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What are the differences between flatbed and wheel lift towing?

Updated: Mar 30

Back in the old days, a hook and chain tow truck was the only type of tow truck that existed. The tow truck operator would wrap chains around the vehicle frame and use a crane to lift one end. The two rear tires always touched the road during the tow.

As automobiles evolved, so did tow trucks too. Modern vehicles would get damaged if they were dragged with a hook and chain. That is why better tow trucks exist today, such as the flatbed tow truck and wheel lift tow truck. However, which one is better for your vehicle?

Flatbed Tow Truck

A flatbed tow truck is the most secure way to transport a vehicle from Point A to Point B. The truck has a tiltable flatbed in the back of it. The tow truck operator inclines the flatbed to ground level so that the vehicle can be dragged on top of it. After that, the flatbed is raised off the ground and put in a perfectly horizontal position behind the truck.

The main advantage here is the towed vehicle stays entirely off the road. All four tires of the vehicle sit on the flatbed and are secured to special rails during transport. It keeps the vehicle completely safe because debris and other obstacles on the road will not damage it. If you need to tow your vehicle a long distance, there is no better tow truck than the flatbed tow truck.

Flatbed tow trucks are the only option for towing bigger vehicles, such as four-wheel-drive vehicles, SUVs, and light trucks.

Flatbeds are also the best option if your vehicle has suffered accident damage. Other towing options could worsen accident damage, which means your insurance company might deny your claim. But a flatbed tow will ensure no further damage is inflicted upon your vehicle.


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Wheel Lift Tow Truck

A wheel lift tow truck consists of a heavy-duty hydraulic crane in the rear, with a few crossbars at the very end of it. The tow truck operator slips the bars underneath the front or rear tires of the vehicle. The hydraulic crane will lift the rear end or front end of the vehicle, depending on whichever is necessary to keep the vehicle’s transmission safe.

Two tires will continue to stay on the ground during the tow. However, it is not like the hook and chain because the towed vehicle does not get dragged. The crane keeps two tires off the ground and keeps the raised end securely in place. That way, there is virtually no chance of the vehicle swerving and shaking around as it is towed from behind the truck.

Wheel lift tow trucks are smaller than flatbed tow trucks. They’re better for towing smaller passenger vehicles within a short distance, such as around your town or city. Wheel lift tow trucks are not recommended for long-distance towing.

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