How Much Is the Tow Truck Business Startup Cost? (2023 Update)

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
Updated on:

Starting a tow truck business can be a lucrative venture, but it’s essential to understand the startup costs involved. This will help you plan effectively, avoid unexpected expenses, and set realistic revenue goals. In this guide, we’ll break down the costs associated with starting a tow truck business.

How much does starting up a tow truck business cost? 

Starting a tow truck business requires a substantial initial investment, and the total cost can vary significantly depending on whether you choose to buy a new tow truck, buy a used tow truck, or lease a tow truck.

If you opt to buy a new tow truck, your initial investment could range from $66,500 to $272,000. This cost encompasses the truck itself, equipment and supplies, licensing and permits, insurance, marketing and advertising, and a contingency for additional costs.

Choosing to buy a used tow truck could reduce your initial investment to a range between $27,500 and $159,000. This reflects the lower upfront cost of the truck, but still includes all other necessary startup costs.

For those who prefer to lease a tow truck, the annual cost may range from $24,500 to $72,500. While this offers a lower barrier to entry and can be a viable option for many, bear in mind that leasing costs will recur every year of your lease agreement.

In each case, keep in mind that variable operating expenses such as fuel, maintenance, salaries, and office expenses are not included in these figures. These will vary greatly based on your specific circumstances. As always, before making significant business investments, consulting with a financial advisor or professional is highly recommended.

Expense CategoryBuying a New Tow TruckBuying a Used Tow TruckLeasing a Tow Truck
Tow Truck Cost$50,000 – $200,000$15,000 – $100,000$12,000 – $30,000 (per year)
Equipment & Supplies$5,000 – $10,000$5,000 – $10,000$5,000 – $10,000
Licensing & Permits$500 – $2,000$500 – $2,000$500 – $2,000
Insurance$4,000 – $15,000$4,000 – $15,000$4,000 – $15,000
Marketing & Advertising$1,000 – $5,000$1,000 – $5,000$1,000 – $5,000
Operating ExpensesVariableVariableVariable
Additional Costs (Contingency)$6,000 – $40,000$2,500 – $27,000$2,500 – $9,500
Total Cost$66,500 – $272,000$27,500 – $159,000$24,500 – $72,500 (per year)

Costs of Acquiring a Tow Truck

The tow truck is the heart of your operation. The cost can vary greatly depending on whether you decide to buy new, used, or lease.

A. New Tow Trucks: 

A new tow truck can cost between $50,000 to $200,000 or more depending on the model, type, and specifications. While new trucks are a significant investment, they come with the latest technology, fewer maintenance issues, and warranties.

B. Used Tow Trucks: 

Used trucks are cheaper, ranging from $15,000 to $100,000, but they may require more maintenance and may not be as reliable or efficient as new ones. Check the vehicle’s condition, mileage, maintenance history, and lifespan before purchasing.

C. Leasing a Tow Truck: 

Leasing can be a viable option if upfront costs are a concern. Leasing contracts vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 per month. The advantages of leasing include lower initial costs, flexible contract terms, and the ability to upgrade equipment.

Costs of Necessary Equipment and Supplies

Apart from the tow truck itself, you’ll need additional equipment for your operations. This includes towing hooks, chains, winches, lights, dollies, and flatbed equipment, which can collectively cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Remember, safety and efficiency should be paramount when purchasing your towing equipment.

Licensing and Permit Costs

Operating a tow truck business requires specific licenses and permits that vary by state and city. Typical requirements include a commercial driver’s license, a business license, and a motor carrier permit. The costs for these licenses and permits can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Tow truck insurance costs

When you’re starting a tow truck business, having the proper insurance coverage is absolutely vital. Not only does insurance protect your business from potential liabilities, but it is also a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. Understanding what types of insurance are required, as well as those that are highly recommended, is a key step in setting up your tow truck business.

Liability Insurance: 

Tow truck liability insurance is a legal requirement for tow truck businesses in most jurisdictions. Liability insurance covers the costs of damage to property and bodily injury that might occur while operating your tow truck. This includes both property damage and bodily injury liability. Estimated Cost: $1,000 – $15,000 per year, depending on the specific limits and your business location.

Medical Payments/Personal Injury Protection (PIP):

 Though not required in every state, this coverage is critical for paying medical bills for you and your passengers if injured in an accident. Estimated Cost: $100 – $500 per year.

Physical Damage Coverage: 

Trucking physical damage insurance, often broken down into collision and comprehensive coverages, pays for repairs to your tow truck if it’s damaged in an accident or other event. This type of insurance is typically required if you are financing or leasing your tow truck. Estimated Cost: $1,000 – $3,000 per year per truck.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: 

Although not always legally required, this type of coverage can protect your business if you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have adequate insurance. Estimated Cost: $200 – $600 per year.

On-Hook Towing Insurance: 

This coverage is specifically designed for tow truck operators. It protects the vehicle you are towing if it is damaged during transport. While not legally required in all states, it’s highly recommended for all tow truck businesses. Estimated Cost: $350 – $1,000 per year.

Garage keepers insurance coverage is necessary if your business also includes a repair shop or you are storing vehicles. It protects customer vehicles from damage while in your care, custody, or control. Estimated Cost: $1,000 – $2,000 per year.

Workers Compensation: 

If you have employees, most states will require you to have workers’ compensation insurance. Workers comp insurance for truckers protects your employees if they’re injured on the job. Estimated Cost: Varies widely based on number of employees, specific tasks, and location.

Please note, these are rough estimates and actual costs can vary widely based on a multitude of factors. Factors such as your location, the size of your fleet, your safety record, and specific coverage limits will all affect your costs. It’s recommended to get quotes from multiple insurance providers to ensure you’re getting the best price. Also, consider working with an insurance agent experienced in commercial truck insurance to ensure you’re getting the coverage you need.

Remember that while some insurance types are not mandatory, they provide critical protection for your business. A significant accident or liability claim could be financially devastating without the right insurance coverage in place. Therefore, view insurance not just as a legal requirement, but also as an important component of your business risk management strategy.

Remember to check out our other articles on the best tow truck insurance companies and how much tow truck insurance costs for more detailed information.

Marketing and Advertising Costs

Marketing is essential to attract customers to your new business. You could use traditional advertising (flyers, local newspapers, radio spots), digital marketing (website, SEO, social media), or a combination of both. Initial marketing and advertising costs can be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000.

Operating Expenses

Operating expenses include fuel, maintenance, salaries (if hiring), and office expenses (rent, utilities, office supplies). These costs will vary greatly depending on your specific circumstances but should be carefully estimated and included in your business plan.

Additional Costs to Consider

Unexpected costs are inevitable in any business. Repairs, legal fees, additional equipment or supplies, and other unexpected costs should be considered. A contingency fund of at least 10-20% of your startup costs is typically recommended.

Financing Options for Starting a Tow Truck Business

Funding your tow truck business could come from personal savings, loans from banks or private lenders, investors, or even grants for small businesses. Each funding option has its pros and cons, and it’s essential to choose one that aligns with your financial situation and business goals.

How to start a tow truck business?

Starting a tow truck business involves various steps and considerations, including deciding on the type of service, conducting a market analysis, securing necessary licenses and permits, obtaining the right insurance, purchasing or leasing a tow truck, and finding clients. The process can be complex but can lead to a profitable venture in the high-demand towing industry, given the proper planning and execution. For a detailed guide, refer to our comprehensive article on “How to Start a Tow Truck Business.”

Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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