You never know what can happen on the road. One day, you could be driving along on a beautiful day before suddenly busting your tire on a giant clump on concrete that’s on the road. Yes, that’s happened to me before. In situations like these, you need to have a plan. That’s where emergency roadside assistance can save the day, literally.
There are a few different ways to get roadside assistance — most car insurance policies offer it as an optional feature. You might also be able to purchase it from a private provider, such as AAA. It’s hard to know when you might need features such as roadside assistance, so let’s look at the pros and cons to help you make your decision.
What is Emergency Roadside Assistance?
Emergency roadside assistance is a service that you can use to help you out in an emergency, such as if your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use emergency roadside assistance, you can call the service number provided when you purchase your coverage. Some companies may also offer a mobile app through which you can request roadside assistance. At that point, someone will be sent out to your location to help you.
This service is typically an optional feature that you can add to your auto insurance policy for an additional cost. You can also purchase a membership to an independent organization that offers emergency roadside assistance. In some cases, you may also receive complimentary roadside assistance alongside your warranty if you are buying your vehicle from a dealership.
Types of Emergency Roadside Assistance
There are several situations in which emergency roadside assistance can help.
Even if your car is in perfect condition, all it takes is a dangerous item on the road to change your day completely. If you find yourself with a flat tire, you can call your emergency roadside assistance to ask for help. A technician will be sent to your location to install the spare tire likely in your trunk. If you don’t have a spare tire or if the spare tire isn’t safe enough to use, the technician can help you get your tire replaced or repaired at another location.
If you run out of gas and stall out on the side of the road, you can request assistance. Someone will bring you enough gas to get your car to the next gas station.
Getting Into Your Locked Car
These days, most newer car models will warn you if you’re about to lock your keys in your car. Some won’t even let you lock your vehicle if it detects your keys inside. But, not every car has this feature, so it’s still possible to lock yourself out of your vehicle. If you’re locked out, a technician can provide a lockout service to help you unlock your car so you can be on your way.
In some cases, a technician can provide labor for minor repairs to your vehicle. They can usually check your fluids, wire connections, and other components. Most of the time, technicians cannot install any parts during roadside service, but they might be able to provide a temporary fix so you can safely drive your car.
If you’re worried about a dead battery, a technician can visit you to test the battery, alternator, and starter. If your battery needs to be replaced, the technician could install a new battery and dispose of your old one. They can also give you a battery jumpstart.
A technician might not deem it safe or possible to fix your vehicle in any of these cases. If this happens, your emergency roadside assistance can send out a tow truck to get your vehicle to the nearest partnering repair facility, such as a repair shop. Most emergency roadside assistance services will offer a mileage amount that will tow your vehicle free of charge. If your car needs towing beyond that mileage, you may incur an additional cost.
Emergency Roadside Assistance Companies
Auto Insurance Companies
One of the most common ways to get an emergency roadside assistance plan is to add it to your auto insurance policy. You aren’t required to pay for roadside assistance coverage, but it is a nice optional feature to have. Most auto insurance companies also offer other types of optional coverage, such as rental car reimbursement and windshield and glass coverage. If you participate in rideshare services, you may need rideshare coverage in addition to emergency roadside assistance coverage.
These are just a couple of auto insurance companies that offer roadside assistance services.
Allstate offers three types of roadside services from which to choose. If you have an auto insurance policy with Allstate, you can add roadside coverage to your policy. You can also purchase a yearly membership plan or purchase pay-per-use services, even if you don’t use Allstate for auto insurance. Allstate roadside coverage is available 24/7, and you can receive most types of assistance within about 30 minutes. You’ll also have coverage across the country and in Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
GEICO offers roadside assistance as an optional coverage that you can add to your GEICO auto policy. GEICO’s mobile app allows you to request help in as little as 2 minutes, after which you can use the service tracker to see when assistance is on the way. The mobile app also allowed GEICO to locate you using your phone’s GPS, making it easier for the technicians to find you. You can also call if you need assistance, but GEICO says that the mobile app is a much quicker way to get assistance.
Membership organizations like AAA are another standard option for emergency roadside service providers. Most of these plans offer membership tiers, so the higher your membership tier, the more services you are eligible for. AAA offers additional benefits that you wouldn’t get from an auto insurance company. These additional benefits may be trip interruption coverage and discounts on hotels, car rentals, and movie tickets. AAA also offers assistance in making and booking travel plans for its members.
You may already have roadside assistance coverage if you’ve recently purchased a new or certified pre-owned vehicle! It’s often offered as part of the vehicle’s warranty, but these warranties do have a limit. Most car manufacturer warranties expire after a certain number of years (usually 3 or 5) or a certain number of miles. After your warranty expires, you’d have to look elsewhere if you want to have a roadside assistance plan. Warranties can vary depending on the car manufacturer, so it’s also important to understand what services and exclusions are part of your coverage.
Cell Phone or Credit Card Companies
Some cell phone and credit card companies may also offer roadside assistance services as part of a deal for customers. Verizon and AT&T both offer coverage for a low cost, but they come with limits. For example, AT&T has a limit of four service events per year and will only provide a maximum benefit of $75 per incident. If you are a customer of the cell phone company but didn’t opt into roadside service, you may be able to get a discounted service if you run into trouble on the road.
Mastercard and Visa both offer some credit cards that include pay-per-incident coverage. The exact amount of coverage you’ll have access to depends on your specific credit card.
Costs of Emergency Roadside Assistance
Emergency roadside assistance plans vary depending on where you’re purchasing them from, so it’s important to understand the costs as well as the coverage of each type. To determine whether a plan is worthwhile, you can compare the cost and coverage to the typical cost of similar services in your area from an unaffiliated auto technician.
Auto insurance companies usually offer the best deal — if you add roadside assistance to your auto insurance policy, it can be as low as $14 per year, according to GEICO. If you purchase coverage from an auto insurance company without being a policyholder, the rates are usually higher. Allstate’s membership plan starts at $79 per year.
Membership clubs like AAA can also be a good deal, especially if you take advantage of the other services and discounts that membership offers. There are several membership clubs around the U.S., each of which serves a specific area. As such, each club sets its pricing.
Membership starts at $64 per year for the Northeastern part of the country, with a $15 enrollment fee. You can also add additional members for $50 each. This plan offers three miles of towing and four service calls per year. The next tier, AAA Plus, is $101 per year with an enrollment fee of $15 and $83 for additional members. This plan offers up to 100 miles of towing and four service calls per year.
AAA Premier offers up to 200 miles of towing once per year and up to 100 miles of towing three additional times per year. This plan costs $133 per year with an enrollment fee of $15 and $100 for additional members. Finally, if you have an RV, you can purchase the AAA Plus RV plan for $128 per year, which offers emergency roadside assistance for RV’s, trailers, and motorcycles. This plan has an enrollment fee of $15 and $83 for each additional member.
Verizon and AT&T both offer low-cost roadside assistance coverage for each phone line on an account. For Verizon, the cost is $4.99 per month for each line. If you opt not to enroll in the plan but still need roadside assistance, there’s a charge of $89.96 per service. AT&T charges $2.99 per month for roadside assistance coverage.
For roadside assistance coverage from Mastercard and Visa, there is no annual fee. If you already have a participating credit card or intend to apply for a new card, getting roadside assistance from your credit card company might not be a bad idea. However, you should keep in mind that these cards may have an annual fee of their own, so the coverage isn’t necessarily free if you only apply for the card to get roadside assistance coverage.
Pros and Cons of Emergency Roadside Assistance
- Emergency roadside assistance plans can give you access to discounted repair and tow services.
- These plans can help you “skip the line” and get your car fixed or towed within a short time frame.
- Emergency roadside assistance coverage can provide peace of mind, whether you’re driving an older car or a brand new one.
- Some plans are better than others, so some may not be worth the cost due to exclusions or limits.
- If you enroll in a plan and don’t end up needing assistance within your plan year, you might feel like it was “wasted money.”
- Pay-per-service plans can be just as costly, if not more costly, than having purchased an annual plan.
The bottom Line
Emergency roadside assistance is not required but brings peace of mind to many drivers each year. Before you purchase a plan, it’s good to compare your options to see which makes the most sense for your needs. The best place to start is to get a quote from an auto insurance company to see what this optional coverage would cost you. Then, you can compare this quote to other service providers.