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Best roadside assistance services 2020: Breakdown and towing plans

Best roadside assistance services 2020: Breakdown and towing plans
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

Signing up to the best roadside assistance services is essential if you're concerned that your vehicle might let you down. No matter what type of motorist you are - someone who’s always on the road, or an occasional driver that has a car for convenience - there’s no substitute for the reassurance that a top rated roadside assistance plan can provide.

When it comes to picking the best roadside assistance services, it’s important to consider the type of cover you need. So if you’re constantly racking up the miles, roadside assistance companies which offer towing services are likely to be a priority. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re someone who uses their car sparingly, a basic roadside rescue service will probably suffice. However, what everyone will likely want from a roadside assistance provider is the security that any rescue they might need will be quick and available 24/7. When you first make your call, helpful and courteous customer service is also likely to be welcomed too. 

The price of any roadside assistance plan you’re thinking of signing up with is obviously a crucial factor too. In this regard, always take careful note of what is - and isn’t - included in the services you’re considering and think about the range of services you might need. There’s probably little point spending big on all-encompassing comprehensive cover if you only ever use your car to visit the grocery store once a week. Remember that there’ll often be discounts available on the best roadside assistance plans too - although you should keep your eye on exactly what is covered, in case the special offer relates to a stripped back plan that won’t offer all the protection that you need. If you’re of a certain age, we highlight the top rated roadside assistance service for seniors as well, and more top breakdown services besides.

Before making a final decision, take the time to check out the best auto insurance plans, which sometimes come with roadside assistance services too - again, however, consider the finer details of what’s being offered, in case they don’t cover what you’re after. And seeing as you’re obviously searching for motoring peace of mind, the merits of the best extended car warranties are well worth thinking about as well.

1. Allstate Motor Club: Best roadside assistance plans overall

Allstate is our top overall pick for roadside assistance plans

(Image credit: AllState)

Allstate Motor Club

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

Some of the cheapest membership plans 
Membership not required every time
Has a great app
Plans can be tricky to work out
Not as good for extensive coverage

Allstate Motor Club expects you to pay for membership on some of its plans, but how much you pay will depend on the package you choose. The website is also fiddly and difficult to navigate, making it quite tough to unlock the hidden terms and conditions that may be embedded in your membership and your package. So, before you sign, just make sure you read everything first. That said, Allstate Motor Club has one of the cheapest packages on the market – 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. This 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 it is one of the most affordable plans we saw. It costs $52 annually, or a little more than $4 a month. This plan includes $100 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 $100 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.

Overall, all plans offer great value, and the service you get is excellent.

2. Good Sam Roadside Assistance: Best for towing

Good Sam Club offers unlimited towing, and is great for RVs

(Image credit: Good Sam)

Good Sam Roadside Assistance

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

Membership needed?: Yes | 24/7 cover?: Yes | App available?: Apple and Android

Great towing service
All family members and cars covered by plan
Good for trailers and bigger vehicles
More expensive than other services
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.

Its standard plan costs $80 a year, or just over $6 a month. The Platinum plan costs about $115 a year, or $9.50 a month. Good Sam’s unlimited roadside assistance comes with both plans. Both levels also cover all your vehicles and family members, unlike other services that require you to pay extra to add more people to their plans. The main difference between Good Sam’s two plans is the Platinum plan includes discounts on hotels and rental cars.

On the downside, Good Sam Roadside Assistance is riddled with fine print. There are quite a few limitations on its varied plans so you will need to sit down and read them all before you commit. It’s also membership-driven so you’ll have to fork out extra for membership alongside your chosen roadside assistance plan. 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. They also offer RV plans which are competitively priced compared to others on the market. 

3. AARP Roadside Assistance: Best for seniors

AARP has great services for anyone over 50

(Image credit: AARP)

AARP Roadside Assistance

AARP has some superb prices and services for anyone over 50

Membership needed?: Yes | 24/7 coverage?: Yes | App available?: Apple and Android

Customizable plans
Perfect for over-50s
Very affordable
Must be an AARP member to join
Must be 50+ for the best plans

AARP is another membership only roadside assistance service provider but their membership is even more restricted – over 50s only, please. While you can join as a younger member – they have an Associate membership package – you won’t get as many value-added benefits as these have been tailored to the older market. AARP is a good fit for the older market with reasonable pricing, nice value-added extras, an easy to use website and application system, and customizable packages. It’s a dependable choice with few limitations and not too many hidden costs. 

The company offers two programs to choose from: Road ‘n Tow, which costs $58 a year, and Premier, which costs $74 a year. The Road ‘n Tow option gives you 5 miles of free towing, and you get up to 100 miles of free towing with the Premier plan.

If you're on the Premier tier, you can also take advantage of AARP's trip interruption service, which reimburses you up to $1,500 per year to cover hotel, food and/or car rental costs should your car need extensive servicing while you're out of town.

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

AAA is well-known, and well respected in roadside assistance

(Image credit: AAA)

AAA Roadside Assistance

Offers great value and comes with fine-print-free contracts

Membership needed?: Yes | 24/7 coverage?: Yes | App available?: Apple and Android

Flexible plans to suit most needs
Good coverage and towing
Very little fine-print
Membership required
One of the more expensive options

The AAA has always been known for its membership and the huge swathe of member benefits. The list is pretty endless with anything from a magazine to discounts to freebies that come part and parcel with the AAA. The roadside assistance packages are humdrum and quite standard when it comes to what they offer and the limitations they introduce. The pricing is good, if not extremely cheap and you get the usual tire replacement, fuel fills and recovery features that come standard with most plans. You do get very limited towing distances, which is not great, but you do get lots of other features so your choice will depend on what kind of car you drive, the distances you travel and the security you want as a driver.

The AAA Classic plan currently costs $58 a year, which is about $5, a month and only a few dollars more than Allstate’s basic plan. For about the same price, you get a variety of benefits, some of which aren’t strictly roadside assistance, but valuable nonetheless.

AAA Classic provides free towing for five miles, which is usually sufficient to get you to a mechanic when in the city. If you get locked out of your car, the service reimburses you $50 for the cost of a locksmith. While this may not be that much, this plan also includes benefits like identity theft monitoring and membership discounts at hotels, restaurants and other businesses. So, if you’re not a long-distance traveler, AAA’s basic plan can provide peace of mind and benefits other services lack.

5. BRS Roadside Service: Best website

BRS has a great website

(Image credit: BRS)

BRS Roadside Service

A great customer journey and website

Membership needed?: No | 24/7 coverage?: Yes | App available?: No

Website is great
Decent prices available
Great network for towing
No app available
No plans for RVs or trailers

BRS is hard to find because it has a generic name, but when you do find them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they offer and how well they do it. This is a great choice for the road warrior that wants to know that they’re protected for miles (up to 75) and that they can be rescued within minutes (an average of 34 minutes). 

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 and it has a really good A+ rating. 

6. BP MotorClub: Superb joining offer

It's only $1 to join BP MotorClub

(Image credit: BP)

BP MotorClub

You can join for just $1, but you pay more afterwards

Membership needed?: Yes | 24/7 coverage?: Yes | App available?: No

Join for $1
Good RV plans
Terrible website
Membership required

BP MotorClub has truly got the worst website out of any other roadside assistance companies reviewed. It’s old, tiny, difficult to navigate and has a dearth of package information. It’s also one of the companies, alongside AARP and AAA, that expects you to pay for annual membership in order to get the benefits of its roadside assistance packages. 

That said, there are a lot of different plans to choose from and they’ve made your first year of membership very cheap at only $1. You get some nice advice and insight in their information center and they have provided quite a few in-depth articles into vehicle buying advice and guidance, which is a nice touch. They’re 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. 

How we researched the best roadside assistance service

We researched all types of roadside assistance services, from traditional options to at-will services and those offered through car insurance companies. Because all services offer coverage for the same situations - from towing to key replacement - we looked primarily at pricing to evaluate them.

Price is perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a service. Fortunately, roadside assistance plan pricing is straightforward – you pay an annual membership fee, either upfront or in monthly installments. For the most basic level of service, we saw prices ranging between $52 and $96 a year, with most falling between $60 and $80 annually. Premium plans have higher service limits and often provide discounts on hotels and rental services. The premium plans we looked at range from $74 to $240 annually, with most falling between $90 and $115 a year.

We looked at the full scope of what each service offers specifically. Towing limits were important in our evaluation. Some companies offer reimbursement, while others tow you for free up to a certain number of miles. Basic plans are uniform in their limits - 5 miles of free towing or a reimbursement of up to $100, which is usually enough to cover a short tow. Good Sam Roadside Assistance stands out by offering unlimited towing with its basic plan.

Premium plans have higher towing or reimbursement limits, usually 100 miles or up to $250. These premium plans also generally offer 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.

The companies we looked at almost all have open membership or don't require membership at all.

How much does roadside assistance cost?

As we've just touched on, most basic roadside assistance plans cost between $52 and $96 a year, which comes to about $5 to $8 per month. Typically, basic plans cover tow trucks, jumpstarts and locksmith reimbursement, so even if you only use it once, you’ll likely recoup the cost of your membership. If you’re a heavy traveler, you may benefit more from a premium plan, which can cost between $74 and $240 a year, or $6 to $20 a month. Premium plans have higher towing and reimbursement limits, and often include discounts on hotels and car rentals as well. 

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.