Five Roadside Assistance Programs Compared

June 29, 2016

best roadside assistance program

You can replace a flat tire, no problem. Your car’s well maintained. And if you run out of gas, you’ll just call a friend. Roadside assistance programs are a waste of money. Right?

You might have a different opinion the next time you’re stuck on the side of the road, waiting and waiting for help to arrive. A solid emergency roadside assistance plan will cover towing, lockouts, dead batteries, flat tires and more. But which one’s best for your car — and your budget? Let’s compare roadside assistance programs to find the cheapest and most trusted plans.

The Pros and Cons of Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Programs

Most car insurance companies offer cheap roadside assistance as an optional add-on to your policy. For instance, Elephant Insurance’s roadside assistance plan dispatches a service professional to tow your vehicle, jump-start your battery, bring you gas or fluid, change your tire or provide locksmith services.

That’s pretty much the standard menu for auto insurance roadside assistance programs. Some companies offer extra services, like winching.  That means they’ll pull you out of the snow or mud, as long as you’re not too far off the roadway. And 21st Century Insurance gives all its customers 24-hour roadside assistance for free. You can find out which auto insurance providers offer coverage by viewing their individual profiles on our Insurance Companies page.

Pros: There’s no extra bill to pay — assistance is included in your car insurance premiums, usually at a low cost.

Cons: Some states require the policyholder to have both comprehensive and collision coverage before you can add roadside assistance.

The Pros and Cons of Roadside Assistance Apps

A few mobile apps promise to deliver rapid roadside assistance with no subscription fee. Urgent.ly lets you tap on the service you need and track the time it takes for help to arrive. You can pay online — or have a family member pay for you. Honk works much the same way.

Pros: The apps are free to download, and their satisfaction guarantees add an extra layer of reassurance.

Cons: If you break down more than once in a year, roadside assistance apps may be more expensive than AAA or similar, subscription-based services. Urgent.ly charges $75 for most car services and $99 for a 0-10 mile tow. Honk says services start at $49.

The Pros and Cons of Plans from Auto Makers

Most auto manufacturers include free roadside assistance with the purchase of a new or certified pre-owned vehicle. The length of time you’re covered depends on the manufacturer: Toyota’s assistance plan expires after two years/25,000 miles, while Buick, Cadillac, and Lincoln give you six years/70,000 miles. Get the details on what’s included from your dealer.

Pros: You can’t beat free!

Cons: Will you remember to purchase a new roadside assistance plan once the manufacturer’s plan expires? Also, think twice before paying to renew an automated roadside assistance plan, like OnStar. These systems are a lot more expensive than standard plans.

The Pros and Cons of Credit Card Roadside Assistance Plans

roadside assistance programsDid you know you might already have a roadside assistance plan, thanks to your credit card? Card issuers like American Express, Visa, and Capital One offer roadside assistance plans to their card holders for free. Wait — did we say free? We meant it’s free to call for assistance; unless you’re an elite cardholder, you’ll probably have to pay for the actual towing or whatever else you need.

Pros: You only have to pay if you need a service. For instance, Visa charges $59.95 per roadside call. That’s a bargain, considering short-distance towing can run $75 or more.

Cons: You have to read the fine print ahead of time so you know what’s covered.

The Pros and Cons of Subscription-Based Assistance

AAA and other auto clubs offer their members reliable roadside assistance plans for an annual fee. A basic AAA membership includes up to four calls for assistance per year, and also covers free towing for up to three miles. One advantage of this type of plan is that it covers the subscriber no matter what car you’re is driving — a rental, a friend’s car, etc. AAA membership also confers other benefits, such as dining and travel discounts.

Pros: You have peace of mind because you know you’re covered. A single year of AAA costs around $75, which is probably less than the cost of a single tow or jump-start.

Cons: The cost of the plan shoots up after the first year’s introductory offer. And you’re paying every year for a service you may never need.

While you’re in a comparing mood, why not compare car insurance quotes to see how much you could save? It’s easy and free on Compare.com. Start comparing!

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