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Best roadside assistance services 2021: Breakdown and towing plans

Best roadside assistance services 2021: Breakdown and towing plans
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

The best roadside assistance services can provide a lifeline if you’re stranded at the side of the road in an emergency, with nationwide towing plans and breakdown cover that can get you back on track as quickly as possible. 

The right cover needn’t just be beneficial for those who are regularly on the road, though it becomes especially important to have suitable coverage if you often travel long distances, particularly if driving is part of your job. In this case, seeking comprehensive cover could well be on your radar, whereas if you only drive shorter distances, you may be tempted to seek a policy on the more basic end of the scale, which would come with a lower price tag accordingly. 

Yet it’s always worth knowing what roadside assistance covers so you know what you should be looking for, and can start deciding on the features that you’ll want included in your ideal policy. Then it’s time to start searching for the providers to suit, which is where this guide can help. We’ve scoured the market to uncover the best breakdown and towing services around, whether you’re looking for the best value, the best joining offer or simply a good all-round option, and we make sure to highlight the top-rated service overall, too. 

Any one of these providers could offer the best roadside assistance services for your needs, and with nationwide coverage options, you’re bound to have the support you need in an emergency. Just make sure to check exactly what you’re getting before you make your decision – comparison is key – and always consider if you’ve already got suitable protection elsewhere. The best auto insurance plans, for example, will often incorporate breakdown cover as part of their package, while the best extended car warranties may similarly be able to offer you alternative protection. It’s always worth checking, but if you could benefit from a separate policy, the following list could be a great place to start.  

1. Allstate Motor Club: Best Roadside Assistance Services overall

Allstate: Best roadside assistance services overall

(Image credit: AllState)

Allstate has the best roadside assistance plans overall, and is great value for money

Membership needed?: No
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: Apple and Android
Reasons to buy
+Some of the cheapest membership plans +Membership not required every time+Has a great app
Reasons to avoid
-Plans can be tricky to work out-Not as good for extensive coverage

Allstate Motor Club has one of the cheapest roadside assistance packages on the market, and also the best. Its prices are far lower than its competitors with a strong enough feature list to make it a worthy choice for those who don’t need extensive coverage but want some roadside assurance. Allstate is where you go when you want roadside assistance within a minimal mile limit while snapping up some great special offers with the member benefits.

The Roadside Advantage plan is the most basic option, and available from as little as $79 annually, or $7 a month, it is one of the most affordable plans around. This plan includes $150 worth of roadside assistance, so if you get a flat tire, need a tow, get locked out of your car or run out of fuel, Allstate dispatches assistance and reimburses you for up to $150 of the cost. This is a more generous benefit than other basic services provide – many offer free towing for a limited number of miles, rather than reimbursing you for the amount you pay - and you can call on assistance up to three times a year. 

If you want wider coverage, Allstate has an Elite plan available too, under which roadside benefit increases to $250, and you can be rescued up to five times in a year, but obviously, you should expect to pay more. Overall, however, all of the Allstate plans offer great value, and the service you get should be excellent too.

2. Good Sam Roadside Assistance: Best for towing

Good Sam Club: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for towing

(Image credit: Good Sam)

An excellent option for extras, especially if you have RVs or trailers

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 cover?: Yes
App available?: Apple and Android
Reasons to buy
+Great towing service+All family members and cars covered by plan+Good for trailers and bigger vehicles
Reasons to avoid
-Terms require attention -Some services not available in every state

Good Sam Roadside Assistance’s most notable feature is its unlimited towing – most roadside assistance services have limits set between 5 and 100 miles or only reimburse you for the money you spend. In addition, Good Sam offers unlimited flat tire repairs, jump starts, fuel delivery and locksmith services. For the locksmith, you’re often on the hook for parts and labor, however.

Good Sam offers a great range of roadside assistance coverage. For everyday motorists, an auto plan - of which there are three levels of cover - should suffice. However, where Good Sam really stands out is in the services it offers to RV owners - yes, you'll pay a bit more than with an auto plan, but here it's possible to get cover on your travel and boat trailers and multiple RVs, all without breaking the bank. 

On the downside, there's a fair bit of fine print with Good Sam Roadside Assistance. There are quite a few limitations on its varied plans so you will need to sit down and read them all before you commit. However, there are multiple benefits to choosing Good Sam Roadside Assistance such as the unlimited towing (within limitations, of course), the rather excellent variety of packages, the affordability of its plans, and the fact it’s only one of two companies reviewed here – Best Roadside Services being the other – that’s accredited with the Better Business Bureau. 

3. AARP Roadside Assistance: Best for seniors

AARP: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for seniors

(Image credit: AARP)

AARP has some superb prices and services for anyone over 50

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: Apple and Android
Reasons to buy
+Two straightforward plans+Perfect for over-50s+Very affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Must be an AARP member to join-Must be 50+ 

AARP is a membership only roadside assistance service provider for the over 50s, but so good is the coverage on offer, you'll be happy to have such a milestone under your belt. The plans themselves are actually provided by Allstate, so you know you're in safe hands already. Two options are available, both of which provide coverage for towing, flat tires, running out of gas, lockouts, and dead batteries. 

The important differences are that Roadside Assist gives you 10 miles of free towing, three rescues annually and will cost you $62 for the first year, while the Elite plan provides 100 miles of towing, up to seen rescues and $1,500 of trip interruption coverage on top - however, for these extra benefits, the price rises to $119. 

But whichever plan you choose, you're getting an excellent bang for your buck, and should have few problems completing the application process, thanks to an accessible website that lays all of the options out extremely clear. You will need to sign up to AARP too, but in costing as little as $12 a year, this is a small price to pay, particularly if you make use of the wider discounts the organization offers too. 

4. AAA Roadside Assistance: A great all-round option

AAA: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for all-round assurance

(Image credit: AAA)

Offers a wide range of plan options and outstanding service

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: Apple and Android
Reasons to buy
+Flexible plans to suit most needs+Good coverage and towing+Impressive user reviews
Reasons to avoid
-Membership required

The AAA is well-known for its membership benefits and the roadside assistance packages that it offers represent an excellent choice too. Three main plan options are available that should suit all budgets and coverage requirements, and with excellent customer testimonials from past customers, AAA can usually be relied upon to deliver a great rescue service, in a very timely manner, as well. 

How much you'll pay obviously depends on the plan you choose, but also varies according to where you live. At its cheapest, AAA is very competitive, but if you live somewhere where the highest prices kick in, you may want to check your options to make sure you're getting a good deal. Coverage takes in all the things you'd expect to find, such as battery service, gas delivery, and lockout service. 

There's free towing as well, but be aware that the mileage varies widely between plan options, and it is only the Plus and Premier coverage that offers trip interruption, and each to a varying degree. Ultimately, which plan is best for you will depend on if you stay local or regular travel far. 

5. National General Motor Club: Best value for money

National General Motor Club: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for value

(Image credit: National General)

A roadside assistance service that delivers value-for-money

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: No
Reasons to buy
+Good cover for under $5 monthly+Generous lockout reimbursements+Member discounts up to 50% 
Reasons to avoid
-Limit on service calls-Longer towing distances elsewhere 

National General Motor Club stands out for delivering a good roadside assistance service and excellent value-for-money at the same time. For an outlay of just $59, which equates to less than $5 a month, National General will be on hand to help if you have a flat tire, require a jump start, have run out of gas, locked yourself out, or need winching. You’re also entitled to a five mile free tow as well, which might be slightly shorter than with some other basic roadside coverage, but will suffice if you usually stay local, and is obviously one way that helps the service keep its prices down. 

If you do want wider coverage, there’s a mid-range plan available for $79 a year, which takes the towing distance up to 20 miles, and includes $750 of trip interruption costs if you’re in an accident. And at the top end, the Elite plan costs $89 for the year- which is still only just over $7 a month - which will cover interruptions for breakdowns too, and tow you 100 miles without charge. 

Discounts for members of up to 50% on a range of dining, shopping, hotels and entertainment options will save you money too, while there’s a free mapping service available if you want to get a better idea of where you’re heading the old fashioned way. 

6. CARCHEX Roadside Assistance: Best no-frills roadside assistance

Carchex: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for no-frills cover

(Image credit: Carchex)

CARCHEX Roadside Assistance is an excellent option if you want a straightforward roadside assistance service, but little more. Catching the eye in particular is CARCHEX’s low-cost Single Vehicle plan, thanks largely to the 25 miles of free towing on offer - similarly priced plans will usually only take you around five to seven miles before charges start to apply, so it’s well worth a look for this alone. 

All of the roadside assistance basics you’d expect are available too, including battery charging, flat tire change, lost key or lockout assistance, and fuel delivery, which all combine to make the Single Vehicle plan option a solid roadside assistance choice. Where you might want to be a little cautious is if you’re considering the premium-priced Unlimited Vehicles plan - yes, it will cover four members of your household and all the vehicles in it, but unlike with other top-end plans, the towing mileage doesn’t increase and remains at 25 miles. 

CARCHEX Roadside Assistance stacks up well in terms of its network, with over 45,000 services on standby, and can be contacted via app or over the phone if you need help - the typical waiting time for this to arrive is a very reasonable 30 minutes too. You won’t find trip interruption coverage or any member discounts at CARCHEX, but for some motorists, the breakdown basics are all they want and need, and what you will find here. 

Breakdown cover that delivers the roadside rescue basics brilliantly

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Basic plan has 25 miles free towing+Single vehicle cover is good value  +45,000+ rescue trucks
Reasons to avoid
-Limited additional benefits-Towing distance low for premium plans

7. BRS Roadside Service: Best website

BRS: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services websites

(Image credit: BRS)

A great customer journey and website

Membership needed?: No
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: No
Reasons to buy
+Website is great+Decent prices available+Great network for towing
Reasons to avoid
-No app available-No plans for RVs or trailers

BRS stands for Best Roadside Assistance and it's a name that the company does its level best to live up to. The clear, concise and accessible website raises expectations straight away, and if you dig deeper into the plan options and service, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they offer and how well they do it. 

Jumpstart assistance, tire repairs, lockouts, and fuel delivery are among the things you'd expect as standard, but with BRS there's 24 hour access to winching services and oil, fluid and water deliveries too, if your vehicle is in immediate need. The round the clock emergency towing service tows up to 75 miles to the nearest repair facility as well, and with an average rescue taking 42 minutes, you won't be waiting too long. 

It’s also superb for families or individuals who want to customize their plan according to their life not their car – you can opt for a vehicle plan or an individual plan which then tacks the service onto the car or the person which really does make life easier. It’s one of the only roadside assistance companies to be accredited with the Better Business Bureau too, and enjoys the maximum accolade of an A+ rating. 

8. BP MotorClub: Best joining offer

BP MotorClub: Our pick of the best roadside assistance services for joining offers

(Image credit: BP)

You can join for just $1, and it's great for RV owners too

Membership needed?: Yes
24/7 coverage?: Yes
App available?: No
Reasons to buy
+Join for $1 for the first month+Good RV plans
Reasons to avoid
-Terrible website-Membership required

BP MotorClub is a good roadside assistance option if it's a great sign up offer that always catches your eye, or you're after short-term cover at next to no cost at all. That's because with BP MotorClub you'll pay just $1 for the first month, and are free to cancel within the first 30 days should you want. 

If you can see past the rather dated website, BP provides two different plans from which to choose each at a reasonable ongoing monthly price. You'll find some good advice and insight in their information center, including a number of in-depth articles detailing vehicle buying advice and guidance, which is a nice touch, and something different to what is available elsewhere. 

BP is also one of the few roadside assistance companies to offer coverage for RVs without a hefty extra cost, which makes them a good choice for the RV traveler and explorer as well. 

What to consider with roadside assistance services

Roadside assistance services range from traditional breakdown plans to at-will services, and are also often offered through car insurance companies too. 

Cost is usually an important consideration for any motorist choosing a service, and fortunately, roadside assistance plan pricing tends to be straightforward – you pay an annual membership fee, either upfront or in monthly instalments. 

However, when assessing what you're being asked to pay, you'll also need to look at the full scope of what each service offers specifically. Towing limits in particular can be an important differentiator, with some companies offering reimbursement, while others tow you for free up to a certain number of miles. Basic plans tend to be pretty uniform in their limits, and usually offer around five miles of free towing or a reimbursement which should be enough to cover a short tow. That said, Good Sam Roadside Assistance stands out by offering unlimited towing with its basic plan.

With premium plans you can expect higher towing or reimbursement limits, and also usually trip interruption services as well. So, if you’re in an accident while you’re far from home, the roadside assistance company reimburses you for a good chunk of what you pay for hotels and food while your car is out of commission.

What services are included with roadside assistance?

While the idea of subscribing to a roadside assistance service is comforting in its own right, it’s good to know exactly what they cover so that you know exactly how your money is being spent, especially since not all of these services are created equal.

Coverage varies by company but, generally speaking, you can expect these services to cover most or all of the following:

  • Towing
  • Jump-start
  • Tire change
  • Oil delivery
  • Gas delivery
  • Locksmith services
  • Stuck in ditch/winch services
  • Car key replacement

Knowing how a roadside assistance service works is just as critical as knowing what services it covers. Some may require certain criteria to be met before dispatching an emergency service to you, or they may only cover part of the payment. Though it is time-consuming, we recommend reading the fine print for a service before signing up so you’re prepared in any situation.

Certain service providers offer premium plans that include additional benefits and coverage. Though it's more to pay, you get all kinds of protection that may prove helpful in extenuating circumstances. If you think you may require this level of coverage at any point, we recommend going with Good Sam, as it offers the most options for any situation.

Some examples of this advanced coverage include smaller-scale things like the coverage of recreational vehicles and motorcycles, or animal transportation. If you have an emergency while travelling outside of the U.S., there may be a need for something more extreme, like worldwide emergency medical evacuation, repatriation or the transference of medical records, vaccines, blood or other medication. Some services may also offer less-common services like home lock-out service or lodging and rental car discounts.

Are you already covered?

Before you join any of these programs, we recommend checking to see if you're already enrolled in a roadside assistance plan through another source. Many car insurance companies offer their own roadside assistance programs for a small additional cost to your monthly bill. These add-ons include similar, if not identical, coverage to that offered by standalone roadside services, including towing, tire changes, jumpstarts, gas or oil delivery, and locksmith services.

However, in order to benefit from these services, your insurance company will likely require you to be current on your monthly insurance payments and to be past any initial waiting periods. There is a big downside to getting roadside assistance through your car insurance company, however, which is that every claim goes on your record and can affect what you pay each month.

Some credit cards include roadside assistance as an additional feature, though you’re charged each time you use the benefit, so it could end up being more expensive in the long run than a traditional service. Extended car warranties can also include roadside assistance. So, if you recently bought a new or used car with a warranty, you could be covered for up to 30,000 miles or the duration of the warranty.

Which coverage type is right for you?

There are two types of roadside assistance coverage available, each offering different coverage and benefits. The first covers one specific driver, and the other covers one specific vehicle. Not all companies offer both options or let you choose which you prefer, so be sure to clarify with a provider before you sign up with a service.

Driver-specific coverage is good if you travel frequently in different vehicles. It is a good option not only for business travelers, but also for families that share multiple cars. We also recommend it for those who use rental cars while traveling. Before choosing a service, be sure to clarify with the company if you are required to be the driver in order to be covered or if you’re covered even if you’re only a passenger. Each company has its own restrictions.

Vehicle-specific coverage only covers a designated vehicle. With this, vehicle coverage is valid regardless of who is driving it. This option is a good choice for families with multiple members who are of legal driving age.

Rental car coverage

Whether you're planning an adventurous getaway or your car's going to be in the shop for a few days, it’s nice to be covered, even when you’re in a rental car. Most car rental companies offer roadside coverage for only a few bucks more per day.  They’re a cheap alternative to paying for incidental damages out of pocket or paying extra fees.

It is possible that coverage from a car rental service may be more limited than what it would be through a dedicated service. There could be fewer situations covered, fewer service vendor options, and they may be lower quality or take longer to drive out to you when you are stranded. Traditional roadside services are the best bet for rental car coverage, as they are the most comprehensive.

Roadside assistance for luxury & exotic cars

Whether you bought a Bentley or went all out with a Lamborghini, you may still need roadside assistance in case of an emergency. Many of the services out there – both traditional and at-will alike – are happy to cover your vehicle. However, keep in mind that, although some of these services cover the cost of standard towing, you may still be charged more if your vehicle requires upgraded towing services.

How often can you use traditional services?

The one downside to subscribing to a traditional emergency roadside service is that you may be limited in how frequently you can use it. This all depends on which company you subscribe to. Some services may limit the number of times you can file a claim, meaning you may only be able to file a certain number of claims per month or year.

Should you exceed the set limits of a particular service, you’ll have to take on the burden of paying for repairs, towing, fuel delivery, locksmith services and anything else on your own. Although, some companies may offer partial, decreased coverage once you’ve bypassed their limit.

If you don’t want to worry about limitations, we recommend using an at-will service, like Honk. These don’t have any high-use limitations or annual subscriptions; they’re simply there for you whenever you need them. They are also a great option for when you hit a limit with your traditional service.

Is your service available internationally?

Before signing up for a roadside assistance service, make sure you understand its coverage limitations. If you only drive locally, this isn’t a big concern. However, if you frequently travel in different states or countries, be it for work or pleasure, make sure you are covered as much as possible before you leave.

These services don’t cover you when you travel to a different continent. However, some work in adjacent countries on the same continent. For example, if you subscribe to a roadside assistance service in the United States, you may also be covered in Canada. Most roadside assistance services also work when you travel to other states within the United States, but be sure to check with the company before leaving.

If you need international roadside assistance coverage, your best bet is to purchase separate international travel insurance. Many policies include roadside assistance in addition to other helpful services that are handy to have when you travel, and they include similar coverage everywhere. You may be able to get travel insurance through your current insurance company. However, coverage can vary by country and service, so consider your travel plans and talk with your travel insurance company to ensure its services more or less match your travel needs.

How to limit using roadside assistance

If you’re worried about exceeding your roadside assistance plan’s limits or prefer saving it only for extreme emergencies, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of needing to use it. Mostly, it comes down to regular maintenance, keeping certain supplies in your car and being mindful while on the road.

The best thing you can do is take your car in for regular tune-ups and maintenance. This keeps you on top of problems and ensures everything works properly. It can even give you a heads-up about parts that need to be replaced in the near future. We also recommend regularly checking your tires’ tread and inflation – make sure they are always properly inflated, regularly rotated, and have enough tread to handle rainy and snowy conditions.

You should also keep jumper cables, fluids, flashlights and other tools in your car. Knowing how to jump a car and replace simple fluids can save you money on maintenance and emergency servicing. Roadside assistance plans generally cover these types of problems, but taking care of them yourself helps you save the service for more severe emergencies.

Try to plan travel around high-traffic days and times of day so that you can avoid them. By avoiding high-traffic situations, you reduce the likelihood of an accident or other emergency. Additionally, make sure that you drive safely, without distraction. Set up your GPS and music before putting the car in drive, and never text while driving.

You can also opt to use one-time, as-needed roadside assistance services, such as Honk, in place of your traditional service. This can help save you money during a less severe emergency.

Road trip safety tips

While roadside assistance services can often take care of you during an emergency on the road, there are a few other things you can do to prevent or lessen a potential crisis without ruining your entire trip.

Before leaving on a road trip, take your car in for a simple inspection. A mechanic can perform a quick diagnostic to make sure belts, hoses, fluids, tires and other moving parts are in good enough condition to handle the trip. This typically costs about $50.

There are also some things you can keep in your car that are helpful in minor emergency situations. These are relatively inexpensive and can save you time and money in the long run. We recommend getting a flashlight, flares, basic tools for changing a tire and a portable car battery charger. These are superior to traditional jumper cables, as they allow you to jump your battery immediately without having to flag down another car. Plus, you can use them to charge your phone, and you can easily recharge the battery charger after using it.

Beyond these, we recommend keeping a few items on hand for you and your passengers in case of an emergency, such as a first-aid kit, GPS or maps, blankets, medicine and bottled water. While it may seem like a hassle to store these things, they can ameliorate a stressful and unexpected situation.

Tim is Finance Editor at Top Ten Reviews. With over 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry, Tim has spent most of his career working for a financial data firm, where he was Online Editor of the consumer-facing Moneyfacts site, and regularly penned articles for the financial advice publication Investment Life and Pensions Moneyfacts. As a result, he has an excellent knowledge of almost areas of personal finance and, in particular, the retirement, investment, protection, mortgage and savings sectors. A keen armchair follower of most sports, Tim regularly plays soccer, and also enjoys attending live music events, when not having to chase after his two children.