Roadside Assistance: What to Know and Where to Get It

If it hasn’t happened already, it will. You’re going to need roadside assistance. Tires pop, gas runs out, or your car up and dies on the side of the road without explanation. Most new cars these days come with manufacturer roadside assistance. But that only lasts for a few years or X number of miles, whichever comes first.

Who needs it?

Everyone. Breaking down on the side of the road flat out sucks. Your plans for the day are ruined in an instant, maybe your plans for the next few days. The average tow costs somewhere between $75-$125 and can be upwards of $300-$500. That ruins your plans for the weekend. “Oh, but I can walk to the gas station and figure out help.” Probably not, the average tow is 40 miles, that’s one way. That’d be an 80-mile walk.

The fact is, you can’t walk to the gas station like they do in the movies. That would only solve you running out of gas, or maybe a dead battery. Two flat tires, a bad alternator, or any of the myriad of sensors on modern vehicles can fail and brick the car.

Where should you buy it?

If your vehicle is brand new and still under the manufacturer's roadside assistance, don’t buy any. You’re covered and you’re already paying for it. Most of them are for five years or 60,000 miles, although there are exceptions, so check the manufacturer’s website.

  • Insurance — Most companies that offer car insurance offer a roadside policy as well. You may already have it included. Call your agent to double-check and get pricing. The goal is to pay as little as possible. Make sure you find out exactly what is covered too.
  • Third-Party — We are mostly talking about AAA. They set the standard for roadside assistance well before any other player got in the game. There are tons of additional services a AAA membership will get you besides roadside assistance. Also, unlike most plans, a AAA membership covers you, not the car, so whatever vehicle you’re in when it breaks down is the one that is covered.
  • Manufacturers Extended Warranty — If you buy an extended warranty from your vehicle’s manufacturer you will often also get an extension on the roadside assistance. This could be helpful if you know your make and model has a history of costly repairs. Some manufacturers offer supplemental warranties to cover tires or dents. Some of these smaller, cheaper policies offer roadside assistance in a limited capacity, make sure you read the details.
  • Credit Union — Some credit unions that offer roadside assistance or participate in discount programs that offer roadside assistance. Be sure to stop in or call your credit union to find out if they offer this type of service and how much it would cost.
  • Credit Card — Credit cards sometimes offer roadside assistance, depending on your card choice. But some only offer a hotline to call for assistance and then you have to pay out of pocket for everything after that phone call. Check your benefits and see what you might be able to get.

Whatever option you choose, make sure it fits your needs. Some benefits might end up being frivolous to you and that can mean wasted money.

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