Whether it’s a flat tire or an empty gas tank, being stranded on the side of the road is stressful. And when you’re in an unfamiliar location, having help on speed dial can be a serious relief.
When you pay for roadside assistance, you get a dedicated service provider who will ride to the rescue whether a dead battery needs a jump start or a disabled vehicle requires a tow. Let’s take a closer look at what emergency roadside service plans offer drivers and whether this coverage is the right fit for you and your vehicle.
What is emergency roadside assistance?
Emergency road service is a popular coverage option that helps stranded motorists who are having mechanical issues. Most roadside assistance services offer 24/7 coverage from a network of local service providers at a reduced cost.
A roadside assistance plan can include towing services, help with flat tires, fuel delivery, battery replacement and even locksmith services. Note that what’s covered can vary depending on the location, provider, and several other factors.
Emergency road service is designed to minimize the costs of common sources of car malfunction and provide support even in a remote or rural breakdown location.
What does emergency roadside assistance cover?
Roadside services are designed to save you money in the event your vehicle breaks down, but the benefits included in roadside assistance programs can vary significantly. Here are a few (but not all) of the things you’ll find roadside assistance covers.
When your car breaks, doing mechanical labor in the breakdown lane isn’t always an option. A roadside assistance program includes towing to the nearest repair facility for free or at a reduced cost. This can also include emergency services and a winch when your vehicle is stuck.
Got a dead battery or need a jump start? Roadside assistance services ride to the rescue and replace the battery if needed at a competitive price. Some roadside assistance plans will also test your battery, starter and alternator as well as haul away your old one for free.
Tire change services
If your road trip has suddenly ground to a halt, roadside assistance plans provide assistance changing a flat tire. Just keep in mind there are some common sense limits to this service such as having your own spare tire on hand.
You really thought you’d make it to the gas station, but your fuel tank had other plans. Fuel delivery is often part of roadside assistance coverage but beware that they’ll only top you off enough to make it to the nearest station.
If you’re the owner of older vehicles, chances are you’ve locked your keys in the car at least once. Locksmith service can be the key to getting your car rolling again and if they can’t break into your vehicle, they’ll often call you a tow truck.
Minor repair and labor coverage
If the problem sidelining you in the breakdown lane is a quick fix like loose wires or low fluids, some roadside services step up to solve the issue. More complicated repairs might not be within your coverage limits.
Some roadside programs also cover a few different kinds of vehicles, from motorcycles to boats and RVs. And you can opt for add-on coverage like trip interruption benefits, which would reimburse for the cost of food or lodging if you’re stranded far from home while waiting on a repair shop.
Who needs roadside assistance services?
Many drivers rack up plenty of mileage (and DIY repairs) without the assistance of an emergency roadside service. But according to I Drive Safely, a defensive driving program, there are some situations where having emergency support is a smart idea.
If you own an old car.
Did you know according to Car and Driver that the average age of vehicles on the road is 11 years old? A study from AAA indicates any car old enough to sport double digits is twice as likely to end up sidelined on the highway during the next family road trip.
If you have a long commute.
More mileage equals more chances for things to go wrong with your car. The US Census Bureau indicates the average one-way commute increased to 27.6 minutes in 2019. That puts just over 7,000 miles on your vehicle annually.
If you’re worried about your ability to change a tire or make minor repairs.
Imagine yourself on the side of a busy highway or on a remote country road after dark. How confident are you in your ability to change a flat tire quickly and safely? Not so confident? Roadside assistance might give you peace of mind.
If you’re taking a long road trip.
Hitting the highway for an epic road trip gets a lot less fun when you’re stranded or out of gas. Consider roadside assistance coverage for longer trips, especially those to rural or remote areas where finding an auto repair provider in an emergency might be a serious (and expensive) hassle.
How much does roadside assistance cost?
One of the important considerations before plunking down your money for a roadside assistance plan is the cost. Is roadside service worth it?
Let’s take a closer look at what you might pay for common issues with your vehicle if you have roadside coverage versus without it.
Keep in mind that additional costs of fuel, tires, and batteries are not included in either estimate. And that in the case of towing without roadside assistance, you’ll pay additional costs per mile on top of the towing fee. Costs can vary for roadside programs as well based on your coverage limits and location.
As you can see from the cost comparison, even if you only experience one of these common car problems per year, you’ll save money with emergency road service coverage.
5 benefits of having emergency roadside service
You’ve heard the cliche: membership has its benefits. Here are a few reasons to lean into the extra costs associated with roadside coverage.
1. 24/7 support
There’s a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re not alone when you’re stranded at 2 a.m. Roadside assistance programs have folks manning the helm round the clock so that when you call for help, they’ll answer.
2. Real-time tracking
In the same way you can track your pizza from the moment it gets popped into the oven until the delivery driver arrives, many roadside assistance mobile apps offer real-time tracking of providers like tow truck drivers.
3. Quick and reliable assistance
Many emergency roadside service providers promise help will arrive within a certain time frame (like 30 minutes or less) depending on location. This can be a relief if you’re sitting in your car with the whole family and feeling anxious about getting to your destination.
4. Widespread coverage
While there’s no guarantee your roadside program covers every corner of the map, many of them have contracted providers just a few miles away on major routes and highways.
5. Peace of mind
When you get behind the wheel, you never plan to have a breakdown. But accidents happen and if you’re not equipped to handle minor repairs, it can be a relief to let the professionals handle it.
Choosing an emergency road service provider
When you think of emergency roadside assistance, you likely associate it with being a AAA member. While AAA service is one of the most popular options, there are other ways to request roadside assistance coverage.
Below are just a few options to consider, but keep in mind you may already have some limited coverage through your car insurance, credit card or even cell phone provider.
American Automobile Association (AAA) Membership
The long-standing auto club offers three tiers of annual plans: Classic, PlusRV, and Premier. Each AAA roadside assistance plan comes with different towing mileage ranges and other benefits.
Good Sam specializes in roadside assistance for RVs, but they also offer a few different plans for cars, trucks and motorcycles. Their Platinum membership even provides emergency medical assistance.
Better World Club
As a roadside assistance program, Better World Club boasts a 100% carbon neutral program and includes support for bicyclists. You even get 10% off your membership if you’re the owner of a hybrid or electric vehicle.
Your insurance provider
Car insurance companies commonly offer some basic roadside assistance, but you can also add-on additional coverage to your car insurance policy. Providers like Geico, Progressive, State Farm, National, and AllState all offer emergency roadside service.
If you purchased a new car, you’re in luck because they often come with free roadside service for a certain period of time. You can also purchase extended warranties through the car manufacturer or a third-party that offer roadside benefits.
Credit card companies
Believe it or not, a few credit companies like Chase, US Bank, Bank of America, and Capital One offer free roadside assistance as a perk while others have coverage for an annual fee. American Express used to offer this coverage standard with their cards, but it’s no longer available.
Cell phone provider
Both Verizon and T-Mobile offer roadside assistance coverage through AllState’s Motor Club at a reduced cost to their customers. For T-Mobile you’ll have to use an app called SyncUP DRIVE to monitor your vehicle, while Verizon provides roadside service as a monthly add-on cost per cell phone line.
Rental car companies
Many rental car companies offer some roadside assistance or provide extended coverage for an add-on cost. Be careful before purchasing roadside assistance coverage if you already have it through your car insurance company as this will usually cover your rental car.
The cheapest way to get emergency roadside service is usually through your car insurance company, but ask these questions before you add coverage to an existing policy.
What’s the plan cost and are there any additional fees?
How many service claims can I have per year? Will claims affect my car insurance rates?
Am I covered if I’m not in my own car? Does coverage extend to other household members?
What are the towing and service limits?
Does this roadside assistance policy offer trip interruption benefits?
While memberships through auto clubs may be more expensive, they can provide better coverage and more reliable service for members. And if you’re hitting the road without a backup plan, the helping hand will be worth its weight in gold.