Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Roadside assistance service is a must-have for anyone who uses their car on a regular basis, especially if you don’t have 100% faith in your car’s engine and battery, or if your car is getting old and prone to mechanical problems. There are numerous ways to obtain and maintain roadside assistance programs.

New Vehicle Purchase
You might have roadside assistance just through the purchase of a new vehicle.  When buying a new vehicle, make sure to ask the dealer about any manufacturer or dealer supplies roadside assistance packages.  This includes OnStar, which is included free for one year on all new GM vehicles, and which streamlines roadside assistance.  Most manufacturers will offer roadside assistance as part of their drivetrain warranties, as well.

Roadside Assistance Through Membership Clubs
Sam’s Club, and AARP offer roadside assistance plans for a small charge added to other membership plans.  Often these roadside assistance plans are contracted to national roadside assistance providers such as Road America.

Standalone Plans
The American Automobile Association, and AAA. They give you the choice of a tow to the nearest repair facility, or to another location of your choice within a specified distance. AAA also offers similar roadside assistance to Road America and other companies.

Through Your Insurer
Ask your insurance company about optional coverage for roadside assistance on your auto policy. You may see emergency roadside service or towing listed when you go through the quote process. It’s typically free or costs just a few dollars per period. Most insurers offer these types of roadside plans. So be sure to ask and compare pricing between your insurer and an outside service. Also make sure you’re not overlapping coverage and paying more than you need to.

What Services Do Most Insurance Companies Offer?

The services offered by most roadside assistance companies run the gamut from the very small to the quite considerable. In most cases, motorists have accidentally locked their keys inside their cars, need towing assistance, have run out of gas, or just have flat tires. Emergency roadside service accounts for all these things.

  • Towing
    • Most companies provide towing services, but some have different towing allowances. These are the distances that said companies’ tow truck will tow a stranded motorist’s car to the nearest service station or nearest gas station for a flat fee. If a company’s tow truck must tow the vehicles beyond their limits, they will usually then charge an extra dollar amount per additional miles.
  • Battery jump start or replacement
  • Vehicles extraction and winching
  • Lockout service
    • If you’ve lost your key completely, most will unlock your car and provide a tow to a local dealer or repair shop who can re-key the car.
  • Flat tire assistance.
    • You should still see a body shop after you’ve had a flat fixed or patched, or if you’re driving on a small spare tire.
  • Fuel deliveries
  • Minor roadside adjustments

Of course, if you’re in a more remote area, you may pay more to get a truck out to help you due to mileage caps.

Many auto insurance companies also cap the number of times in a year that motorists can claim for roadside assistance in just one membership year. If this number is exceeded, the payment scheme becomes a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Other companies also provide reimbursement offers of various amounts to members who need assistance, yet are not helped because a provider is not available in a certain area. Some companies offer a basic plan and a premium plan for an additional charge. So you should look over your options carefully and try to assess what you might need.

Basic roadside assistance coverage provides towing, winching, lockout services, and flat tire services. It is less common to get roadside maintenance, trip planning, and fuel deliveries, however, it is possible. Allstate Motor Club offers the Roadside Advantage plan for basic service and the Roadside Elite plan for those who travel frequently. The Elite program offers extra benefits like trip interruption coverage and higher towing reimbursement limits, but if you don’t often drive far from home, the basic membership might be sufficient. Auto insurance providers vary in what they offer. So ask your current insurer what roadside assistance options are available.

Some plans cover the entire cost of a routine roadside service. Many insurance plans give you the option to pay $50, $75, or other multiples of $25 for each service. When you call, they typically send out a network service provider.

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What Should You Keep in Your Glove Box or Trunk?

Even if a motorist enjoys roadside assistance coverage and service, the service may not get to them in time in the case of inclement weather. In these cases, it is extremely valuable to keep emergency items in the car in order to deal with whatever situation is being faced, at least until the roadside assistance service can get out to a stranded motorist.

What to keep inside a car’s trunk or glove box for an emergency roadside assistance situation revolves around a list that is quite extensive. If you’re headed out on long road trips into the wilderness, you might need everything on the list. If you’re just travelling around town, a cell phone and a flashlight might be enough. Here’s the complete list for anyone preparing for the carpocalypse:

  • Battery-operated radio
  • Blankets
  • Bottled water
  • Dry food and energy bars
  • WD-40
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Cold-weather clothing like gloves and hats
  • A portable battery charger
  • Duct tape
  • Hose clamps
  • Zip ties
  • Rope or twine
  • Shears
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Pliers
  • Flashlight
  • Towels
  • First-aid kit

What Should You Do after An Accident?

lf you’re in an accident, the cops will generally bring a tow truck and ambulance with them. You can see if your roadside plan will pay after the fact. With your insurance company, they may already have them in their network. In the moment, your focus should be on dealing with the accident.

  1. See if you or anyone else with you in the car was injured in the car accident. If anyone needs medical help, call 911 at once and do not move anyone if they are unconscious. In the unenviable event that someone must be moved, do make sure that their head and neck is supported at all times during the move.
  2. Secure yourself by getting out of the way of any traffic.
  3. Call 911 if the car accident involves injury or death.
  4. Get personal and contact information from other drivers and witnesses involved in the car accident.
  5. Get information from policemen, like their badge number, and their name.
  6. Record the car-accident information. This includes recording factors like the time and date of the accident as well as the specific model, year and make information of the cars involved.
  7. Shoot pictures of everything involved in the car accident. This includes taking photos of all drivers and every car involved in the car accident. It further involves shooting pictures of such things as skid marks, signs of damage, and the site of the car accident.
  8. Make an appointment to see a doctor.
  9. Be sure to speak with your own insurance company before speaking with the other drivers’ company.
  10. Draw a car accident diagram.

Experiencing a roadside problem that necessitates roadside assistance can be a tricky and harrowing situation. The more prepared a motorist is, the better they will be able to emerge from the incident with their interests well-guarded. A sizable part of being well-prepared includes being a member of a good roadside assistance company.

But before you find yourself stranded, make sure to check the fine print of your cell phone contract – cell phone providers usually have an option for emergency road services.

To learn more about roadside assistance, consult this link.

How to use and pick a roadside assistance program wisely