What are the different types of tow trucks that exist? What type of tow truck is the best for starting a tow truck business? Here is everything you need to know. The role tow trucks perform on our roads cannot be ignored one bit, just imagine that your car broke down on a lonely road that is far from the city. The only way you can get such car out of the location to a mechanic garage is by towing it, and that is exactly what a tow truck can do.

What is a Tow Truck?

A tow truck which can also be called a wrecker, a breakdown truck, recovery vehicle or a breakdown lorry is a truck used to transport disabled, improperly parked, impounded, or otherwise indisposed vehicles. This may involve recovering a vehicle damaged in an accident, returning one to a drivable surface in a mishap or inclement weather, or towing or transporting one via flatbed to a repair shop or other location.

With the above definition, it means that there are several types of tow trucks suitable for different purposes and if you are considering going into the tow trucking business, you might want to know the tow truck that will be suitable for the kind of business you want to engage in. Here some of the different types if tow trucks;

6 Different Types of Tow Truck and Their Uses

1. Boom Tow Truck

A boom tow truck is a type of tow truck that is equipped with hydraulic arm, called a boom, that extends out past the vehicle, and in most cases, this is the easiest way to recover a vehicle. Some booms tow trucks are in fixed positions while others pivot around, and the heavy-duty boom trucks are essentially smaller versions of a mobile crane.

Prior to this era, boom trucks are designed in such a way that it makes use of a hook and chain method to lift the vehicles, but these days, trucks are equipped with slings or belt lifts that are a little safer to use. The boom works with a winch, and together, with the strapping, they can lift vehicles out of difficult places and tow them to safety. Again, all-wheel drive vehicles can’t be towed with this type of vehicle, as it could mess up the drivetrain.

Please note that there are different designs of boom tow trucks and the heaviest types of boom can rotate, effectively turning the tow truck into a sort of mobile crane, called a “rotator”, and are usually reserved for heavy vehicle accidents.

In the past boom trucks used a “hook and chain” system where chains are looped around the vehicle frame or axle, then lifted by a boom winch. A tow – bar with heavy rubberized mats connects the truck and vehicle, so it can be towed on its other axle. “Slings” and “belt lifts” are an evolution, with rubber straps replacing part of the chains. Slings are not used much today because they can scratch the bumpers of cars.

But they are sometimes used for towing vehicles that have been in an accident or have one or two of the front or rear wheels missing or for pickup trucks and other vehicles that have steel bumpers. Cars equipped with all-wheel drive cannot be towed with a sling, since it can cause problems with the car’s drivetrain.

2. Flatbed Tow Truck

Flatbed tow truck is also called a “rollback”, “slide” or “tilt tray” and this is due to the fact that the entire back of the truck is fitted with a bed that can be hydraulically inclined and slid back to ground level, allowing the vehicle to be placed on it under its own power or pulled on by a winch.

Because they carry, rather than tow the vehicle, it can be completely immobilized; in the US they are used to carry badly damaged cars from crashes. As a matter of fact, flatbed tow trucks are one of the most common and widely used towing vehicles in the world. A flatbed truck has a long empty bed with a flat top.

Hydraulics are used to move the flatbed upwards and downwards. What makes flatbed trucks easy-to-use is that you can simply drive your vehicle up the ramp, or have it pulled up. They are also helpful in transporting vehicles which have had a roadside problem or have been involved in an accident.

Different types and sizes of vehicles and boats can easily be transported on flatbed tow trucks. They are also one of the safest ways to tow vehicles. Its most dominant feature is a long hydraulic flatbed that inclines, with the back end lowering all the way to the ground. The car that needs to be towed will be driven or pulled onto the bed of the truck and secured before the bed of the truck is lowered back to a level position.

3. Hook and Chain Tow Truck

If you are familiar with the tow truck industry, you will agree that this tow truck is perhaps the oldest type of tow truck, and it is the one that you would see on the street or highway most often than not. This is how hook and chain tow trucks work; they use a hook and a chain to tow vehicles from one place to another.

The hook attaches to the vehicle’s bumper or axle, which can become strained or damaged during travel. The chain may also scratch the body of the vehicle, so these trucks typically aren’t used. Furthermore, you can’t use this kind of truck for all-wheel or 4×4 trucks because it can damage the drivetrain.

Hook and chain tow trucks were used to tow all kinds of cargo but currently, the trucks are mainly used for junk automobiles and wrecked automobiles, because of the danger of additional damage to the bumper of vehicles. Wrapped chain can damage or scratch the vehicle, so it is recommended that you use this option only if you are transporting a wrecked car to a junkyard.

4. Integrated Tow Truck

An integrated tow truck is one that uses two different mechanisms, and the most common combination is a boom and a wheel lift integrated into one unit. These are useful for small jobs where a full boom truck may not be necessary, and integrated trucks have controls on the interior of the vehicle, so it’s possible to quickly pick up a vehicle without ever exiting the truck.

Please note that integrated tow trucks can be mid-size or designed for heavy-duty pickups, as the arms are heavily embedded into the core of the vehicle, which makes them more stable and capable.

5. Wheel-Lift Tow Truck

Wheel-lift tow trucks is designed with a mechanism similar to the hook and chain tow truck. On the other hand, they use a metal yoke instead of chains and cause less damage to the towed vehicle. The metal yoke is hooked under the rear or front wheels.

A pneumatic hoist or hydraulic lift suspends the rear or front side of the vehicle in order to lift it from the ground and pull it away. Front wheel drive vehicles are pulled by their entrance wheels. While wheel-lift tow trucks are not as safe or protected as flatbed tow trucks, they are relatively inexpensive.

It is worthy to mention that wheel-lift tow trucks is an improved version and design inspired by the hook and chain tow trucks, but they work a little differently. Instead of a hook and a chain, these trucks use a metal yoke that often only touches the wheels. The yoke hooks up underneath the drive wheels of the vehicle, so this may be front or back depending on the vehicle.

From there, a hydraulic or pneumatic hoist lifts this end of the vehicle into the air to be towed. Please note that despite the fact that wheel – lift tow truck can’t offer the same level of protection as a flatbed tow truck, they do prevent damage to the bumper, and there are no chains that can scratch the body of the vehicle that is being towed.

6. Lift Flatbed Tow Truck

A Lift Flatbed tow truck uses a wheel-lift frame to lift the vehicle vertically and load it on the bed. Interestingly, Lift Flatbed tow trucks are majorly used in Europe, and one good and unique feature of this tow truck is the fact that it can remove vehicles that are parallel-parked.

What is the Best Truck to Use for Towing Business?

When it comes to making a choice on the most suitable tow truck to use for your towing business, you should have to clearly state the type of towing business you want to engage in. The truth remains that all the tow trucks listed above are suitable for different purposes.

So if you just want to engage in transporting broken down vehicles to repair shops, impound lots and other locations then you might want to settle for Hook and chain tow truck or Wheel-lift tow truck. If you want to transport or tow multiple cars from or to the port, then it is advisable that you go for Flatbed tow truck. Interestingly, there are 40ft Flatbed tow trucks that can be used for towing several cars at a same time.

Lastly, if the type of towing business you want to start revolves around recovering cars that fell into ditch or off – the road, then you are advised to purchase A boom truck. This truck has a hydraulic arm, called a boom, that extends out past the vehicle, and in many scenarios, this is the easiest way to recover a vehicle.

Ajaero Tony Martins