Heavy vs Light Duty Towing: What’s the Difference?

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    Did you know that towing is an $11 billion market across the US? This makes sense when you consider that many different types of vehicles might require towing. It isn’t just passenger vehicles- pickup trucks, semis, and even tractors can shut down and require a tow job.

    Light duty towing and heavy duty towing are the two most common options for those looking to hire a towing company. Here, we’re going to explore the difference between these two services. Read on to learn some pros, cons, and use cases for each.

    Light Duty Towing: What Is It?

    Light duty towing is a standard towing service that allows towing companies to move vehicles. Its applications might include hauling broken-down vehicles to a new location, removing abandoned or illegally-parked cars, and clearing the roads after auto accidents.

    Light duty towing only requires conventional tow truck use. These are the trucks that you see every day on the road as they move vehicles to point A to point B. They are capable of hauling the majority of passenger vehicles including standard cars, minivans, and pickup trucks.

    They have the ability to tow around 7000-11,000 pounds.

    Light duty tow trucks are characterized by being both powerful and compact. They’re easy to drive through busy intersections, tight alleys, and more. This makes them versatile and gives them a multitude of applications.

    The classifications for a light-duty tow truck are definitive. Trucks are categorized by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The GVWR of a light-duty truck can be between 0 and 10,000 lbs, placing them in classes 1 and 2.

    Advantages of Light Duty Towing

    There are a few advantages of light duty towing:

    • Easier to operate than heavy-duty trucks due to fewer niche tools and equipment (though this is irrelevant when you work with a professional)
    • More energy efficient than larger alternatives
    • Less expensive to hire than larger alternatives
    • Able to move through tighter or more crowded spaces

    Basically, a light-duty tow truck is good for those who need to maneuver through compact spaces. However, it won’t get you very far if you’re looking to haul heavier vehicles or those containing large loads.

    Core Disadvantages

    The lightweight nature of light-duty towing also opens the door to several disadvantages:

    • Unable to tow anything larger than a passenger vehicle (construction equipment, trailer trucks, etc)
    • Not ideal for long-distance towing because of their small size
    • Can cause damage to larger vehicles when used incorrectly
    • Equipment is slightly less durable than that of a heavy-duty tow truck

    Heavy-duty towing is generally a better option for those looking to move heavy machinery and larger vehicles. However, that isn’t to say that light duty towing doesn’t have its uses.

    Use Cases

    The first use case for light-duty towing is in the event of a car breakdown. If an individual is driving and their car ceases to work, they might call a reputable towing company to move their car to their home or a dealership that can repair it.

    The truck sent to the caller will be light-duty because it is capable of bringing the car through residential neighborhoods and/or narrow streets. In some cases, the car may also cease to function in the aftermath of an accident. This means that post-collision towing is another use case for light-duty tow trucks.

    Those enforcing parking bans or towing cars in construction zones also may prefer to invest in light-duty towing services. Investing in heavy-duty tow trucks when they are not required wastes both energy and money. It’s important to understand your specific situation before choosing towing services.

    The Basics of Heavy Duty Towing

    As we brushed on earlier, the main distinction between tow truck classes is their GVWR. While light-duty trucks can haul up to 10,000 lbs, heavy-duty tow trucks can handle loads of 26,000 to 33,000 lbs. They are classes 7 and 8 of tow trucks.

    Anything that is made to haul a load between 10,000-26,000 loads is a medium-duty tow truck. These vehicles make up classes 3-6. They are slightly larger than light-duty trucks but are nowhere near as hefty, large, and capable as heavy-duty ones.

    In any case, a heavy-duty tow truck has higher-end machinery than light-duty alternatives. While light-duty trucks often operate with a simple crane system, heavy-duty ones use a 25-ton boom lift and 6-ton wheel lift. They use a lot of torque and horsepower to ensure that they can lift heavy loads. 

    The purpose of heavy-duty towing is to move large cargo trucks, industrial machinery, and other extremely heavy materials. They are much larger than standard light-duty towing vehicles to ensure that they can haul more cargo.

    Advantages of Heavy Duty Towing

    There are many benefits to using a heavy-duty tow truck:

    • Versatility due to a high GVWR
    • The ability to haul more weight at once
    • The ability to haul multiple vehicles simultaneously
    • The only option for hauling certain vehicle types (industrial cranes, tractors, large trucks, etc)
    • Extreme durability to support large loads
    • Professional assistance with the mechanisms needed to use the tow truck

    If you need to haul multiple vehicles at once or want to move something that weighs more, a heavy-duty tow truck is vital.


    This is not to say that heavy-duty tow trucks are without their downsides. Some disadvantages of using them include:

    • Higher emissions
    • More expensive to hire and operate (due to the cost of fuel, machinery, etc)
    • Slower-moving
    • Too large to move through some (though not all) residential neighborhoods and crowded areas

    Despite these cons, there are many situations that necessitate a heavy-duty tow truck. Assuming that you need the manpower that these vehicles can offer, the money spent on hiring one is not a waste.

    Use Cases

    A common use case for heavy-duty tow trucks would be hauling larger vehicles that have broken down.

    Cargo trucks, garbage trucks, dump trucks, and large trailers, can break down on the road just as personal cars do. They also can be involved in accidents that cause them to stop working. In these situations, a heavy-duty tow truck will be required to support their weight.

    Heavy duty towing also is essential for clearing the road of hazards. Cargo including large shipping containers may fall from trucks and onto the road. Heavy duty towing ensures that these hazards can effectively be eliminated and keep other drivers safe.

    Another heavy-duty tow truck application is hauling industrial or farming machinery. Industrial machines like cranes and fleet robots can break down, as can tractors. Heavy duty towing services are sometimes necessary to move broken machinery to another location.

    How Do You Know Which Type of Tow Truck Is Right for You?

    To find out which type of tow truck you need to hire, there are several questions that you need to ask yourself. The core ones include:

    • What type of vehicle needs towing?
    • How heavy is that vehicle?
    • How far must the vehicle be transported?
    • How wide are the roads that you must transport it on?
    • Must the vehicle be transported in a crowded area/a place with a lot of foot traffic?
    • What is your budget and how flexible is it?
    • Would a heavy-duty towing job damage the vehicle or its parts?
    • Would a heavy-duty towing job cost more money than necessary?
    • Would a light duty to truck be able to withstand the journey?
    • Do you need multiple vehicles or items to be towed at once?
    • How quickly do you need the truck to come to the current site of your vehicle?

    But what happens if you choose the wrong type of truck?

    Luckily, you can prevent these issues by consulting with a professional tow truck company. Experts can help you determine whether your applications require a light-duty vs heavy-duty truck. They can also help you determine the reasons behind your selection so that you better understand why you are hiring the services that you’re paying for.

    Start the Process of Hiring a Tow Truck ASAP

    While light duty towing is perfect for some everyday applications, many situations necessitate something that can haul more weight. Heavy duty towing services are ideal for clearing larger vehicles and heavy cargo from the roads. Now that you know whether you need to hire a light vs heavy-duty tow truck, it’s time to get started.

    At Geyer’s Towing, we’re committed to transporting cars, trucks, and more across the nation safely and efficiently. That’s why we’re excited to discuss your individual needs and give you a same-day quote. Hire our experts to safely ship your car to any American destination at the lowest possible price.

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