Heavy-Duty vs. Light-Duty Towing: Which Tow Truck Service Should I Choose?

Having your car or semi-truck break down unexpectedly on the highway isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Fortunately, a tow truck service can help recover your disabled vehicle and get it off the road in no time. Not all tow trucks are made the same, though. Some can handle minivans, while others help remove large industrial machinery from off the road. Light and Heavy-Duty Towing are the most common options for customers to choose from when it comes to hiring a towing company. They’re even pitted against each other; Heavy vs Light-Duty Towing. Which is better? By the end of this blog, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which tow truck works best for your situation.

What is Light-Duty Towing?

Light-Duty Towing

You’re probably wondering what the heck is Light-Duty Towing? Maybe you’re new to towing and unsure what tow truck will work best for you. If you drive a minivan or a Honda Civic, you’re in luck. Light-Duty Towing service involves hauling disabled vehicles to a repair shop, removing any cars from a private parking lot and even keeping the roads cleared off during a fatal accident. Typically they tow passenger vehicles, such as minivans and even pickup trucks.

Don’t be fooled by the name though. Tow trucks in this category are known for packing tons of power, despite being compact. They can even fit through tight alleyways, all while towing around 7,000-11,000 lbs. Also, a light-duty tow truck has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) ranging from 0 to 10,000 lbs, placing them in the 1 and 2 category classes. Light-duty tow trucks offer both versatility and durability, making them a huge plus for any towing job.

Also Read: Towing Capacity Guide

The Advantages Of Light-Duty Towing

There’s already so much to like about Light-Duty tow trucks. They can be used on several different jobs and come pretty durable. Not to mention, they have a high GVWR. With these kinds of perks, your Ford Mustang can be recovered and safely taken to the repair shop. Let’s check out some of the other advantages of using a Light-Duty Tow Truck service:

  • They can move in between tighter spaces and navigate through congested traffic
  • This service is more affordable service than hiring drivers with larger trucks
  • Light-duty tow trucks are more energy-efficient
  • Also, they’re easier to operate for drivers

The Disadvantages Of Light-Duty Towing

While there are tons to love about light-duty tow trucks, you might run into a few challenges with their service. Specifically, the small size of these trucks can lead to several problems. Here are the disadvantages of using a Light-Duty Tow service:

  • They can’t tow larger vehicles, such as a trailer truck
  • Light-Duty Tow Trucks aren’t designed to travel long distances because of their compact size
  • If used to tow large vehicles, they can cause major damage
  • Their equipment isn’t as durable or sturdy as a heavy-duty tow truck

What is Heavy Duty Towing?

Heavy Duty Towing

Light-duty towing works great for everyday vehicles. If you drive a large semi-truck flatbed truck that’s hauling cargo and it breaks down on the side of the highway, you’re going to need a Heavy-Duty Tow service. Their light-duty sibling may be sturdy, but they pale in comparison to a heavy-duty tow truck. They can handle 26,000 to 33,000 lbs of GVWR and are placed in the 7 and 8 classes of tow trucks. Not to mention, these trucks use better machinery than a compact tow truck, including 25-ton boom and 6-ton wheel lifts. In other words, they use tons of torque and horsepower to tackle the tough jobs. Their larger size makes it possible for them to haul more cargo and withstand the weight of larger vehicles like cargo trucks.

The Advantages Of Heavy Duty Towing

Similar to compact tow trucks, a heavy-duty one has much to offer drivers and customers alike. As we’ve previously seen, these tow trucks pack a huge punch and are designed to handle the tougher tow jobs more effectively. You can rest assured that your recovered vehicle will be handled with the utmost care. Here are the advantages to using a heavy-duty tow truck:

  • They offer tons of versatility due to a higher GVWR
  • These tow trucks can haul more weight
  • Additionally, they can tow several vehicles at the same time
  • They’re designed to haul larger vehicles and machinery such as industrial cranes and tractors

The Disadvantages Heavy Duty Towing

When it comes to hauling heavy machinery or loads, using a heavy-duty truck is vital to the completion of the job. Bigger isn’t always better though. Even using this type of service has its drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages to consider when using a heavy-duty tow truck:

  • These trucks use higher emissions
  • Due to the cost of fuel and machinery, they’re more expensive to hire out
  • They’re slow-moving
  • A Heavy-Duty tow truck can’t move through high-level traffic or down narrow neighborhood streets

Get Your Vehicle Up & Ready For Towing

At some point in time, you’ll need to call a tow truck company. Maybe your car battery died or you’re moving to another state. Whatever the case, you have to decide which tow service is right for you; heavy vs light-duty tow truck.

Customers must also take the necessary steps to get their vehicles prepped and ready for towing. The more provocative you both are, the faster the job can get done. Let’s consider these steps:

  • Remove Your Personal Belongings: Most towing companies make it clear they’re not responsible for any lost or damaged personal belongings. It’s best that you remove your purse, gym bag and especially your cell phone from the car.
  • Roll Up The Windows: Closing all the windows prevents thieves from stealing your car and being potentially damaged from debris during transport. Not to mention, you don’t want a raccoon making your car its new home.
  • Shut Off Emergency Brakes: You should disengage your emergency brakes before the car or truck is loaded onto a tow truck. Otherwise, it could get damaged. Do a double check to see if the vehicle is engaged as well.
  • Taking Photos: Similar to renting a car from a rental company, take before and after photos of your vehicle. Use these visuals as proof of any damage.
  • Work With A Reputable Towing Service: Most importantly, customers should do business with a reputable company, not a shady one. Research the company of your choosing before making the call so you know what to expect.

The Importance Of Weight In Towing

Another aspect to consider when having your vehicle towed is the towing weight. Essentially, the overall weight of your vehicle determines whether you need a light or heavy-duty tow truck. A tow truck driver needs to know the weight of your vehicle in order to better help them choose the right tow truck equipment for the job. In particular, the Working Load Limit (WLL) of their ratchet straps or chains must exceed your vehicle’s weight in order to safely tow it. Otherwise, they could risk damaging your car during transport.

A compact tow truck can only handle passenger vehicles, while a heavy-duty one hauls larger pieces of machinery and vehicles. Make sure you consider your vehicle’s weight before hiring a tow truck company

Which Tow Truck Is Right For The Job? Heavy-Duty Towing vs. Light-Duty Towing

As previously shown, the weight of your vehicle and the GVWR of a tow truck plays a huge role in choosing the right tow truck service for the job. Perhaps your Honda Civic fell into a ditch or your cargo truck’s transmission blew out on the highway. Choosing either a light or heavy-duty tow truck depends on the type of vehicle you drive and the nature of the situation. For example, light-duty towing works well for a compact car that’s disabled. Though, if you’re unsure, talk to a towing expert and they can help point you in the right direction.

All in all, making sure you use the right tow truck for a job can ensure a tow job is done correctly. The differences between using a Heavy and Light Duty Towing service are abundant. Though, there are tons of benefits to hiring each for a job. Nonetheless, you have to decide which tow truck service works best for your situation.


How much can a light-duty truck tow?

A Light-Duty tow truck can tow anywhere from 7,000 to 11,000 lbs and has a GVWR ranging from 0 to 10,000 lbs.

What is the 80% rule when towing?

The 80% rule basically states that a tow truck driver should avoid towing a vehicle above that percentage of their total towing capacity. Following this rule of thumb will prevent them from damaging both their tow truck and your vehicle.

What happens if a tow truck driver exceeds their towing capacity?

If a driver exceeds their tow truck’s towing capacity, your car could potentially be damaged during transport. They should always ask for the weight of your vehicle to help them safely haul your vehicle.

How does GVWR affect towing capacity?

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of a tow truck will ultimately decide its towing capacity by how much its rating allows for. The Towing Capacity should never exceed a tow truck’s GVWR for any reason.