Knowing When to Tow & When to Drive Away

Accidents are an unfortunate reality that leaves us feeling confused. In that split second, your mind races with questions: Am I hurt? Is the other driver okay? How bad is the damage? Finally, should I drive away or call for a tow truck?

The answer varies depending on several factors, including your health, the car's potential damage, the cost of towing, and legal implications. Knowing when to tow and when to drive away is crucial for the safety of everyone involved.

The collision's severity can range from minor cosmetic issues to significant damages that require expert collision repair services. So, let's explore how to assess the damage and choose the best course of action in the aftermath of a collision.

Factors to Assess the Physical Damage

The most important thing is your safety on the road. Please prioritize that first, hopefully the decision to tow or drive away your car gets easier when you consider these factors in assessing the physical damage to your vehicle.

1. Steering and Suspension Damage

If your car suffers from steering and suspension damage, towing is recommended. The steering system guides the direction of your vehicle, while the suspension system ensures stability on the road. Any harm to these systems could severely affect your car's handling, placing you in danger of accidents and injuries.

2. Fluid Leaks

A fluid leak under your car indicates something is wrong with its components, such as the engine, transmission, power steering, or brake systems. These leaks can cause a loss of control over the vehicle's movements, thus leading to accidents. Therefore, it’s best to avoid driving in such cases and have your car towed.

3. Tire Damage

Tires are vital to ensure the safe handling and braking of a car. Any visible wear, tear, puncture, or bulge must be addressed immediately to avoid further damage. Driving on a flat or punctured tire can potentially lead to accidents or other costly repairs. So, calling for towing services is safer than risking a blowout while driving.

4. Frame Damage

Frame damage is a critical issue that can cause deformations, cracks, or breaks in your car's body. It leads to problems like poor wheel alignment, difficulty closing or opening doors, and strange noises while driving.

If you suspect frame damage, avoid driving your vehicle, as this could exacerbate the problem and threaten your safety and others on the road. Towing is often necessary in cases of frame damage to avoid causing additional harm.

Factors to Assess the Emotional State

Let your emotional state guide you on whether to tow or drive away from the incident scene.

1. Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety can impact decision-making and cause physical symptoms such as shaking and sweating. If these emotions are overwhelming, it may be best to call for a tow truck instead of risking driving in an unsafe condition.

2. Shock and Confusion

Shock and confusion are common after experiencing a traumatic event like a car accident. These emotions can lead to disorientation and clouded judgment, making it difficult to assess the damage done to your vehicle. So, having your car towed is better than attempting to drive away blindly.

3. Injury and Pain

Injury and pain should always take precedence over any other factors. If you or someone in the car has been injured, do not attempt to drive away. Some injuries may not manifest until later, even if you feel fine initially. It's crucial to seek medical attention immediately and arrange for a tow truck to take care of the vehicle.

Assessing the Status of Your Car After an Accident

After an accident, you must assess the condition of your car before deciding whether it's safe to tow or drive away. Some important factors to consider are:

Visible Damage

If you notice minor visible damage like scratches, dents, or cracks that don't affect the functionality or control of your car, it may be safe to drive away.

However, driving away could put you and others at risk if there is severe visible damage like a crumpled front end, broken headlights, bent wheels, flat tires, unalignment, or a cracked windshield. In such cases, towing is recommended.

Strange Noises

Listen carefully for any unusual sounds from your car that may indicate underlying damage. It could be anything from grinding or squeaking brakes to knocking or clunking under the hood. This could signal engine damage, suspension problems, brake issues, or loose parts. If you hear any concerning noises after an accident, it's best not to risk further damage and have your vehicle towed instead of driving away.

Leaky Fluids

Check for leaky fluids under your car, which includes oil, coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. Leaks in these fluids can lead to overheating, brake failure, loss of power steering, and even engine damage.

If you spot any leaks or smoke, don't attempt to drive away, as this could result in severe mechanical issues or even accidents. Towing is the wisest option when dealing with leaked fluids.

Importance of Not Driving an Unsafe Car

If your car exhibits signs of severe damage or mechanical failure, such as smoke, unusual noises, fluid leaks, or an inability to start, towing may be the safer option. Operating a compromised vehicle puts you and others at risk on the road. Driving such a car can worsen its existing issues, causing costly repairs or rendering the automobile unusable.

On the other hand, if the problem is minor and doesn't affect your car's drivability, driving it short distances to a repair shop could save you time and money. In short, always err on the side of caution and prioritize safety over convenience when it comes to post-accident driving decisions.

Tips to Decide Whether to Tow Your Car or Drive Away

Keep the following in mind when faced with the predicament of whether to tow or drive away after a car accident:

Safety Risks, Damage, and Cost

Before making any decisions, assess the safety risks of driving your car versus towing it. Consider the extent of the damage to your vehicle and the costs associated with towing and repairs.

If your insurance covers tow fees, you won't be accountable for these costs. But if uninsured, you are liable for all towing charges and any linked storage or impound lot expenses.

Well-being over costs

In the aftermath of an accident, prioritize your physical and emotional well-being over towing costs and inconvenience. It is wise to opt for a tow if you're shaken up, as driving could exacerbate injuries.

Informed decision-making strategies

  • Assess the damage to your vehicle and determine if it is safe to continue driving. If not, call a towing service.
  • Consider whether you feel comfortable driving your car after the accident. If not, it's safer to have it towed.
  • Check with your insurance company to see what coverage you have for towing expenses.
  • Consider any legal requirements in your state regarding accidents and moving damaged vehicles.
  • Consider any injuries sustained during the accident and prioritize seeking medical attention over dealing with the car.

By weighing these factors carefully, you can make an intelligent and informed decision about what to do after an accident.


Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be daunting and overwhelming. Whether it's assessing the damage to your vehicle, dealing with potential injuries, or grappling with emotional distress, it's paramount to make decisions that prioritize safety.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, remember: it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you're ever in doubt about the extent of damage or your car's drivability, consider opting for a tow. And, for expert post-accident assessments, consultations, or repairs, don't hesitate to reach out to Caliber Collision. Our dedicated team is here to help Restore the Rhythm of Your Life®, ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition to get you back on the road safely.