Tow trucks are not generally available for public rental, as they are large, specialized vehicles that require prior training to safely operate. Many states and county municipalities in the United States regulate tow truck classifications and tow operator registration.
Tow truck services consist of hiring a truck and driver for a specific purpose. Typically this involves recovering a compromised vehicle that can't drive under its own power from an emergency situation, though it may also entail a previously arranged vehicle movement. Depending on the towing company, the charge may be a flat fee or on an hourly basis.
The three basic types of tow trucks are flatbed, hook-and-chain and wheel-lift models. The first type has a hydraulically-powered pivoting bed and a winch system. The end of the bed is tilted down to touch the ground in front of the hauled vehicle, which is then pulled on by the winch and secured in place.
A hook-and-chain tow truck connects pulling chains to the vehicles axle and drags it. This is an older style of towing unit, rarely used outside of junk vehicle dragging due to the damage it can cause. The contemporary replacement of the hook-and-chain is the wheel-lift tow truck, which uses a hydraulic yoke to lift one secured axle of the towed unit.