Roadside Assistance Plans

by Don Elliott on December 15, 2011

Choosing a roadside assistance plan can be either a good investment or a gimmick to get you to buy something. For example, credit cards, cell phones, and buying clubs offer roadside assistance as an added benefit when you use their service. What makes roadside assistance plans so easy to offer is their perceived benefit versus their cost. Roadside assistance is “insured” help for when things go wrong with your car. Breakdown coverage generally deals with the following:

  • 24 hour towing
  • Flat tire assistance
  • Empty gas tank
  • Keys lost or locked in the car
  • Dead battery
  • Minor mechanical problems

For most situations, the cost of roadside assistance is justified the first time that the service is used. The roadside assistance provider pays for emergency services at pre-negotiated prices and provides one number to call when you need help. To buy a stand-alone basic plan, the cost is generally $60-75 per year. Costs and coverage vary by state and zip code. There may be an added enrollment fee for new members in some plans.

Most new car warranties include roadside assistance as part of the warranty coverage. New and Certified Pre-Owned vehicles typically include coverage that averages 5 years/60,000 miles. The roadside assistance coverage only applies to that specific vehicle and has limited choices. Towing may be limited to the manufacturer’s service facility. Lockout services are also provided, but the cost to replace a lost key isn’t covered. If you only have one car, the coverage provided by the car manufacturer might be enough.

When shopping for a stand-alone plan, there are several options that are worth considering. Breakdown protection can cover one or more drivers for multiple cars. The best plans cover the driver in any car they are driving. Most basic plans limit the number of tows per year and the distance your vehicle can be hauled. Read the fine print to confirm what types of service calls are covered 100% through the membership and which ones have limited cost coverage.

Beyond breakdown protection, most stand-alone plans have a variety of side benefits. AAA, the most widely recognized roadside provider, offers discounts for travel, maps, and customized trip routing in their basic plan. If you upgrade to a premium plan, you can expect to pay $165 to $200 per year. Additional coverage includes a wider range of towing options up to 100 miles in some cases. Stolen vehicle, trip interruption, and ambulance assistance insurance are included in some plans. New and used car buying services are popular options. Discounts for automotive service and accident repair are also popular.

Roadside assistance is not just for cars, trucks, and SUVs. Separate plans cover motorcycles, RVs, and even heavy trucks. Shop around. You will be amazed at the options!



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