1:28 PM EST, November 9, 2011
The city of Indianapolis cut a deal with the tow truck companies, but are you paying the difference? Fox59 spoke exclusively with someone inside one of the contracted tow businesses, exposing why he said you're paying more money when you should have to.
The city gave the contract to the highest bidder. A worker at one of those companies told Fox59 that they are now having to pass the extra cost on to people when they break down or are in an accident.
"It's really hard to look somebody in the eye and do what the company expects you to do, at the same time you're ripping these people off."
The city's contract sets a fixed price for police tows. Multiple towing companies told Fox59 that price applies anytime your car is impounded by police. Basically, if you break the law and police tow your car, you get the negotiated rate. However, the employee told Fox59 that if you break down or are in an accident it's a whole different story because that is considered a private tow.
"The money's got to be made somewhere."
Private tows account for 27,600 tows a year.
The employee said he has a hard time dealing with people because he knows that when people break the law, they get a better deal on the tow. For instance, a person hit by a drunk driver. The drunk driver pays $90 for the tow and $10 for storage a day. The innocent car pays the city-contracted tow company $175 for the tow in most areas of the city as well as a higher storage fee, a clean-up fee, a set-out fee, labor and any other fee the tow company feels they need to add on. As Fox59 found, that bill often equals hundreds more than what a person whose car was impounded by police would pay.
The towing employee says, "I don't see why they should get off easy and the rest of the citizens of this city have to pay."
The tow companies submit their private rates when they bid for the contract, but Fox59 discovered at least one company who showed $125 as the private tow fee now charging more than that. Receipts show that company charging $175 instead.
Kate Johnson with Code Enforcement said private tows are not monitored by the city.
"Private tows are not capped by the department."
The towing employee said the way the contract is now, it's all about the city making money on the franchise tows and he said someone needs to look at it and restructure it so it doesn't put the regular person footing the bill.
"They're just concerned about revenue coming in. That's the only explanation for it."
The city does not make any profit on private tows. You do have the right to call a tow company of your choice if you're in an accident, but the wrecker has to have your car cleared within 20 minutes of the accident happening.
The city did pass an ordinance this summer capping tows at $150 when people are towed from private lots, but it does not put a cap accidents and break downs.