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When you’re experiencing car trouble, it’s more than a simple inconvenience—it can consume your day. With about 69 million breakdowns happening every year around the country—according to Agero, a company that makes driver assistance apps—many of your fellow drivers can relate to the frustration of car issues.
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Because vehicle breakdowns are so common, car insurance companies and other organizations offer roadside assistance coverage to help in these situations. Buying this type of coverage can help get your car up and running and give you peace of mind knowing you’ll have help if you’re in a bind. Before you buy a plan, here are a few things to keep in mind.
What Is Roadside Assistance?
Whether you’re stuck on the side of the road, your car won’t start in your driveway or your tire pops in a parking lot, roadside assistance can provide services that get the car operating correctly. You can typically contact your roadside assistance provider via a direct phone number or an app. The provider can send someone to your rescue and get you back on the road promptly.
You can buy or access roadside assistance coverage through:
Your auto insurance company
An auto club organization
Your credit card company
A vehicle manufacturer
What Does Roadside Assistance Cover?
Roadside assistance details vary by provider but here are some common services:
Mechanical labor if your car is disabled
Towing if your car can’t be driven
Battery jump-start if your car won’t start
Fuel delivery if you run out of gas
Electric car charge
Unlocking your car when you’ve locked the keys inside
Pulling your car out of a ditch (also known as winching services)
Check the plan for limitations. For example, some providers limit the number of service calls you can make or tows you can receive in a given year.
You may also be able to add coverage for other vehicles such as RVs, boats or motorcycles
Additional Roadside Assistance Benefits
Some roadside assistance plans provide extra benefits such as:
Trip interruption coverage. Suppose you’re on a road trip with your family and you get into an accident and your car can no longer be driven. Trip interruption coverage will reimburse you for travel expenses such as a hotel and food while your car is repaired.
Guarantee arrest bond. If you’re jailed for a traffic violation, this coverage can help pay for your bond.
Legal defense reimbursement. If you need a lawyer after a traffic violation, this coverage can reimburse you for legal costs.
Insurance Companies Offering Roadside Assistance Coverage
Many car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on to an auto insurance policy:
Allstate offers different types of roadside assistance plans. For example, you can choose among a towing and labor plan, a pay-per-use plan or an annual membership. The pay-per-use plan charges you every time you need a roadside assistance service. With the towing and labor plan option, you can get coverage for locksmith services, winching, towing, tire changing and fuel delivery. With the annual membership, you receive special discounts and the standard services that come with a towing and labor plan. In addition, if you choose the membership option, you don’t have to be a policyholder to buy coverage.
Geico offers an emergency roadside assistance service that you can add to your auto insurance policy starting at $14 per year per car. Services including towing, battery jump starts, fuel delivery, lockout services (up to $100) and tire changes.
Progressive offers emergency roadside assistance that covers towing, battery charges for electric cars, winching, on-scene labor, fuel delivery and locksmith services.
State Farm offers an emergency roadside service covering towing, battery jumps, spare tire changes, oil delivery, mechanical labor (up to one hour on-site) and locksmith assistance.
Other Ways to Get Roadside Assistance Coverage
While purchasing a roadside assistance plan through your insurer can be convenient, it might not be the best solution. You may already have coverage in place and not even know it. Before you buy extra coverage, explore all of your other options.
Credit Card Companies
Some credit card companies offer roadside assistance plans free of charge. Check your benefit details, because sometimes you have to pay a fee for using the services.
Some examples of credit card roadside assistance plans include:
Roadside Dispatch from Visa. This roadside assistance offering is a pay-per-use plan and costs $69.95 per service call. You can get services such as towing, tire changes, jump starts, fuel delivery (up to five gallons) and help to get into your car if you’re locked out.
Roadside Assistance from American Express. If you’re a Serve American Express or Bluebird cardholder, you can receive roadside assistance services as one of your benefits. From towing services to locksmith services, you can arrange assistance free of charge. You may have to pay a little extra if you get services out of the scope of the benefit offerings.
Master RoadAssist Roadside Service from MasterCard. MasterCard offers a complimentary roadside assistance hotline to its cardholders. You’re responsible for any service charges when you get roadside assistance.
Some vehicle makers provide roadside assistance as part of a new car purchase. For example, a roadside assistance plan is complimentary when you buy a vehicle under a Mercedes-Benz warranty. This plan includes towing, on-site mechanical labor and trip interruption coverage.
It’s also possible to receive roadside assistance coverage if you buy an extended warranty for your car.
Auto clubs generally provide roadside assistance as a primary service offering. While these plans tend to be more expensive than adding roadside assistance through your insurance company, they also typically offer more robust coverage and the ability to connect you with a broad range of service providers.
For example, AAA and National Motor Club offer three plan levels to drivers. From complimentary service calls to towing services to legal defense coverage, each plan offers a variety of service offerings. The price you pay will depend on the plan level and your location.
Other Roadside Assistance Options
You can also find roadside assistance in other ways. For example, Honk is a free app that helps you connect with roadside assistance service providers. If you’re in a vehicle bind, you can enter a few details about your situation, such as your location and type of car issue, and Honk can provide a free quote for the service.
If you’re satisfied with the quote, you can request the service, and Honk will charge your card and email you a receipt. Honk is worth considering if you want to avoid membership fees and only pay for roadside services when you need them.
Another example is the Verizon Roadside Assistance Service offered to Verizon customers. It costs $4.99 a month per Verizon line. You can receive emergency help such as fuel delivery and towing. You may have to pay additional fees if you request service outside the scope of coverage. Also note that if the registered mobile device is not at the service area location when the call for help is made, the charge is $89.95.
Beware of Possible Restrictions
Every roadside assistance plan will have limitations. Before you decide on coverage, review the restrictions and exclusions so you’re not surprised if you need to call for roadside assistance.
Some restrictions can include:
You must have collision and comprehensive coverage. If you choose to add roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy, your insurer will likely require collision and comprehensive coverage.
You must provide proof of coverage for service. Many providers will require proof of coverage if you request services, such as a valid ID or membership card.
Plans only apply to your vehicle. You can’t use your coverage for someone else’s car problems.
Service limitations. Some plans may only tow your car a certain number of miles or give you a set amount of gas if your car runs out of fuel. In addition, expect to pay for any costs above the plan limits.
Is Roadside Assistance Coverage Worth It?
It can be nerve-wracking and frightening to be stranded on the side of the road. No matter which option you choose, roadside assistance can ease your mind knowing that if a vehicle emergency occurs, you have a plan for getting back on the road.
Before you purchase a plan, compare your options and any existing coverage to see what you really need.
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