Know your rights when getting a tow
Learn about your rights when dealing with towing services or if your vehicle gets towed to a storage lot.
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Tow truck drivers, towing companies and vehicle storage providers must abide by a code of conduct and be certified to offer services in Ontario. As a consumer, you have rights related to:
- providing consent to tow
- where your vehicle is towed
- accessing your vehicle
- vehicle storage facilities
- rates and payment
Getting a tow
As of January 1, 2024 tow operators are required by law to:
- have a certificate to operate in Ontario
- show the name of the company and the certificate number on all their tow trucks as well as on consent forms and invoices
Additionally, beginning July 1, 2024, tow truck drivers must present a copy of their tow driver certificate upon request.
Consent to tow
Unless initiated by the police or authorized official (for example, if you are parked illegally), you have the right to:
- choose which company can tow your vehicle (except in a restricted tow zone)
- choose where your vehicle will be towed
There are restricted tow zones on some highways in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Find out where the restricted tow zones are.
Tow truck drivers and towing companies must do the following before moving your vehicle:
- give you their rates (their maximum rate schedule)
- give you a list of your rights as a customer
- get your consent to tow on a form that includes:
- the name of the tow driver and operator
- the tow driver’s certificate number if they have one
- their operator certificate number
- give you an unaltered copy of the form that documents your consent and contains all information required from them by law
Do not sign a blank form. Make sure the required information is on the form before you sign it.
If the tow truck driver or towing company did not get your consent, they cannot charge you for towing services.
Once you give consent, they are not allowed to make changes to the agreement.
Towing your vehicle
Tow drivers must take:
- the most direct route when dropping your vehicle off at the location they have been instructed to bring it to
- photographs of your vehicle if recovery services are provided (these photos are for record-keeping purposes only and tow drivers do not need to give you the photos)
- reasonable precautions to avoid further damage to your vehicle
You are allowed access to your vehicle
You or the person acting on behalf of the owner should be allowed to access the vehicle unless police direct you not to access the vehicle.
Rates and payment
The rates for towing or vehicle storage services must be given to you before providing services. Operators must also post their rates:
- at their office or place of business
- on their website (if they have one)
- at the location where your vehicle is stored
The towing or storage operator cannot charge you more than their maximum listed rates.
When paying, you have the right to:
- see an itemized invoice before payment is requested, including
- services provided (find out what items are required on the invoice)
- cost of each service
- total cost
- choose your payment method, including credit card, debit card and cash
- get a receipt after you pay
If your vehicle has been towed to a storage facility
Consent to store
Vehicle storage services do not require your consent to store your vehicle at their facilities.
After receiving your vehicle, the storage operator must take steps to inform you or the owner of:
- where the vehicle is being held with the location address
- how to retrieve your vehicle from the lot
- contact information to help you retrieve it
The vehicle storage operator is allowed to give written notice:
- by email
- in person
- by mail or courier
Getting your vehicle back
After you make a request to get your vehicle back, the storage provider must make reasonable efforts to organize:
- a prompt release of your vehicle when they are open for business
- a release as soon as possible when they are not open for business
When the storage facility is not open for business, a storage provider may charge additional fees to access your vehicle outside of prescribed hours.
In most cases, if the storage lot operator does not notify you within 15 days after the day it receives your vehicle, the amount you have to pay will be limited to the cost of towing and storing your vehicle for that period.
The storage lot operator has a legal right to ask you for payment before giving you your vehicle back because they have a lien against your vehicle.
Learn more about the Repair and Storage Liens Act.
Allowing access to your vehicle on the lot
If you are the owner of the vehicle or have been given permission by the owner to retrieve personal belongings from the vehicle, the vehicle storage facility should allow you to access it during their regular operating hours, free of charge. If the business does not have regular business hours, they should allow you access at any time the lot is open for business.
Access might not be granted if the police have directed otherwise.
Identification and certification
Vehicle storage services must post their government-issued certificate at their storage location for customers to see.
Towing and storage rules
Tow truck drivers, towing companies and vehicle storage operators are required to follow a code of conduct and meet Ontario’s customer protection and safety requirements.
They are not allowed to:
- offer services under another business name or different contact information
- make a referral without disclosing if they have an interest in the business, facility, individual or entity they are referring you to
- solicit services you have not requested
- make false, misleading or deceptive statements
- provide false information, documents or misleading advertisement
- charge or attempt to charge you:
- more than the company’s maximum rate for a service
- for fuel surcharges
- for storage services after you had made a reasonable attempt to retrieve your vehicle from their yard
- refer you to legal or health care services
- use information collected from you for any purpose other than what is authorized under the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act or Repair and Storage Liens Act
Roadside assistance and automobile clubs
Roadside assistance services, such as changing a tire or a battery boost, are not covered by the towing and storage rules.
Consent to tow and invoice requirements do not apply to towing or vehicle storage services that are either free of charge or prepaid (for example, through an automobile club membership, or in connection with purchasing or leasing a vehicle).
Exemptions to holding a certificate
All tow or vehicle storage operators and tow truck drivers are required to hold a towing or vehicle storage certificate unless they are exempt.
Report a concern
You can report a concern or file a complaint with the Ministry of Transportation online if you have an issue with the:
- towing or vehicle storage services you receive
- conduct of the tow truck driver, towing company or vehicle storage service that provided services to you
We can only address concerns related to events that happened on or after January 1, 2024, when provincial oversight took effect.
We strongly encourage you to report incidents as soon as they happen. Please include as much information about the event as possible such as:
- date the incident occurred
- information about the driver or operator (for example, CVOR number, tow or vehicle storage certificate number, company name, name on the side of the truck, driver name)
- details of the event
- supporting evidence (for example, photos, invoices, consent forms, dashcam video, collision reports)
If you have questions about customer rights under the Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act, please contact:
Ministry of Transportation
Commercial Safety and Compliance Branch
301 St. Paul Street, 3rd floor
St. Catharines, Ontario