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Should You Add Roadside Assistance To Your Car Insurance Policy? Consider This Before You Do.

Roadside assistance

There are things to consider before getting roadside assistance. License: Royalty Free or iStock source: Image courtesy of AAA

Finding yourself or your family stranded by the side of the road with a car-related emergency is one of those photos-from-the-family-album you always hope to avoid. While there’s a good chance that at least once in your driving life you’ll be in need of roadside assistance, determining whether to add a full-coverage roadside assistance option to your budget is something that should require a little thought. While most car insurance companies will offer this service option for any standard policy, car insurance isn’t the only source for making sure help is only a cellphone call away next time you breakdown in your car.

Roadside assistance options

As a car owner and driver, you generally have a few ways you can get some form of roadside assistance to help you and your family, including:

  • Full-service car clubs/associations – some of the leaders in this area include AAA, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Better World Club, and Good Sam. These services typically require that you join a club or association, pay dues and as a benefit of your membership, you have access to services such as free roadside towing and minor mechanical assistance. If your family has more than one car or if you must cover more than one driver, some of these clubs require additional “associate” member status for other cars or drivers in the family. There are some car companies that offer club services (GM Motor Club is one) and there are also some insurance companies that offer separate roadside assistance services even for drivers that do not have insurance with the company (the Allstate Auto Club is one example.)
  • Auto-specific services – extended service warranties on newer cars have become more common and complex in recent years as a way of offering a competitive edge for car makers. You may be able to take advantage of an automaker’s roadside assistance services program that comes with your new or certified car and its extended service warranty. One drawback to these types of roadside assistance programs is that they are (generally) limited to a single covered vehicle.
  • Credit car, cellphone or buyer’s club services – if you have a premium-level credit card or belong to a popular membership-based buyers club such as Costco, one of the premium options of membership or card use may be access to a roadside emergency services program. You may also have a cellphone with a supporting plan that offers a range of value-added services, including roadside assistance. One advantage to these programs is that they generally allow you to add drivers and/or cars in your family for little or no additional cost.
  • Insurance-based options – adding some level of emergency road service coverage to your car insurance plan can be a very affordable and convenient way to secure roadside assistance. In many ways, adding this option to your car insurance plan makes the most sense as it can coordinate with any follow-up services you may need to file a claim for.
    roadside assistance

    Having roadside assistance is helpful when in time of need. Photo By Donna Sutton Creative Commons photo via Flickr.

Be aware of gaps or redundancies

Whichever option you select for adding roadside assistance, make sure you pay attention to the fine print of any plan. Many plans will have limitations on how many times you can use a particular service in a given plan year. Some plans exclude certain circumstances under which services will be offered. For example, one fairly popular automaker plan routinely excludes towing services should you be stranded due to a flood or fire.

cool cars

Even you favorite car may need roadside assistance. Image: Jan Lauterbacher – Creative Commons

Just that kind of exclusion is one argument for tying your roadside assistance with your car insurance coverage plan. But here too the fine print can sometimes trip you up. Many car insurance companies require you to carry select options (such as collision and/or comprehensive) before they will allow you to add emergency road service. Some car insurance companies also restrict you to select service providers when using emergency road services (or they offer to reimburse you after you pay out-of-pocket for the service needed at the time.)

If you are considering adding roadside assistance coverage, make sure you don’t already have some form of protection with a newer car or through membership in some other organization.

You should also know that states can sometimes have laws in effect that make your roadside assistance package limited or even useless. Fore example, some state highways are restricted through local governments’ licensed tow services. These agreements can prohibit some service providers from sending help directly to you.

Roadside Assistance Articles

Progressive Roadside Assistance

GEICO Roadside Assistance

USAA Roadside Assistance

Though rare, future premium rates can be hurt

One other section where you’ll want to get a magnifying glass and read the fine pint on is how using these services may impact your rate with an insurance company. Sometimes, using an insurance company’s roadside assistance or towing benefits too often will increase future premium rates or even challenge your eligibility for future coverage.

Given how inexpensive many of these options are when added to an existing car insurance plan (some provide full coverage for literally pennies more a month), it would be a shame to have your future car insurance premium rate go up substantially only because you used an added option exactly for what it was intended to do – get you out of a roadside jam.

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson is a writer with Reply!. He has more than 25 years of experience in market research, public relations, consulting, writing and sales work in all areas of the auto industry.

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