At first glance, a friendly tow truck happening by after an accident or breakdown can seem like a godsend. But if you didn't call for a tow, there's a good chance it's what authorities call a "bandit" tow truck, which means you'll get your tow and an eye-popping bill.
There are a couple of easy ways to protect yourself. If you have AAA or belong to another roadside assistance program, that's where you should turn when you need a tow because you'll benefit from lower pre-negotiated rates.
Or, your auto insurance policy may offer roadside assistance. If you use it when an accident renders your vehicle undriveable, it's a good idea to ask about the policy's limits on towing and storage before you leave the scene.
If you must use an independent tow truck, it's best to call for one rather than go with a truck that's just passing by. It's also critical that you read the fine print before signing any towing contract. Experts say you should get a printed price or invoice of all towing and storage charges and any miscellaneous fees. The contract also should specify to where your vehicle is being towed.