Recovery Strap vs Tow Strap: What’s the Difference & When To Use Each

When it comes to towing, there’s so many types of equipment for specific uses. While a recovery strap vs tow strap may seem the same, they are two very different pieces of towing equipment.

Knowing when to use each one can make all the difference, but many people aren’t aware of it.

So what’s the difference between a recovery strap vs tow strap?

Recovery straps are stronger and made for pulling or recovering vehicles from rugged spots like ditches, while tow straps are good for towing vehicles.

Knowing whether to use a tow strap or recovery strap will make all the difference in completing your task safely and efficiently.

There’s a bit more to know, so in this guide we’ll cover the differences between each type of strap and when to use them.

Recovery Strap Vs Tow Strap

Tow Strap Vs Recovery Strap
Recovery straps are better for pulling stuck vehicles out, while tow straps are better for towing on roads.

To recap, recovery straps are best used in a “recovery” situation, that is a situation where you are trying to pull a vehicle out from somewhere, like a ditch or a muddy spot.

Tow straps are strictly designed to be used for towing vehicles and are not good for recovery purposes.

But why can’t you use a tow strap as a recovery strap?

We’ll cover each of these strap types and what makes them unique below.

Recovery Straps

Recovery Strap

Recovery straps (aka snatch straps or kinetic recovery ropes) are different from tow straps because they have more stretch in them, making them have a higher strength against breakages.

They’re usually made from nylon, which has a bit of elasticity to it.

This stretch allows them to store kinetic energy when pulling a vehicle, which reduces recoil and helps to prevent damage to either vehicle.

A recovery strap works like a large rubber band, and that stored energy helps to get the stuck vehicle unstuck!

They also don’t have any hooks or other metal pieces on the end.

Instead, they feature loops on the end to make sure there is no damage done to the stuck vehicle or rescue vehicle, making them safer to use under a high-tension situation like a vehicle recovery.

Recovery straps can be used as tow straps, too, making them a bit more versatile.

This is not always your best choice though, because recovery straps are harder to control while towing.

They’re also a little bulkier than tow straps, meaning they’ll take up more storage space when not in use.

Recovery straps are typically 2″ to 3″ in diameter, but the lengths and thicknesses can vary.

Tow Straps

Tow Strap

Tow straps do not have elasticity in them, which is great if you are applying constant tension, like towing a vehicle down the road.

They’re usually made from polypropylene or Dacron which don’t stretch.

This lack of stretch makes tow straps bad at getting vehicles unstuck when using a rescue vehicle to pull another vehicle out.

Another key point between tow strap vs recovery strap is that tow straps don’t perform as well in wet conditions.

However, a tow strap can be a great tool to use in recovery if you’re using a winch or something else that will keep the strap under the same amount of tension.

Tow straps feature metal hooks on the end, and if one of these hooks came off they can cause injury to people nearby or damage either or both vehicles.

Tow straps come in different thicknesses and shapes, but the most common tow strap length is 20 feet.

Tow Strap Vs Recovery Strap: Which Is Better?

Considering the difference between recovery straps and tow straps, there’s not one that’s better than the other, just that each one is better for specific uses.

If your vehicle is stuck in mud and you’re trying to pull it out, the stretchiness of a recovery strap is what you need.

That stretchiness will help you get the vehicle out of the mud efficiently thanks to the recovery strap’s kinetic energy and make the job easier.

If your vehicle is broke down on the side of the highway and you need to tow it somewhere, you’ll want to use a tow strap.

The pulling power of a tow strap and lack of flexibility will make the towed vehicle easier to control while you pull it down the road.

Check out our guides on how to tow a car without keys and how to use a snatch block for other helpful towing and recovery tips.

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