Choosing The Right Roadside Assistance Program

Lots of things can go wrong with your car: Flat tires, dead batteries, engine problems, lockouts, and other issues spring up from time to time. However, roadside assistance programs can serve as a safety net, giving you the help you need to get back on the road quickly and safely. This article goes over how these programs work, what they offer, and how to decide which one is right for you.

Roadside Assistance Services

The services offered vary from plan to plan, but in general, roadside assistance programs provide some combination of the following:

  • Jumpstart services—that is, charging or replacing a dead battery.
  • Vehicle lockout services.
  • Flat tire repair or replacement.
  • Fuel services—that is, bringing a gas delivery if your car runs out.
  • Towing. This is sometimes restricted to a certain distance, such as to the nearest service station or within a certain radius.

More comprehensive—and therefore more expensive—plans may offer additional benefits, including discounted rental cars and winching services. Before signing up for a plan, you should review the plan carefully to make sure it meets your needs.

Sources of Roadside Assistance

There are several options for signing up for a roadside assistance program. According to Consumer Reports, some cars come with built-in roadside assistance, at least the for duration of the warranty. For example, new Hyundais come with five years of roadside assistance. Extended warranties, also known as service contracts, may provide roadside assistance well.

You can also sign up for roadside assistance through your car insurance company. For instance, Geico offers a roadside assistance program that includes towing, jumpstarts, flat tire changes, and lockout services. Other insurance companies have similar plans available.

Another option is to join a program through a motorist organization like the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National General Motor Club. There are also plans offered by credit card issuers and phone companies like Verizon. 

Picking a Plan

When picking a roadside assistance plan, it’s important to pay attention to the features, restrictions, and cost of each. These considerations can help you narrow down your choices:

  • Price: It may not make much sense to go for a high-priced, super-comprehensive plan if you rarely drive.
  • Vehicle and driver coverage: If you need to cover multiple vehicles and/or drivers, look for a program that does so.
  • Praise and complaints: If possible, find reviews of the service by people who are already enrolled.
  • Towing capabilities: If you frequently drive long distances, look for a plan with generous towing benefits.
  • Restrictions: Carefully read the fine print of any plan before signing up. This will help you spot undesirable restrictions and avoid surprises.

Using Roadside Assistance

To make the most of your roadside assistance program, you should have the number for it both programmed in your phone and written down somewhere in your vehicle. If your program has a companion app, download that as well and familiarize yourself with its features. Additionally, your plan may come with a membership card, which you should keep handy. (For instance, AAA requests that you present the card to the service provider when they arrive.) When you encounter a problem, these steps will make it easier to summon help and make the most of your plan.