The Essential Guide to Roadside Assistance (Statistics + Info)

For average rates of $10.42/mo, roadside assistance will provide services like (1) jump-starting your battery, (2) changing flat tires, and (3) delivering fuel.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses...

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UPDATED: May 25, 2020

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Essential Guide to Roadside Assitance Overview
Roadside Assistance StatisticsData
Drivers Across the Country who Have Experienced at Least One Disabled/Undrivable Vehicle95% of drivers in the United States
Most Common Cause of Roadside BreakdownsTires (responsible for about 54% of roadside breakdowns)
Most Common Age Group to Experience Roadside BreakdownsDrivers aged 18-29
Percentage of Drivers Who Experienced Mechanical Breakdown45%

Ever had a flat tire? Or have you been driving down the road one day and your car stops for no apparent reason? Most likely, if you’re reading this article, your answer is yes. And as you saw in the statistics table above, nearly all drivers (95 percent to be exact) have experienced at least one disabled/undrivable vehicle while out on the road.

Not that something like this happening is ever convenient, but somehow it always seems to occur at the worst possible time, in the worst possible location. So what to do?

One option is roadside assistance coverage. You’ve probably heard commercials about roadside assistance; you may even have a roadside assistance option available to you through your credit card or another service. But there are some things you need to know before you decide whether to purchase it.

So what does roadside assistance cover? Where can you purchase it? Is it part of your insurance policy, or can it be obtained as a separate service? Is roadside assistance worth it?

These are just a few of the questions to ask as you consider roadside assistance. But where to find the answers? We know looking for this kind of information can be time-consuming and frustrating. But not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

Read through this article to find the answers to these and other questions regarding roadside assistance, so you have what you need to decide whether roadside assistance is right for you, and if so, where to purchase it from, based on your circumstances.

While roadside assistance is entirely optional, basic car insurance coverage is not. Regardless of where you live, you probably have to maintain some level of car insurance coverage to legally drive. So before we get started, why not spend a minute or two using your ZIP code to get a free quote on car insurance?

Table of Contents

Car Insurance Roadside Assistance Coverage Explained

With 95 percent of drivers on the road having experienced at least one disabled/undrivable vehicle, it’s not surprising that the vehicle roadside assistance market is both successful and growing.

According to Acumen Research and Consulting, a global consulting firm that focuses on market research in a variety of markets, the vehicle roadside assistance market is projected to grow by nearly 4 percent, with an estimated value of $29 billion by 2026.

There are a few reasons why the market growth for roadside assistance coverage is on the rise. One reason may be that with the increasingly high-tech vehicles on the road, there is a higher chance of some form of vehicle failure.

However, the largest percentage of disabled/undrivable vehicles are still due to flat tires (at least 54 percent, which we noted in the summary statistics table at the beginning of this article). A recent IBISWorld report on the automobile towing industry in the United States indicates another reason for the increase in the need for roadside assistance may be due to the job market and economy.

With a reduction in unemployment, more workers are commuting every day, which means more vehicles on the road. This is another reason for the projected increase in the roadside assistance market, as more vehicle means more chances for some kind of vehicle breakdown to occur.

But before we can discuss whether roadside assistance service is worth it for you, as well as other details, we need to know exactly what roadside assistance is and what it covers. Read through the next couple of sections to learn the roadside assistance basics.

What is roadside assistance?

So just what is roadside assistance? And will it cover all your vehicle emergencies?

At a high level, roadside assistance is exactly what it sounds like. If you have a roadside issue with your vehicle, roadside assistance offers mobile repair (essentially just enough of a fix that you can drive your car home or to the mechanic’s shop) and sometimes towing services (particularly if the issue is not reparable while roadside).

Roadside assistance originated with AAA in the early 1900s, and in the following 100+ years, it has grown into a thriving market, with numerous options and types available. Where can you purchase roadside coverage? We’ll go into more detail on this in a few sections. For the moment, we’ll just note that you have a number of choices.

So what exactly is included in roadside assistance coverage?

What if, for instance, your alternator goes out on the side of the road? This happened to me a couple of years ago when I was exiting a freeway. I managed to get my car to the side of the road, but I was in a hazardous spot (and too many drivers didn’t notice my emergency flashers). I was completely stalled, the car wouldn’t start, and unfortunately, at the time I did not have roadside coverage.

If I had, I could have called a number (or used an app) to get help in the form of a mechanic, and if they couldn’t fix the issue on-site, I likely would have also been able to get a tow.

Take a look at this table to see some examples of what typically is and is not included in roadside assistance coverage.

What Is and Is Not Included in Roadside Assistance Coverage
Roadside Breakdown Needs/ServicesIs it Covered
Battery jump-start serviceYes
Flat tire assistanceYes
Lockout service and locksmith serviceYes
Fuel delivery serviceYes
Extraction or winching serviceYes
Tow servicesSometimes (under the right circumstances)
Cost of repairs or partsNo
Cost of a replacement tireNo
Cost of a tire patchNo
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Essentially, roadside assistance will some services and not others, and typically does not cover the cost of a mechanic’s repairs or parts and other expenses associated with fixing your vehicle, should that be necessary.

So in my case, roadside assistance would have towed my car, but would not have paid for the new alternator or the labor to remove the old one and install a new one.

Most roadside assistance coverage plans include 24/7 service, which means you can call for help at any time, day or night. However, most offer some kind of graduated plan. So depending on the level of coverage you pay for, there may be limits on towing and service technicians, based on your location (i.e. how far you are from where you need your vehicle to go).

What is the average cost of roadside assistance coverage?

So what can you expect to pay, if you choose to add roadside assistance coverage to your vehicle policies?

Most providers, whether it be insurance companies, third-party services, credit card companies, or auto clubs (and as we noted earlier, we’ll explain where to purchase roadside assistance in a later section), will sell you roadside assistance coverage annually for a yearly fee of, on average, between about $50 and $200 per year.

Doesn’t sound like much, right? But just how affordable is this coverage? Let’s take a few minutes to make some comparisons.

If you have a roadside emergency and you don’t already have roadside assistance, you have a few options:

  • Fix the issue yourself
  • Hope that someone you know can come to meet you and help
  • Call a tow truck (which may end up happening anyway, if your vehicle cannot be repaired to driveable again while on the side of the road)

If you have to call a tow truck, you’re faced with a couple of issues. First, you have to find a tow truck company nearby that has an available driver. Then you’ll have to wait for the driver to arrive (which just extends your wait time longer, since you’ve likely already been sitting roadside for a while).

If you live close to where your vehicle broke down (or your mechanic’s shop is near there), you may not have to pay an exorbitant fee, but an average tow will cost you about $95. In some cases, you may pay more, particularly if your tow will extend beyond 10 miles.

For reference, the average commute to work, one way, is about 16 miles. So if you breakdown near work, your tow fee may be closer to $150 (on average).

Now back to roadside assistance coverage. The average cost is between $50 and $200 and includes a number of service options to get your vehicle driving again.

But should their repairs not successfully get your vehicle running again (at least long enough to get home or to your local mechanic), they’ll call a tow truck for you (eliminating the need for you to find an available company and driver) to get your vehicle where it needs to go for repairs. And the cost of that tow truck will be included in the coverage you have with your roadside assistance plan.

The exact pricing structures vary depending on the type of plan you purchase and the company (which we’ll go into more detail on in a later section), but the pricing listed above covers the overall average.

This means for about the cost of a single tow, you can have the convenience of roadside assistance available to you when you need it for a fairly reasonable cost.

How do you purchase roadside assistance coverage?

As promised, we’ll now take a couple of minutes to discuss your options for purchasing roadside assistance.

First off, and perhaps most obvious, you can purchase roadside assistance through most major insurance companies by speaking to your insurance agent about adding it to your existing policy. A licensed insurance agent will know what the company offers, as well as estimated costs.

Roadside Assistance Through Auto Clubs

Many auto clubs also offer roadside assistance to their members for an annual fee. Auto clubs do not offer car insurance coverage, so you’ll still need an insurance policy through an actual insurance company, but if you’d prefer not to purchase roadside assistance and add it to your policy, you have the option of purchasing it through an auto club like AAA, instead.

In some cases, auto clubs offer roadside assistance for an annual fee, while others charge you a monthly membership fee.

Take a look at this table to see average costs for AAA memberships.

AAA Membership Types and Annual Costs
AAA Membership TypeAverage Cost per YearWhat it Includes
AAA Classic Membership$38 to $74 (plus enrollment fees);
$25 to $48 for each additional member (plus enrollment fees)
Four tows per year (3-7 miles);
Fuel, flat tire, and dead battery services;
Vehicle lockout services (up to $50)
AAA Plus Membership$60 to $124 (plus enrollment fees);
$34 to $80 for each additional member (plus enrollment fees)
Four tows per year (up to 100 miles each);
Fuel, flat tire, and dead battery services;
Free fuel delivery;
Vehicle lockout services (up to $100)
AAA Premier Membership$77 to $164 (plus enrollment fees);
$45 to $109 for each additional member (plus enrollment fees)
Four tows per year (one 200 mile and three up to 100 miles each);
Fuel, flat tire, and dead battery services;
Free fuel delivery;
Vehicle lockout services (up to $150);
Trip disruption coverage (up to $1,500);
Free rental car (for one day) with tow
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However, we recommend speaking with your insurance agent to find out what is already covered in your existing policy before you decide whether to purchase roadside assistance through an auto club. Sometimes, you may already have the coverage you’re looking for, or the cost through your insurance company may be more affordable.

Roadside Assistance Through Credit Card Companies

A third option for purchasing roadside assistance is through certain credit card companies. Some offer this as a free perk of having certain types of credit cards through their company. Others offer the service as a perk, but the cost of any service calls will automatically be charged to your credit card. And if you need a tow, an additional charge may be tacked on for that, as well.

Essentially, when you have roadside assistance through your credit card, you only have to call one number, and the person on the other end of the line will handle the logistics of finding a service technician to look at your car and/or a tow truck to get your vehicle home or to the nearest mechanic.

However, as noted above, you’ll still typically be responsible for the cost of the services. Visa, Chase, and United credit cards are just a few of the companies that offer some form of roadside assistance as a part of their credit card packages.

Roadside Assistance Through Manufacturers

Finally, if you’re purchasing a new vehicle, the manufacturer may offer a limited roadside assistance warranty. In fact, according to MarketWatch, more roadside assistance is provided through car manufacturers than through any other service type.

Most roadside assistance coverage included with new vehicle purchases is good for between two and seven years. After that, if you want roadside assistance coverage, you’ll have to purchase it on your own through one of the other service types we’ve listed here.

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Roadside Assistance Compared to Other Car Insurance Coverage

As we noted earlier, roadside assistance coverage is an add-on that is not automatically included in your regular insurance coverage. But what exactly is the difference between roadside assistance and other forms of coverage?

Take a few moments to read through the next few sections to learn more about what roadside assistance coverage is and what it is not, as compared to other kinds of coverage you can purchase and add to your policy.

What is the difference between roadside assistance and core coverage?

Core coverage includes four main coverage types:

Core Car Insurance Coverage Types
Coverage TypeWhat It Includes
LiabilityLiability coverage is usually the minimum coverage required for you to legally drive. It provides you with basic financial protection in the event of an accident, usually focused on damages and personal injury for the other driver (most often it does not cover any medical or property damage you experience as a result of an accident).
CollisionIf your vehicle is damaged as the result of an accident, collision coverage offers the financial protection for repair and even the replacement of your vehicle, if necessary
ComprehensiveIf your vehicle is damaged as the result of something other than a car accident (ex. fire, hail, vandalism, etc.), comprehensive coverage offers the financial protection for repair and even replacement of your vehicle, if necessary.
Combined/FullIf you want to maintain coverage that includes all three of the above, liability, collision, and comprehensive, full/combined coverage is your best option.

So essentially, core coverage provides you with financial protection for injury and vehicle damages in various circumstances.

Roadside assistance only covers the cost of getting your vehicle back on the road (temporarily, to get you home or to the mechanic) if you have a roadside emergency like a flat tire, a dead car battery, or you locked your keys in your car (just to name a few examples). It is not vehicle insurance coverage.

What is the difference between roadside assistance and towing and labor coverage?

You already know roadside assistance coverage includes a tow, should it become necessary. So what’s the difference between that and towing and labor coverage, which can also be added to your car insurance policy?

Essentially, the answer is nothing. Towing and labor coverage, which is another term used for roadside assistance, is a term sometimes used by insurance companies to describe the service.

It is typically not automatically included in your insurance policy. However, you can speak to your insurance agent to find out exactly what is and is not included in your current policy.

What is the difference between roadside assistance and mechanical breakdown assistance?

Mechanical breakdown assistance coverage is more comprehensive than roadside assistance (though roadside assistance is often a part of mechanical breakdown coverage).

In general, this coverage is purchased through your insurance policy, and similar to roadside assistance, will typically require you to pay an annual fee. Depending on the kind of coverage, you may be able to apply it to all your vehicles and add additional drivers.

Mechanical breakdown coverage is most similar to an extended vehicle warranty.

If you have an issue with your vehicle (that is not related to intentional damage or negligence), your breakdown coverage will include the cost of repairs (whether or not you have to pay a deductible first depends on the type of coverage you purchase).

You’ll also likely be able to get the cost of a rental car covered, should your vehicle need more than a day’s worth of repairs.

Mechanical breakdown coverage does not cover the cost of regular maintenance (like oil changes, filter replacements, tires, etc.). Again similar to vehicle warranty, most insurance companies will only offer mechanical breakdown coverage if a vehicle is relatively new and is below a specific mileage threshold.

While the coverage is not as extensive, roadside assistance typically does not include limitations for purchase based on the age or mileage of your vehicle.

Typically, if you choose to purchase mechanical breakdown coverage (and your vehicle qualifies for that coverage), it includes roadside assistance as a part of the service package. However, if your vehicle does not qualify, you don’t want to spend as much money, or you don’t feel you need the full breadth of options offered through mechanical breakdown coverage, you can typically purchase roadside assistance on its own, instead.

What is the difference between roadside assistance and a road hazard warranty?

What about road hazard warranties? What do those cover and how do they differ from roadside assistance?

Road hazard warranties specifically add coverage for your tires in the event that damage occurs. This is different than the manufacturer warranties offered by tire companies, which cover the cost of replacing a tire if a manufacturer defect is found. In general, it does not include roadside service (though there are a few exceptions).

Typically, road hazard warranties cover the pro-rated cost of a damaged tire, based on the amount of wear and tear it has experienced. These warranties can be offered through both tire companies and your insurance company, so be sure to speak to a licensed insurance agent if you’re interested in purchasing a road hazard warranty.

We already noted that roadside assistance covers the cost of changing a tire (but not the cost of replacing the tire) or the tow to wherever you plan to purchase a new tire.

So if you expect there is a high likelihood your tires will be damaged when you drive, it may be worth considering getting both roadside assistance and a road hazard warranty, as they typically cover different things.

As we noted above, some road hazard warranties include roadside assistance for changing your tires, but will not cover the other services roadside assistance includes (like jump-starting your vehicle, unlocking your vehicle if you’ve locked your keys inside, etc.).

Car Insurance Roadside Assistance Factors for Consideration

We’ve spent quite a bit of time considering what roadside assistance is and what it is not, as well as comparing it to other kinds of add-on coverage, so you are able to weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for your lifestyle, vehicles, and potential risks you face.

But what about whether or not you can purchase roadside assistance? You already know some of the other add-on options (like mechanical breakdown coverage) can only be purchased if your vehicle qualifies. So what factors might affect your ability to purchase roadside assistance?

Read through the next few sections to learn more about how your vehicle and commute distance can affect your ability to purchase roadside assistance.

Does your vehicle matter when it comes to roadside assistance?

We’ve already discussed that some kinds of add-on coverage are only purchasable if your vehicle qualifies. But what about roadside assistance coverage? Are there vehicle age and mileage limitations associated with purchasing this coverage?

If you have a new vehicle, roadside assistance may be automatically included in your manufacturer warranty for a limited period of time (usually not more than seven years).

However, if your vehicle does not include existing roadside assistance, you’ll still likely be able to purchase coverage through other means (as we noted in a previous section when we listed the types of service providers for roadside assistance plans).

The amount of mileage on your vehicle and your vehicle’s age do not limit your ability to purchase roadside assistance coverage, though it may affect the rates you are charged.

This is because, as noted by MarketWatch and Acumen Research and Consulting, the older your vehicle, the more likely you’ll need to actually use roadside assistance. Specifically, if your vehicle is more than 10 years old, you are twice as likely to need roadside assistance and four times as likely to need towing assistance.

With over half the vehicles on the road currently 10 or more years of age, it’s not at all surprising that the market is growing.

Does your commute rate matter when it comes to roadside assistance?

Your commute distance will not affect your ability to purchase a roadside assistance plan. However, it is something to consider when looking at the level of coverage you purchase.

This is because if the service technician is unable to get your vehicle driving again, and you end up needing a tow, there is probably a limit on the distance your vehicle can be towed and still be fully covered by your roadside assistance plan.

  • For example, AAA, Visa credit cards, and most insurance companies only cover five to seven miles of towing under a basic membership or roadside assistance coverage plan.
  • For the credit cards, most often, if your tow will be beyond five miles, you’ll have to pay the cost of the tow. For AAA, you have the option of purchasing a more expansive membership plan that will cover up to either 100-mile or 200-mile tows, depending on the plan.
  • With insurance companies, you’ll need to speak with a licensed agent for specifics on the coverage offered by your insurer, but often you’ll pay a per-mile fee for any additional miles your vehicle must be towed beyond the five-mile limit.

So if you have an average commute (16 miles one way), it may be worth considering what level of coverage you need if you expect a roadside breakdown to occur somewhere outside the basic five-to-seven-mile radius you’d qualify for (in terms of towing) with the average plan.

Roadside Assistance Coverage and Your Car Insurance Policy

What about claims? How can you use your roadside assistance coverage? Can you use your roadside assistance coverage too much? Will you be penalized for doing so?

These are just a few of the questions you’re probably considering as you think about whether roadside assistance coverage is right for you. To help make your decision-making process easier, take some time to read through the next few sections to find the answers to these and other questions related to roadside assistance coverage.

How do you file a claim or make use of your roadside assistance coverage?

Because roadside assistance is not like typical insurance coverage, most often you don’t follow a typical claims process. Instead, all you have to do is make a phone call. If you have roadside assistance, whether it is through your insurance company, an auto club, credit card, or your vehicle’s manufacturer, they’ll provide you with a 24/7, toll-free helpline.

So if you have a breakdown and you’re on the side the road, all you have to do is call the helpline. If what you need is fully covered (i.e., if you need a tow that is within the limits set by your coverage plan), everything will be taken care of with nothing further required of you.

With credit card-provided roadside assistance coverage, most charge you a flat fee for any use of the plan. But that flat fee will be automatically charged to the credit card you have from them, so there is nothing else you need to do.

In the case of the auto clubs and insurance companies, as well as your manufacturer warranty roadside assistance coverage, if your costs exceed what is covered (i.e. the tow is beyond the mileage limit offered through your plan), they will typically bill you for the difference, whether that means the full cost of the tow or a per-mile cost for each mile your vehicle is towed beyond the set limit.

How do you get the best rate with roadside assistance?

So what kind of discounts are available with roadside assistance? There are two kinds available, in general.

If you’re looking to purchase roadside assistance, and you don’t already have it through your vehicle’s manufacturer warranty, we suggest you shop around. Why? Because often, as ConsumerReports notes, companies will offer specials for a limited time that enable you to purchase the service, or add additional family members’ vehicles, for a reduced rate.

Additionally, if you have roadside assistance through one of the options at your disposal, your insurance company may offer you discounted rates for your existing insurance policy. Take a look at this table to see which of the major insurers currently offers a discount for roadside assistance coverage.

Availability of Roadside Assistance Discounts
Insurance CompanyOffers Roadside Assistance DiscountPercent Discount
21st CenturyNo-
AAANo-
AllstateNo-
American FamilyNo-
AmeripriseYesInformation
not available
AmicaNo-
Country FinancialNo-
EsuranceYes5%
FarmersNo-
GeicoNo-
Liberty MutualNo-
MetLifeNo-
NationwideNo-
ProgressiveNo-
Safe AutoNo-
SafecoNo-
State FarmNo-
The GeneralNo-
The HanoverNo-
The HartfordNo-
TravelersNo-
USAANo-

It’s important to note that the availability of this discount may vary by state, so you should speak to a licensed insurance agent to find out if you qualify

Can too many roadside assistance claims increase your insurance rates?

While it is difficult to find a direct link between the number of times you use your roadside assistance and an increase in your insurance rates, there is a possible correlation.

Insurance companies adjust rates for insureds based on perceived risk. They use a number of factors to determine how much risk you may pose (in other words, how likely you are to have a claim filed against you or file claim yourself that will cost them money).

As a result, the riskier you appear, the higher your rates may be.

If you use your roadside assistance coverage multiple times within a single year, some insurance companies may see this as a sign that you are taking chances, are a riskier driver, or drive a vehicle that poses additional risk to you and other drivers on the road. If so, your rates may be increased simply to counteract this higher perceived risk.

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Car Insurance Roadside Assistance Coverage Scenarios

Now that we’ve looked at what roadside assistance covers and what it does not, where you can get it, how much you might pay, how to use it, and more, let’s take a couple of minutes to discuss two of the most common reasons for which people use roadside assistance in the United States: flat tires and dead car batteries.

How do flat tires relate to roadside assistance?

Take a look at this table to see a quick summary of flat tire statistics. We’ll then go into more detail on each one.

Flat Tires and Roadside Assistance Coverage Statistics
Flat Tire SummaryStatistic
Percentage of roadside assistance coverage calls due to flat tires54%
Percentage of tire issues due to slow leaks85%
Percentage of tire issues as the result of unexpected damage15%

Having a flat tire is the number-one reason people find themselves making use of their roadside assistance plans at 54 percent of roadside assistance service calls.

With that in mind, flat tires are a major problem for drivers across the country. So what can you do to be prepared? According to a recent Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) report, about 85 percent of all tire issues are the result of slow leaks.

One way you can reduce your chances of a flat tire due to a slow leak is to regularly check your tire pressure (an average of once per month), to ensure it is correct. This will help extend the life of your tires. Additionally, a roadside assistance plan will provide you with help, should your prevention tactics not successfully keep you from experiencing a flat tire.

The remaining 15 percent of flat tire issues are the result of unexpected damage like driving over a screw or a piece of glass. There is little you can do to prevent or prepare for this, other than having a roadside assistance plan if you’re not comfortable changing a tire yourself.

If you have a roadside assistance plan, you can call the toll-free number and a service technician will come out to change the tire for you. If you don’t have a usable spare tire, they will also call a towing service for you, so your vehicle can be towed to the nearest tire replacement location.

How is car battery failure related to roadside assistance?

Another common reason people experience vehicle breakdowns roadside is due to a dead car battery.

Most car batteries have a life of between three and five years. Once your car battery has reached the three-year threshold, you should have it checked regularly (at least once per year), to ensure it is still functioning properly. It should also be checked for corrosion on a regular basis, as that can negatively affect and even halt your car battery’s operation.

This is especially importation, as according to a recent J.D. Power study, an additional 44 percent of drivers are reporting battery issues in their vehicles over previous years. Why are so many more vehicles having battery issues?

Forbes.com reports that the biggest issue is that car batteries are not charging to the extent necessary while the vehicle is running because there are a number of now-common technologies that drain your car battery more quickly and reduce its ability to charge while your vehicle is running. These include:

Factors That Can Affect the Power Charge on Your Car Battery
Technology that Can Affect Car Battery LifeWhy It Can Drain Your Car Battery
Keyless proximity fobsthis is because the fobs are constantly pinging the vehicle and the vehicle is pinging back, any time the fob is within the vicinity of the vehicle (to reduce this battery drain, it is recommended that you not leave your key fob in or near your vehicle when it is parked)
Vehicle computer system updatesoften occurring when your vehicle is not in use, these can result in battery drain, which can mean your car may not start, particularly if your battery was not sufficiently charged when you drove it last
Charging electronicswhen you charge your electronics (i.e.your cell phone) while you're driving, you are slowing down the vehicle battery charge, which can mean the battery does not fully charge while you're driving, particularly if you don't drive for long distances

With your chances of battery issues greatly increased, it may worth considering a roadside assistance program in the event this happens to you.

If you have a car battery failure and have a roadside assistance plan, you can call the toll-free number and a service technician will come to your location. They will provide your vehicle with a jump start to get it driving again, so you can make your way to a mechanic or to purchase a new car battery.

If the jump start does not work, they will call a tow truck service to get your vehicle to your preferred location (within the mileage limitations associated with your plan, unless you’re willing to pay additional fees to go further).

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Have Roadside Assistance in Your Car Insurance Policy

So is roadside assistance worth it? Do you need it? Should you purchase it? Only you can determine whether you’ll need roadside assistance coverage based on your lifestyle, vehicles, where you live, and the risks you face in driving.

But to help you make this determination, we’ve provided some additional information on when roadside assistance may or may not be important, depending on the circumstance. Take a look.

When might you want roadside assistance?

Now that you know the pros and cons, what it is and is not, where you can purchase it, average prices, and more, it’s time to think about situations in which it might be a good idea to consider purchasing roadside assistance. So what are some reasons you might want roadside assistance?

As we noted in an earlier section, roadside assistance may be especially helpful if you drive a vehicle more than 10 years old, as those have a much higher chance of having a roadside breakdown than newer vehicles.

If your commute is near the average, roadside assistance may be worth considering, in the event you have a breakdown during your normal commute (95 percent of drivers experience at least one disabled/undriveable vehicle).

And honestly, having roadside assistance coverage is convenient. If you have an issue, all you have to do is call a toll free number.

When might you not need roadside assistance?

But what about when roadside assistance may not be worth it?

If your vehicle is new or still under warranty, you may already have roadside assistance coverage through that warranty. You’ll want to check the terms of your warranty to be sure. If so, there is no reason to purchase roadside assistance, as you’ll be wasting money by paying for something you already have.

Most vehicle warranties extend for three to seven years, so after that warranty expires, you can consider whether or not you’d like to purchase roadside assistance coverage.

When might you want roadside assistance but not be able to use it?

So let’s say you decide roadside assistance is for you, and you add the coverage through your credit card, a road club, or you or insurance policy. Are there any circumstances in which you aren’t able to use that roadside assistance coverage?

First off, most roadside assistance coverage has limits. In general, you’ll be able to use your roadside assistance a maximum of four times per year. If you make a fifth call, you’ll be required to pay in full for the service.

Additionally, roadside assistance coverage is typically available to you any time you’re in the United States (and sometimes Canada), but if you drive anywhere else, even in your own vehicle, (like in Mexico, for example), you may not be able to use your roadside assistance coverage.

Not all roadside assistance coverage plans include rental cars. Often, they cover specific vehicles you own, so if you are driving something else, you won’t be able to use your roadside assistance coverage if you have an issue.

The Bottom Line for Your Car Insurance Policy

Ultimately, only you can decide if roadside assistance coverage is right for you. But the bottom line for you and your car insurance policy is:

  • Roadside assistance coverage is not insurance, so if you do choose to purchase it, you’ll still need traditional car insurance coverage.
  • You have options when you consider where to purchase roadside assistance, and those options typically include your car insurance company. You should speak to a licensed insurer to find out more about the add-ons they offer.
  • Roadside assistance coverage gets your vehicle off the side of the road if you’re stuck, but does not cover the cost of any resulting repairs.
  • It’s important to keep in mind the number of miles you typically drive when you shop for roadside assistance coverage, to ensure you get the plan that most fits your needs.

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FAQs About Roadside Assistance Car Insurance Coverage

While we’ve done our best to provide all the information you need to determine whether or not roadside assistance coverage is right for your needs, we know you may still have some questions. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions below to answer lingering questions you may have.

Should I add roadside assistance coverage to specific vehicles, or purchase a general policy that covers me, regardless of what I’m driving?

If you’re thinking about adding roadside assistance coverage and you don’t already have it attached to your vehicle through the new purchase warranty, it is important to consider the best method of adding this coverage.

If you have multiple vehicles, it may be worth considering making sure your roadside assistance coverage is attached to you personally, rather than to a specific vehicle. If your roadside assistance covers you, rather your individual vehicle(s), regardless of which vehicle you’re driving, you’re covered.

If you choose to include the coverage per vehicle, you’ll only be able to use the service if you have a roadside emergency in a covered vehicle.

Additionally, if you want roadside assistance coverage for all your vehicles, you’ll most likely be required to pay the annual fee per vehicle, which, depending on the number of vehicles you’re adding, can end up being expensive. Typically, companies charge you full price for the first vehicle and a reduced cost for each individual vehicle.

However, the benefit to adding the coverage per-vehicle is that if someone else is driving the vehicle (for example, a family member), they’ll be able to make use of the roadside assistance coverage, but if you specifically are covered, they will not be able to do so unless you add them to your coverage (some plans do allow you to add spouse and children to your coverage).

Only you can decide which approach is better, based on your personal circumstances.

Does roadside assistance cover rental cars?

It depends.

Some plans do, some do not. If you have a vehicle manufacturer-provided roadside assistance plan, that will most likely not cover anything but the vehicle for which the warranty is attached.  However, ultimately, you’ll need to speak with the provider of your plan, or the plan(s) you’re considering purchasing, to find out what they offer.

What if I decide to cancel my roadside assistance?

If you need to cancel your roadside assistance plan, you can do so, but you may be required to pay a cancellation fee. If you cancel during the year for which you’re already paid, you will likely receive a refund, minus the cost of any services you used for that year.

How long will I wait for assistance after I call my service provider?

Most estimates vary between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on where you’re located, whether you’re calling from your cell phone or from an in-vehicle program like OnStar, and who your service provider is. Some providers also offer apps that allow you to track the technician’s arrival while you wait.

As you’re shopping for roadside assistance programs, this is a question to ask of potential service providers.

Will roadside assistance cover my RV?

This is another “it depends” answer.

In general, they do not automatically cover RVs. And if your plan is through your vehicle manufacturer, the answer is likely no. However, auto clubs, car insurance companies, and other independent services may offer you the option to add your RV to your plan for an additional fee, in which case it would be covered.

Now that we’ve spent some time reviewing what you need to know about roadside assistance, why not get a free quote on car insurance by using your ZIP code?

References:

  1. https://newsroom.aaa.com/2018/04/double-digits-means-double-trouble-vehicle-breakdowns/
  2. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars-driving/what-to-consider-when-buying-roadside-assistance-plan/

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