Tow Straps Vs Recovery Straps

Tow Straps vs Recovery Straps: Know The Real Differences

This blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Whether you’re an enthusiast off-roader or maybe you live in regions where the roads and the terrains are not so friendly to drive on, a tow strap and a recovery strap are two major recovery accessories you can’t miss to pack. While it’s easy to pull or recover your vehicle with any of these accessories, the hardest part is differentiating tow straps vs. recovery straps and knowing which to use and at what time.

Now, tow straps and recovery straps are very similar as both of them are designed to recover a stuck vehicle with the help of another moving vehicle. However, there are a few differences you should be aware of when dealing with these two.

Since such information is very difficult to find on the internet, this short guide has discussed some of the major differences you should be aware of when it comes to these two accessories. So, here, we’ll basically look at factors such as the working principle, quality of stitching, strength, application, and ease of usage.


What are Tow Straps?

Now, just as the name suggests, tow straps are meant to tow a vehicle from its current state/position to a safer location. In case you happen to drive often, I believe you must have seen a vehicle being pulled by another vehicle on the road. The type of rope used in such a scenario is what we’re referring to as a tow strap.

Tow straps are made of less stretchy polyester fabric. For that reason, they’re only intended to pull vehicles and not to recover them. However, depending on the situation, there are times when you might be forced to use a tow strap to recover a vehicle.

In such a scenario, the recovery vehicle should be moved slowly in low gear to take the slack out of the rope. From there, the stuck vehicle should be pulled slowly without jerking forward abruptly. Since tow straps don’t stretch, this slow-moving pace will prevent tearing the rope, reaping off the shackle attachment points, and bending the vehicle’s bumper frame.


What are Recovery Straps?

On the other hand, recovery straps, also known as snatch straps, are used to snatch a vehicle out of a sticky situation. Earlier on, I mentioned that tow straps are not suitable for vehicle recovery, as they don’t stretch.

However, when it comes to recovery straps, these are capable of recovering a stuck vehicle easily as they have an exceptional stretching advantage. The nylon fabrication used by these ropes is of massive advantage as it makes the ropes more durable and less likely to fail during a recovery procedure.

Now, tow straps use hooks to tie the rope to each end of a vehicle’s anchor point. This is not the case with recovery straps, which use loops instead. The reason why snatch straps don’t use metallic hooks is due to their stretchy characteristic that can cause metallic projectiles to fly dangerously in the air in case the rope snaps.


What are some Major Differences?


  1. Construction

Tow Straps:

Now, tow straps are made from cheap less elastic materials such as Dacron, Polyester, and Polypropylene. Due to their less stretchy characteristic, tow straps are equipped with metal hooks attached at either end. That makes it easier for them to tow vehicles from one place to another while maintaining consistent pressure.

Recovery Straps:

Recovery straps, on the other hand, are made from stretchy nylon fabric. This fabric allows these ropes to stretch to about 30% of their original sizes. This stretching advantage allows these ropes to store kinetic energy from the pulling vehicle. Once they attain their maximum stretching limit, they tend to slingshot, transferring the kinetic energy to the stuck vehicle to help with the recovery.

Following this working principle, kinetic recovery straps have loops braided on each end of the rope where you’re supposed to merge with rated shackles. The reason why most manufacturers avoid using metal hooks is due to the stretchy nature of these ropes that can send metal projectiles flying dangerously in case of breakage.


  1. Application

Tow Straps:

When it comes to the application, tow straps are used to tow vehicles on a leveled road. Since they’re made of polyester, these ropes don’t stretch making it easier to pull a vehicle.

Recovery Straps:

On the other hand, recovery straps are used to recover a vehicle that’s stuck on mud, sand, or snow. In most cases, these ropes are used in the wilderness where roads are quite rough. Since they’re capable of stretching, the recovery vehicle is free to accelerate at a higher gear without damaging the rope or any of the vehicles’ attachment points.

When it comes to pulling a vehicle, recovery ropes are the worst options. That’s because of their stretchy nature that makes it difficult to maintain a steady pressure when pulling a vehicle on a highway.


  1. Strength

When it comes to strength, both the tow and recovery straps need to have a higher pulling rate that’s at least three times higher than the weight of the vehicle being pulled.

In the case of recovery ropes, this factor is very critical and must be considered with a lot of seriousness. Since a recovery strap will have to stretch to transfer the kinetic energy from the pulling vehicle to the stuck vehicle, you need to be very keen on the load rating to avoid getting in trouble.

When choosing a recovery strap, you need to confirm the weight of your vehicle to avoid getting a thicker rope.

Remember, if the rope is too thick, it might fail to offer the spring-release effect and instead cause a sudden jerking motion like a tow strap.


  1. Storage

When it comes to storage, recovery straps are the worst candidates as compared to tow straps. First, recovery straps are bulky causing them to occupy a lot of space in your vehicle. Secondly, recovery straps get dirty quite fast meaning you have to clean them after every recovery procedure before storing them.

This is quite different from tow straps, which are less bulky and very easy to store. Since they’re thinner than recovery straps, tow ropes can be folded easily and stored in a bag.


  1. Durability

About durability, recovery straps are hailed for being more durable than tow straps. First, these straps are made from high-grade nylon that has a higher life expectancy than polyester or polypropylene.

Secondly, recovery straps are dipped in special water and UV resistant treatment to make them resistant to wear and abrasion. Lastly, recovery ropes are double-braided to help maintain their strength. This is different from tow straps, which are stitched together.

Since the stitching technique cannot be compared to the double braiding of recovery ropes, tow straps are therefore less durable.


  1. Value For Money

The last major difference between tow straps and recovery ropes is the price range. Tow straps on their side are more affordable, as they demand less when it comes to construction. On the other hand, recovery straps have a more complex braiding technique that makes them more expensive.

Although there are cheaper models of recovery ropes that are available, you have to be very keen on what you’re getting as these ropes are intended to perform complex recovery tasks as compared to tow straps.



As you can see, there’s a huge difference between tow straps and recovery straps. Although the two share some similarities, there are many differences between them. For instance, a tow strap doesn’t stretch while a recovery strap spring when under load.

These two major differences make tow straps the best for towing vehicles as they can supply consistent pressure that’s needed for pulling. Conversely, recovery straps are designed to store kinetic energy as they stretch, which is used to recover a stuck vehicle from its bogged state.

With that said, we believe you’ve understood the main difference between tow straps and recovery ropes. So, the next time you go out for an off-road adventure, we believe you’ll use the right strap to maximize safety and reduce the rate of wear.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top