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Best Roadside Assistance Services
Why Use Roadside Assistance Services?
We researched 11 different roadside assistance services by comparing costs for basic and premium plans, the number of service calls each company provides and the coverage details for each plan. We spoke with customer service agents from each company and evaluated how quickly they answered our questions and concerns. Our top overall pick is AAA because it works across all states and Canada, offers four service calls each year and costs less than many other services. AAA has been around since 1902, and a membership offers discounts on car rentals, help with your trailer and no age restriction, which is great if you have new drivers in your household.
If you’re 50 years old or older, you should sign up for AARP because you get roadside assistance in addition to coupons and discounts. You’ll have to pay $16 a year for the AARP membership as well as the yearly cost of the roadside assistance, but the overall cost is comparable to the top services we reviewed.
Our top value pick, Good Sam Roadside Assistance offers service that is hard to beat, with its extensive coverage and unlimited towing. You get five service calls per year as well as service for RVs, trailers, motorcycles and cars for a price that’s only a little more expensive than our top pick. Good Sam also offers unlimited towing. This is a rare benefit; most of the services we reviewed have strict limitations on how far they will tow.
Should You Add Roadside Assistance to Your Car Insurance?
Many auto insurance companies offer some type of roadside assistance that you can add to your policy. The roadside assistance options that insurance companies offer vary, but they often include towing, tire changes and lockout services. When you add roadside assistance to your coverage, it may be only a few extra dollars each month, but the assistance is limited.
When you purchase roadside assistance from a motor club or a full plan from an insurance company such as Allstate, you receive basic coverage such as towing and gas delivery as well as many travel perks such as rental car discounts, travel maps and emergency travel assistance. However, some of these benefits are only available with premium and elite membership plans.
Do You Already Have Coverage Without Knowing It?
Before you begin looking for roadside assistance, you need to determine what coverage you already have. You might already have assistance through your auto insurance, your cell phone plan, the dealer of your vehicle, your credit card company or through an extended warranty.
Many car dealers offer some type of roadside assistance when you purchase a vehicle from them. This coverage is often only available on certified used vehicles and from certain manufacturers. Additionally, certain credit cards include roadside assistance in their benefits. However, depending on the card you may be charged for the services and most services are limited. If you have several credit cards, you will want to know which card offers any type of roadside assistance and the specific services it offers.
Some mobile service providers also offer assistance. With some cell phone plans, it doesn't matter who drives the car that needs help; the cell phone under the plan must be used to contact help.
After you purchase a vehicle from a dealer, roadside assistance may be available or may be included if you purchase an extended warranty. Additionally, when purchasing certain new and used vehicles, you might receive a subscription to services such as OnStar, which allows you to request help directly from your vehicle without calling in for help on your cell phone.
Roadside Assistance: What We Researched, What We Found
Because we didn’t want to suffer through 11 flat tires to test roadside assistance providers, we didn’t actually test the services ourselves. We researched basic and premium plans on each company’s website and then called each company to verify details. A quality roadside assistance plan should provide every possible roadside service, a generous selection of extras and helpful customer support.
The services a roadside assistance company provides are the most important factors to consider when choosing a plan. A company should offer 24/7 roadside assistance with towing, changing a flat tire, unlocking your vehicle if you lock your keys inside, and winching your car if it goes off the road. Other standard services include delivering gasoline and jump-starting a dead battery.
Other services you might want are emergency travel assistance and reimbursements for travel-interruption expenses. With this type of assistance, the company reimburses you for a certain amount of out-of-pocket expenses such as hotel rooms, meals and transportation if you are more than 100 miles from home and have an accident or car failure. The amount of money you are reimbursed depends on your plan.
While you can request service no matter where you break down, some roadside assistance companies are unable to enroll members from certain states. California is the state with the most restrictions, but you'll need to ensure your state isn't an issue. You should also choose a provider that covers the vehicles you drive the most. Some companies cover you as an individual rather than covering a specific vehicle, which means you are covered even if you are on vacation and using a rental. Some companies, like Good Sam Roadside Assistance, cover all of your vehicles, including RVs, motorcycles and trailers.
Some companies, such as AARP, only provide coverage to individuals 50 or older. However, most companies will cover anyone with a valid driver's license. Additionally, some companies do not enroll members in certain states because of their availability and other exclusions. Certain services may not be available where you are located during a breakdown. You will want to call the service representatives and read the fine print in the membership manuals to know where these locations are before you commit to a plan.
When purchasing roadside assistance services, you should ensure the company covers your type of vehicle. Each company has different restrictions on the vehicles it covers. All companies cover cars. All cover light trucks, which is a vehicle that has a capacity between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds. This encompasses midsized trucks, vans and SUVs. Other companies provide coverage for RVs such as motor homes, fifth wheels, travel trailers and even pop-up trailers.
What Else to Look For
When choosing a roadside assistance service, you should read the small print. Our reviews point out some of the details you will want to be aware of. Here are just a few examples:
Generally towing is included in your plan, but you should find out how many miles are free so you know at what point you'll be charged extra for towing.
Type of Plan
The plan you purchase determines how extensive your benefits are. When you buy a more advanced plan, you receive many perks, such as discounts on car rentals and reimbursement for legal fees on driving-related violations. The premium and elite plan options are often best if you do a lot of traveling within a year. However, premium and elite plans are often double the cost of standard plans.
Travel perks are a nice addition to many of these services. For instance, a representative can help you plan a trip if your coverage includes travel planning assistance. Concierge services are also available from many companies, which help you with your hotel bookings and planning activities.
You can learn more about the features and benefits of each roadside assistance program by reading our in-depth reviews.