Cost of a tow in Buffalo likely to rise

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The City of Buffalo is cracking down on so-called "tow truck turf wars." But the move will likely come at a price.

After more than 20 years of doing business in Buffalo, Elite Automotive's towing income took a hit when Buffalo changed the rules.

Owner Brian West said, "Greatly, we lost a lot of business with that rule change."

The city barred tow companies from looking for business at accident scenes. Instead it started requiring tows to be done by a city driver, or one of two private companies on its list. Now, more than year later, the city has opened the list up for bids.

Elite Automotive was one of four companies meeting with city officials about the request for proposals.

"Wait and see, that's really what it is," West said.

They have the same concerns as Michael Swinarski, owner of South Buffalo Auto Parts. He's on the current tow list, but points out the city is creating stricter requirements that will raise costs for any company they work with. To make it worth it, Swinarksi says companies will have to raise prices.

"Instead of doing 150 cars a week, we're probably doing 75," he said.

Fewer tows and the city will now require companies on the list to carry much more expensive insurance policies than they currently do.

Swinarski said, "It's going to be expensive for everybody. We're going to be expensive for the city, so they're going to have to raise their price, then the consumer is going to have to pay more. That's all I can tell you."

The city touted it's new tow law as more affordable for consumers: $90 per tow and $25 per day for impound costs. But these companies believe something has to give in order for the jobs to be worth it to them and consumers could pay the price.

"You have to pass that price on. In that regard, the consumer is going to see higher rates because you have to make up that money some other way," West said.

Right now, at $90 per tow, the private company keeps $50 and the city gets the rest. The companies News 4 spoke with said they'll likely have to bid higher than $50 per tow to make any money.

The city is accepting bids until July 29. The parking commissioner says he won't do an on-camera interview until then.

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