not cover towing. On the other hand, comprehensive car insurance policies will offer at least 24-hour assistance to vehicles. Again, it is important to read the clauses, as some plans only provide towing services for cars that are involved in accidents and not to those that breakdown due to mechanical failure.

How can comprehensive car insurance help me?

By offering more extensive cover than third party only and third party fire and theft policies, comprehensive car insurance covers everything that third party policies cover (including fire and theft), while also protecting the driver’s own vehicle.

Benefits of getting comprehensive car insurance

  • No claims (bonus) discount
  • Vehicle towing and roadside assistance
  • Cover for damaged windscreens
  • Monetary payouts for totaling your vehicle
  • Cover for flood damage and fire damage 
  • Replacement of your car should it get stolen 

Find out more about towing services and roadside assistance

If you’re looking for vehicle towing service and car insurance in Hong Kong, our experts at Kwiksure are happy to help you at any time. As Hong Kong’s leading car insurance broker, Kwiksure can help you find the best third party insurance and comprehensive insurance.

Contact us or visit our website for a free, no-obligation quote today. 

The above information is for reference only. Kwiksure takes no responsibility for the accuracy and timeliness of the information. For the coverage, mode of compensation, benefit limit and premium levels of any specific insurance plan, please refer to the relevant policy terms.