Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
You can never predict whether you’re going to need roadside assistance for a flat tire, dead battery or other vehicle issue, but if you’re a member of a roadside assistance program, you’ll be covered when it happens.
The difficult part is deciding which program best fits your family’s needs. Roadside assistance plans are most often offered along with new or certified used car purchases, by stand-alone companies, or as add-ons through your insurance, credit card or cellphone company.
Following are several options for roadside assistance, and advice on picking one.
Roadside assistance for new or used cars
If you’re purchasing a new or certified used car that is still under warranty, you may have free roadside assistance coverage for a limited length of time or mileage; check your warranty paperwork to find out.
Each automaker sets its own limits on how long the free service will last by mileage or age of vehicle. Covered services vary per manufacturer or dealer and may require that the vehicle is towed to the nearest dealership, which could result in high repair costs.
Many people purchase extended warranties on late-model used cars through the dealership or a third-party service. Roadside assistance and towing are often included in the warranty purchase price, but the services may be limited to specific dealerships or conditions.
While you should never purchase a warranty for the purpose of obtaining roadside assistance, if you are already planning to purchase a warranty, you may have the coverage.
Both of these options for roadside assistance will only apply to the specific car, so unless you only have new or covered certified used cars, you will need another type of coverage for your other vehicles. Also, you won’t be covered if you’re riding in someone else’s car or in a rental.
Stand-alone roadside assistance companies
AAA may be the most well-known roadside assistance program, but there are several others that are worth a look.
Most programs cover basic roadside assistance: jump starts, flat-tire assistance (using your spare), fuel delivery (usually at cost), lockout assist (with a fee if a locksmith is needed), and towing and extrication, though limits vary greatly on these.
AAA membership covers an individual. Roadside assistance plans are based out of regional offices, so costs and coverage vary per region.
- Cost: Basic or plus membership options; fees vary by region: Around $59.99 for basic or $94.99 for plus (single), or $119 for premier. There is also a $10 to $20 sign-up fee. Additional members can be added to plans for an extra $30 to $45 each.
- Coverage: Details vary by region, but the basic plan offers towing for a set number of miles, flat-tire change, battery boost, fuel delivery, a credit toward lockout services and other benefits.
- Extras: No-fee traveler’s checks, trip tickets, maps and travel discounts. Attraction ticket discounts for zoos, amusement parks, water parks, movie theaters and more.
Better World Club
Better World Club is the only club that provides roadside assistance for bikes and cars. According to its website, “our nationwide roadside assistance services are 100% carbon neutral, we donate to dozens of environmental causes, and advocate for sustainable transportation policies.” The service also touts a 30-60 minute response time. Membership covers an individual.
- Cost: $61.95 for basic auto or $99.95 for premium (bicycle, motorcycle or RV plans also available). You can add up to three additional members for $39 per person on the basic plan or $55 per person for premium. There’s a $15 new member sign-up fee, which is waived if you’re making the switch from AAA, and a discount for hybrid or electric vehicles.
- Coverage: Up to four calls per year for each covered member. Standard assistance is covered, plus five miles of towing with basic, or 100 miles covered for premium.
- Extras: If you drive a hybrid, diesel or biodiesel vehicle, your membership fee will be discounted. Better World Club can provide travel services and discounts (some with fees), free maps/trip routing and discounts with other eco-friendly companies.
AARP Roadside Assistance
AARP Roadside Assistance is now offered as a special plan through Allstate Roadside. It is available for those ages 50+. AARP membership is required at a non-promotional price of $16 per year.
- Cost: Save up to 20% off Allstate Roadside programs. The Roadside Assist plan is discounted 10% for a price of $66 for the first year for up to two people. Their Roadside Elite program, with a discount, is $131 for the first year for up to two people.
- Coverage: For the Assist plan, you’ll get up to five rescues a year and 10-mile towing coverage. Elite members get up to seven rescues a year and 100-mile towing coverage.
- Extras: You’ll be covered in any car, whether you’re the driver or the passenger. There’s also a variety of travel, car care, and auto club benefits.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance
Good Sam Roadside Assistance members get a discount on regular fees. This service also offers one of the more comprehensive RV assistance programs for $64.95 per year (current special).
- Cost for autos only (current specials): $49.95 for Platinum Auto, $54.95 for Platinum + Auto, or $89.95 for Platinum Complete Auto. (Autos include cars, vans, pickups and SUVs.)
- Covered: Spouse or domestic partner and dependent children are covered. Platinum Auto — all your owned vehicles are covered. Flat-tire repair, jump start, emergency fuel, locksmith dispatch, plus towing with no mileage limits to nearest repair facility and 10% off AAMCO repair services. Platinum + Auto — Owned vehicles as well as motorcycles and sport trailers are covered. All of the Platinum benefits plus trip interruption and emergency medical referral. Platinum Complete Auto — Platinum + coverage plus tire and wheel road hazard coverage, and emergency travel and medical assistance services.
- Extras: 10% off AAMCO Repair Discounts. Rental car and hotel discounts.
Allstate Roadside Assistance
Allstate Roadside Assistance plans may be less expensive but only cover up to a certain amount of assistance, which could easily be used up in one service call.
- Cost: The first year of Roadside Advantage costs $89; the price could rise after that. Also offers a pay-per-use service starting at $119 per tow. If you have Allstate insurance, you can choose add-on coverage beginning at $25 per vehicle.
- Coverage: The Advantage plan offers up to five rescues a year, 10 miles of towing and up to $100 in road hazard benefits. Rescues include jump start, fuel delivery, lockout service and tire change. Trip interruption insurance included.
- Extras: Some travel planning and discounts.
Verizon Roadside Assistance
If you have a Verizon phone plan, take a look at Verizon Roadside Assistance.
- Cost: $4.99 billed monthly per cellphone line.
- Coverage: Up to four service calls per year. Coverage follows the cellphone, so any vehicle is covered as long as the phone is present. Coverage is active 48 hours after enrollment and includes basic services, plus towing up to 10 miles (for mechanical failure only) and winching.
- Extras: No charge for up to 3 gallons of fuel.
Most insurance companies offer a towing and labor add-on for $2-$5 per month that includes basic services and some level of towing.
Some companies require that you have comprehensive and collision coverage. Before you sign up, find out whether service calls are treated like a claim and will result in higher premiums.
Credit card companies
Many credit card companies offer roadside assistance that follows the credit card; in other words, the cardholder is covered even if it’s someone else’s vehicle. Most do not require an annual fee, but will charge per service call for basic services and limited towing, and extra services may incur additional charges.
While this may not be the roadside assistance program on which you want to rely, if you find yourself without coverage and need help, you may save money by going through your credit cards rather than paying completely out of pocket.
Choosing a roadside assistance program
When deciding which roadside assistance program is right for you and your family, consider who needs to be covered and what vehicles they drive, and whether you need to be covered in other vehicles.
You also want to compare different companies’ average response times for service calls, whether memberships cover all costs or if you’ll need to seek reimbursement, whether calls cover accidents or just electrical/mechanical failure, and how often and for what distance towing is covered.
Roadside assistance programs aren’t one-size-fits-all, but many people will benefit from having a plan in place. Even if you own new cars that are still under warranty and you find the coverage is sufficient, you may want to sign up for coverage for your teens’ cellphone lines that will cover them if they are riding with friends.
Once you’ve decided on a roadside assistance plan for you or your family, make sure each covered person has the number programmed into his or her cellphone or written down in a wallet and has the information easily accessible in the car.
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