Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • In most states, any registered vehicle must have minimum insurance coverage
  • As the driver of the lead vehicle, you’re responsible for any accidents caused by you or damage to the towed vehicle
  • The towed vehicle will have some liability insurance extended to it from the lead vehicle, but it will not receive any extension of collision or comprehensive coverage

If you have a larger vehicle that can handle heavy jobs, then you may be asked to tow cars once in a while. Whether you put the car up on a flatbed or tug it behind you with a rope, you should be aware of the potential liability involved with this service.

Make sure that you have the right insurance coverage so that you’ll be protected.

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Liability is Generally Covered Under the Lead Vehicle’s Plan

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In general, auto insurance extends to anything that you’re towing with your car, which includes a car that you’ve just bought and need to get it home for repairs or a utility trailer. If you take a turn too tight and the car you’re towing brushes against another vehicle, then the liability coverage will come from the lead vehicle.

However, that same insurance plan won’t extend to the towed vehicle when you’re looking at the collision or comprehensive coverage.

Suppose that the tight turn caused damage to all three vehicles: the one you’re driving, what you’re towing, and another car. Your collision coverage will get the lead vehicle repaired, but the insurance company will check to see if the towed vehicle had a collision.

If it doesn’t, then they won’t cover the damage to that car.

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Registered Cars Must be Insured

Another question you should ask yourself is if the car is currently registered. In Pennsylvania and other states, any car that’s registered with the state must be insured to certain minimum requirements.

This means that if you’re taking your registered car that no longer works to a friend’s house for repairs, it still needs to be insured. If it’s an older vehicle with minimal value, then you can still save by shopping around for the best rates on a liability only plan.

Know What Can go Wrong

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It seems like a simple thing to hook up a dolly to your truck and load a vehicle on it, but there are several things that can go wrong. As the driver of the lead vehicle, you should know that you will be held liable for anything that goes wrong with the towed car, including:

  • The towed vehicle striking another car when you try to change lanes
  • The towed vehicle striking property or even pedestrians when you make a turn
  • The towed vehicle drifting into another lane and striking oncoming traffic or cars in the lane next to you
  • A jackknifed towed vehicle that causes other cars to swerve out of the way
  • Vehicles or trailers that become unhooked, roll into traffic, and cause an accident

Your liability coverage on the lead vehicle will cover the damages to other parties but not to the car that you’re towing. If you’re planning on using your car in this manner on a regular basis, then you should strongly consider increasing your liability limits.

With the right protection, you’ll rest easier, and you can save on the changes by shopping around, using comparison tools.

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Damage to the Towed Vehicle is Possible

It’s always possible that a towed vehicle will be seriously damaged while in transit. Whether you towed a friend’s car to be nice or you charged someone to haul their vehicle away, you can be held liable for any damages to the car.

If you were towing your own car, then the insurance will only cover the damage if you have comprehensive or collision plans. In the event that you damage a friend’s car while in transit, then you will generally be held liable.

The challenge lies in proving that the lead vehicle or driver caused the damage. Even if your friend’s car is insured under the right plan, the company can still look to you to cover the damages. Ideally, you should insist that towed vehicles have proper coverage and still take great care with the transportation.

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What You Need to Know When Towing

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While you need insurance on any car you’re towing, you also need to be aware of some safe towing tips that can help you avoid accidents. When you know what to do behind the wheel, you can avoid the hassle of filing claims.

Experts recommend that you:

  • Take it easy on the brakes — Dab them using gentle pulses to avoid overheating, and keep the trailer in line.
  • Get the wide mirrors Large pickups come with extendable mirrors that let you see the trailer behind you. If your vehicle lacks this equipment, then pick up special add-on mirrors that take your vision wider and allow you to effectively see what’s going on behind you.
  • Take a test run and check for sway — If your towing vehicle is bouncing around or swaying, then it’s harder to control and can contribute to an accident. Go for a short trip on familiar roads so that you know if you need a special bar or to make other adjustments to the towed vehicle.
  • Practice going in reverse — You may think that you can make the entire trip in forward only, but you never know when you’re going to be forced to put that truck in reverse. Find an empty parking lot where you can practice this maneuver so that you’ll be ready.
  • Keep it under 55 — As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to go faster than 55 when towing.
  • Increase the following distance — Having a towed vehicle on your back end increases your stopping time, so leave a little extra space in front of you.

Before you agree to tow any vehicle, speak with your agent to see what kind of coverage you have.

The peace of mind is well worth the small premium that you may have to pay to get that towed car covered.

Additionally, you may be required to insure the towed vehicle since it’s going out on the road at all.

Rather than worrying about the potential increase, use a comparison tool to shop around with other companies and find better rates.