What does roadside assistance cover, and are comprehensive plans worth paying extra for?

What does roadside assistance cover, and are comprehensive plans worth paying extra for?
(Image credit: Getty)

Breaking down is a frustration that most car owners are likely to experience at some point in their motoring life. Some might have the skills to replace a tire or get the engine going again, but for others relying on professional help, the question that often springs to mind is: what does roadside assistance cover?  

If a breakdown is your worst nightmare, you’ll hopefully already be registered with the best roadside assistance services. But while you scramble around for their contact details, and pray that your membership is up to date, that nagging doubt often appears as to whether your particular predicament is one that they’ll swiftly rescue you from. 

More doubts might creep in when you think about the different types of plan that were on offer and wonder now if you chose the right one. Indeed, it’s true that different break down plans will safeguard you against different things, while what is covered will often vary between different rescue services too. 

What does roadside assistance cover?

The golden rule is to always check the fine print of the rescue packages that you’re interested in, and make sure the coverage is suitable to your needs. However, that said, there are still a number of services that it is usually safe to assume will be common to all. Most likely these will be basic tasks that can quickly get your car back on the road, sending you safely on your way. 

Changing a flat tire
One of the most common problems that regular motorists encounter is a flat tire. The good news if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, or simply don’t know how to do it, is that breakdown services will almost always be on hand to change a tire and put on your spare. And maybe also consider spending a little bit more on one of the best tire brands if you want to try and avoid a puncture disrupting your journey again. 

What does roadside assistance cover, and are comprehensive plans worth paying extra for?

(Image credit: Future)

Battery jump start
If there’s no signs of life when you turn the ignition key, there’s a good chance that your battery is dead. In the absence of owning your own car battery charger, roadside assistance services should always be ready and willing to give you a jump-start if you’re out of power.

If you’re well and truly stranded at the side of the road, and the mechanic who arrives can’t get your car going right there and then, a towing service is what you’ll need to get you to the nearest garage that can properly help. Most plans will specify a certain distance that they’re happy to tow you for - just be aware that if you need or want to go further, an extra charge will usually apply. 

Fuel delivery
It’s probably one of the more embarrassing and easily avoidable motoring mishaps that can happen, but if you run out of gas, you’re usually welcome to give your breakdown provider a call. Usually your tank will be replenished with enough juice to get you to the closest gas station, where it might be wise to invest in a gas can to keep in your trunk just in case too. 

Locked out
Another often embarrassing yet easily done mishap is to lock yourself out of your car. If the keys are dangling tantalisingly close from the ignition while you’re locked on the outside looking in, then help should be at hand. A lockout service will usually try to gain you entry using a pump wedge or a long-reach tool, and if that fails, a locksmith will have to work their magic. 

What does roadside assistance cover, and are comprehensive plans worth paying extra for?

(Image credit: Pixabay)

If your problem is somewhat more serious and you’ve somehow managed to get your car stuck, a winching service will usually be included in your rescue plan to help set you free. Depending on the severity of your stuckness, be aware that you might have supplemental charges to pay if the job requires the assistance of more than one service to complete the extrication. 

More comprehensive cover 

If you’re always on the road, or your car is particularly old, or high on miles, it might be worth paying the extra for one of the more comprehensive roadside rescue plans. 

For the additional money, you can usually expect more generous towing benefits, and road hazard benefits to help cover the cost of a new tire if that’s what you need. Trip interruption coverage and a rental car if yours is well and truly out of action might also be on offer too. A comprehensive plan might also provide cover for other drivers in your family, and for motorcycles and road vehicles that can be excluded from standard policies. 

If you want complete motoring peace of mind, the best extended car warranties can help cover the cost of parts failures as well. And  of course, no one should step behind the wheel without the best auto insurance to fall back on should a more serious mishap unfortunately occur. 

Tim Leonard

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.