How to Choose Your First Heavy-Duty Towing Equipment: Key Decisions for Long-Term Business Success

May 28, 2024

Buying your first heavy-duty towing equipment is a huge investment in the future.

It needs to be your daily workhorse. But you also want it to be strategic—a purchase that positions your business for years of success. It needs to take into account your budget, where you plan to operate, and the capabilities you want your truck to have. 

But one of the most important factors to consider is one that’s hard to see until you’ve been running your business for months or even years. Because when you choose a piece of equipment you’re not just choosing its capabilities. 

You’re also choosing its limitations.

And those limitations, which are hard to see up front, will shape your business for years, and maybe even decades to come.

Here are three key limitations you should consider before deciding which equipment to buy. Getting clear on these from the beginning will help you make decisions that point you towards success in your first year in business, and every year after.

Limitation #1: What Kinds of Vehicles You Can Tow

When you choose your equipment’s lift capacity, you set your limitations on what kinds of vehicles you can tow.

For instance, an underlift on the lighter end of heavy duty will be able to tow an unloaded tractor truck from the rear. But you’ll need something with a higher lift capacity to tow a fully loaded tractor-trailer.

As an example, here are the three different lift capacities we make for our Fifthwheeler detachable underlifts, along with the recommended use cases.

Z252 – 25,000 lbs. Best for box trucks, package delivery vehicles, semi-tractors, and small to midsize motorhomes.

Z353 – 35,000 lbs. Best for motorhomes, buses, and tractor-trailers.

Z453 – 45,000 lbs. Best for large motorhomes, cement trucks, and garbage trucks.

Lower-capacity equipment will tend to be a smaller investment, but it will also keep you from some of the most lucrative towing opportunities.

Limitation #2: What Kinds of Work You Can Take

This limitation has two levels, but it’s the second one that most people don’t even consider.

First, the towing equipment you choose will limit the types of calls you can take. An underlift, for instance, is great for basic breakdowns. A winch will work for simple recoveries. But without a boom, you won’t be able to take larger or more challenging recovery calls.

Second, most towing equipment is non-detachable. Meaning your truck is limited to towing and recovery work. When that work gets scarce—for instance in the summer, when there are fewer recoveries—you might find your income dropping, even while you have to keep making loan and insurance payments for your rig.

Many new drivers are opting to start with detachable heavy-duty equipment. That way when recovery work slows down, they can swap their underlift or wrecker for a lowbed and take transport work to keep money coming in.

Limitation #3: Your Upgrade Options

As your business grows you’ll eventually want to upgrade both elements of your rig: the truck, and the equipment.

Upgrading your truck allows you to take advantage of more fuel efficient technologies, save maintenance and repair costs on an older vehicle, and increase your business’s capabilities.

Upgrading your equipment allows you to expand your rig’s capabilities and take more challenging calls.

But with non-detachable equipment your upgrade options are limited. You can retrofit the truck you have, or you can buy a new truck with different equipment.

Detachable equipment gives you a lot more upgrade options. You can start with an older truck to save money, then once you’ve established a steady income you can upgrade to a newer, more efficient truck.

Or you can start with just an underlift. Then when you’re ready you can add a boom or upgrade to a full wrecker, without having to buy a whole new truck.

Fewer Limitations Means More Ways to Be Successful

There are two reasons detachable heavy-duty towing equipment is gaining popularity among new and experienced business owners.

First, it’s just as capable as its non-detachable counterparts. In Zacklift’s case, our equipment will likely outperform and outlast competitors due to our exacting engineering and build processes.

But second, detachable equipment also removes key limitations—especially for new business owners who don’t yet own a whole fleet of trucks.

With one truck (and one insurance payment) you can take more of the work that’s available to you, and more easily take advantage of upgrades that will generate more income and save on expenses.

If you’re ready to learn more about detachable heavy-duty towing equipment, click here to get in touch and we’ll help you choose the best starting point for your business.


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