Whether you need a tow to the shop or are simply moving a project car to your workshop, the right kind of equipment is necessary to make sure your vehicle is transported safely. Although there any many types of tow trucks, there are four main types that are used by the average car owner. Know what they are so you can request the right equipment the next time you need a tow.


A flatbed truck is an all-purpose truck that can tow just about any average vehicle, from a motorcycle to a full-size pickup. It is equipped with a ramp so a vehicle can be rolled onto the flatbed, where it is then tied down securely. Some flatbeds also have winches and other equipment to help move the vehicle in the event it can't be rolled onto the truck. Flatbeds are the best choice for vehicles with major collision damage, bent frames, or broken axles. They are also used to move vehicles in a manner that reduces wear and tear, such as when transporting classic cars.

Hook and Chain

The hook-and-chain truck is what most people think of when they imagine the quintessential tow truck. A hook, connected to a chain, hangs from a post on the bed of a truck. Either the front or rear wheels of the vehicle are hooked onto the truck, while the remaining wheels stay on the ground for transport. Hook-and-chain trucks are not suitable for towing four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicles, as they put a lot of pressure on the drive train. Usually this style of tow truck is used primarily for junk cars or vehicles that have been totaled.

Wheel Lift

A wheel-lift truck looks similar to a hook-and-chain truck, but it is much less damaging to the vehicle. Instead of a hook and chain, a wheel lift is placed under the front tires and the vehicle is then chained to the truck to further reduce stress and damage. The rear wheels are left on the ground when the vehicle is towed. Wheel-lift trucks can be used with cars or consumer trucks. They are generally reserved for short tows, such as to a shop when a car breaks down.


An integrated tow truck is the heavy lifter of towing. Most people won't need the services of one of these trucks because they are designed to move vehicles that are larger than the average car or pickup truck. You need an integrated truck if you need to tow a broken-down RV or a large work truck.

If you need a tow, contact a tow truck service in your area that has the equipment necessary to handle the job.