When your car breaks down, the right roadside assistance program can be a lifesaver. However, consumer advocate Clark Howard says one seller of these programs is best avoided.
Many auto insurance companies offer a roadside assistance program. Because you already get your car coverage from this provider, it can be tempting — and convenient — to simply add the coverage to your policy.
But can that be a costly mistake?
If you request roadside assistance through your insurer, there is a good chance the company will treat your request as an “at fault” claim, Howard says. That could end up sending your insurance rates higher.
Howard notes that the “claim” could end up in your Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report. Insurance companies use this report when setting your rates.
As Howard says on his website:
“When you try to go to shop with someone else for auto insurance, you’ve got that poison pen letter right there that destroys your ability to get good premiums.”
Howard is not alone in his criticism. Experts have been sounding the alarm about the dangers of buying roadside assistance through an insurer for more than a decade.
More recently, Amy Bach, a lawyer and executive director of the nonprofit United Policyholders, told Insurance.com that filing multiple claims for roadside assistance might cause an insurer to raise rates or think twice about renewing your coverage for this service.
However, Bach also tells Insurance.com that filing one or two claims annually is unlikely to trigger your insurance company’s ire or to result in higher rates for you.
Meanwhile, other experts say you should buy roadside assistance through your insurer if possible. WalletHub notes that such assistance is usually much cheaper through your insurer than through an auto club. Bankrate also says using your insurer is the “simplest” way to get this coverage.
Confused? You should be. As is often the case with these matters, the “right” answer differs and is often a matter of opinion.
As Consumer Reports notes, one way to obtain roadside assistance coverage may be through your car’s manufacturer, if the company offers such a perk as part of the vehicle warranty. This coverage is likely to be free and using it will not impact your insurance rates.
But if that is not an option for you, buyer beware. Do your homework. And if you plan to buy roadside coverage through your insurer, consider following another piece of advice from Howard:
“Never get roadside assistance from your auto insurer unless they say in writing that use of that rider will not count against you or be treated as a claim or reported as an at-fault claim.”