When To Tip Tow Your Truck Driver (and How Much)

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

Your car died on you and now you need a tow. Do people actually tip their tow truck driver? And if so, how much? I've done some research - here's what I found.

Do you tip your tow truck driver, and how much? You don't have to tip tow truck drivers. They don't expect you to. However, roughly 50% of people seem to tip tow truck drivers between $5 - $20, depending on the situation. $5 is a nice gesture. $20 is considered a good tip by tow truck drivers.

Tow truck drivers often times go above and beyond to get you home safely. I've found some great (and weird) examples. Read on to find out more.

Tipping Customs

Tipping not customary

In this article:

  1. How Much To Tip Your Tow Truck Driver
  2. Things To Consider
  3. Other Things You Could Do or Give
  4. What Do Tow Truck Drivers Make?
  5. Here's What Tow Tuck Drivers Say
  6. When Not To Tip
  7. In Conclusion

How Much To Tip Your Tow Truck Driver

If you don't want to tip the tow truck driver, there's really no need. They don't expect you to. Please note: if you don't have the money to spare, you shouldn't tip.

That said, in some cases, it does seem customary to tip. Roughly 50% of people seem to tip tow truck drivers between $5 - $20, depending on the situation.

Here's how much people tip

  • $20 is considered a good tip
  • $5 - $10 is considered a kind gesture

Most people pay about 10% of the total bill, or between $5 - $10 for a regular tow job well done. If you want some additional service, $20 will buy you some extra time and effort.

When to tip:

A tow will cost you anywhere between $75 - $125 (source). That's a lot of money, so some people will be hesitant to tip. But there definitely are situations where a tip would be appropriate.

  • you want them to take a look under the hood, maybe save you some money
  • it's really bad weather
  • you get stuck in traffic and the tow takes very long
  • you want some extra service, like a ride home
  • they are on-site very quickly based on what they told you
  • in case they were running late, they've called you to update you
  • they are careful with your vehicle and didn't damage it
  • they take safety into account
  • he is polite and updates you on what he's doing
  • you drive an expensive car and want him to be extra cautious

Good tip: if you want him to be extra careful, tip him upfront!

Things To Consider

Tow truck drivers are known for going above and beyond. It's very skilled labor. You have to pay attention and deal with difficult and dangerous situations.

Doing skilled labor in dangerous situations, while remaining calm and updating the customer - it's not an easy job.

Also, you do kind of depend on the driver to get you into safety quickly. He's cleaning up a mostly messy situation, and prevents any major headaches.

The kinds of things they do to help you out:

  • crawl under your car in the pouring rain or in the mud
  • work along the side of the road in the middle of the night
  • give you a ride home (if you get lucky)
  • calling around to auto parts stores to find parts for your dead car
  • checking under the hood to save you the towing cost
  • pull over so you can get a drink or go to the bathroom

... and so on.

Other Things You Could Do or Give

If you can't tip, or don't want to right now, there are other things you can do.

Some people note they won't have the cash on hand when they're on the side of the road with a broken car. That makes sense, of course. The tow truck driver will understand as well. You could just tell them you'd wish to tip them, but don't have the money to spare.

Here are other things you could do:

  • give them your coupons for free drinks or meals
  • leave a positive review online
  • ask for some business cards and share them

Here are ways to make their job easier

You don't have to tip to be a good sport. You can also simply assist them to make their jobs (and lives) easier. Straight from the horse's mouth, here's what tow truck drivers recommend you do:

  • Give clear directions - what side on the road are you on
  • Describe your vehicle on the phone
  • Don't negotiate in the middle of the night

What Do Tow Truck Drivers Make?

  • AAA Tow Truck Drivers make anywhere between $14 - $17 per hour
  • The national average hourly wage is $13.34 per hour
  • Most tow truck drivers make between $10 - $19

source Glassdoor and Payscale.com

Here's What Tow Tuck Drivers Say

Tow truck drivers seem to like the work, although it can be demanding.

They say tips are absolutely optional, although it's really appreciated if you do.

Tow truck driving is a dangerous job (any roadside job probably is). They don't get paid much regarding the work is hard and dangerous.

Most tow shops pay commission to their drivers (30-35%). If you want to make money as a tow truck driver, speed is everything.

In this case, tipping a driver means he can take the time to service you better, maybe even save you some money by being kind of roadside assistance. Some tow truck drivers will diagnose a problem for you, get you back on the road, instead of just loading the vehicle and charging you.

Some towers are the business owner or run a car shop with it. They tend to make pretty good money. That doesn't mean you can't reward someone for doing a great job, or helping you out in a meaningful way.

sources: Tow Truck Driver Reddit and job reviews on Payscale.com

When Not To Tip

You're down south

Generally, the further south you go, the less customary it is for people to tip for doing their regular job (as long as they are paid by the hour). In New York it's way more common for people to tip.

So if you find yourself in the South, and want to leave a tip, be subtle about it. Always ask if a tip is appreciated.

They are rude

I wouldn't ever tip a rude person. For me, tipping is rewarding people for trying to make the world a better place. I tip for people doing more than they have to, paying extra attention to detail, being real kind, or helping me out in a meaningful way. I wouldn't consider anyone that's impolite.

They are unprofessional

If they are professional, they should also keep you updated (not on every little thing, of course). You should feel like you know what's going to happen, broadly speaking. A good tow truck driver informs you and tries to make sure you understand what's happening.

They damage your car

If they damage your car due to negligence, that's, of course, a no-go.

They overcharge

If they try to overcharge, you shouldn't tip them. A regular tow should cost you anywhere between $75 - $125. If they can make it work for less, that's maybe a reason to tip. Please note: if it's a long ride, it may cost way more. It's up to you to decide if they ask a fair price or not.

In Conclusion

So we've covered a lot. Tow truck driving is way more complex than I initially thought. I think I'd tip them more often now I know the dangers involved. Also, tow truck drivers are service providers - and they can really make a difference in a big way.

You depend on them to get to safety, and they can take advantage of that situation, or try to help you out as best they can. If they really seem to care and help you, you could consider tipping them. But you don't have to. It's not expected, and not customary, but it's highly appreciated if you do.

If you can't, that's fine too. A thank you and a smile go a long way.


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