Auto Insurance

What is Roadside Assistance and Do You Need it?

Roadside assistance can provide help when your vehicle breaks down, helping to pay for towing, jump starts, or other services to get you moving again. Learn what this optional coverage can do to keep you safe on the road.

What is Roadside Assistance and Do You Need it

Roadside assistance is a form of protection that helps you get assistance if your car breaks down due to mechanical failure, a dead battery, an empty gas tank, or a flat tire. This coverage may also help cover the costs of certain services, such as fuel delivery. The roadside assistance market is projected to grow from 22.36 billion in 2021 to 33.48 billion in 2030 due to the increasing number of aging vehicles on the road. 

Roadside assistance plans differ according to the provider, so it’s crucial to understand your options, the claims process, and potential coverage. 

What Does Roadside Assistance Cover?

Roadside assistance coverage can help you get professional assistance to move your car to a repair facility or get it running again so you do not remain stranded. The following services are typically covered:

  • Jump-starting your car. Whether you accidentally leave your headlights on or your battery is weak or malfunctioning, a dead battery can leave you stranded. Most roadside assistance services include jump-starting your vehicle or replacing the battery entirely to help you get to a repair shop to further evaluate any potential problems. 
  • Changing a tire. Road hazards, worn tires, and tire malfunctions can result in a flat tire. Changing a tire on the side of a road or during inclement weather can be dangerous, so many drivers rely on roadside assistance plans to help get them back on the road safely. 
  • Gas delivery. Roadside assistance can deliver gas or other fluids — such as brake fluid or coolant — so you can travel to the nearest filling station. 
  • Lockout service. Roadside assistance can help you connect with a locksmith if you lock your keys inside your car or lose your keys. 
  • Extrication of your vehicle. If your car is stuck and you are near a public road, roadside assistance can help cover the costs of getting your car back onto the roadway. This service is especially helpful if you slide off the road, but there’s no damage to your car, or if you need help towing your car out of a ditch.

What Does Roadside Assistance Not Cover?

In general, roadside assistance may not cover the cost of the gas or fluids delivered to your stranded vehicle, though it may cover the delivery itself. It also does not typically cover towing services to your mechanic of choice, but can help you get to the closest auto shop in general.

Your roadside assistance coverage may also be limited by labor time or a dollar amount. For example, if you lose your keys and require replacements, roadside assistance may not cover the entire cost of expensive chip keys. Likewise, if you are in a remote area and the nearest mechanic is hundreds of miles away, your roadside assistance plan may not cover the entire tow bill. 

Who Does Roadside Assistance Cover?

Roadside assistance through your auto insurance company typically covers the people listed on the insurance policy. If someone not listed on the insurance card needs roadside assistance, they may not be able to access the service without help from the policyholder. For example, if a friend borrows your car and it breaks down, your insurance company’s roadside assistance plan may not provide assistance unless you are with them.

Many third-party roadside assistance plans also follow the driver, not the vehicle. For example, AAA provides 24/7 tow truck and emergency roadside services to members only, not to those who borrow the member’s vehicle. As such, though, you may still receive roadside assistance coverage through your plan even if you are driving someone else’s vehicle or a rental car

Is Roadside Assistance Part of Standard Auto Insurance Policies?

While roadside assistance is a common optional endorsement on auto insurance policies, it is not required. You can typically opt into roadside assistance coverage through your insurer for an additional fee. Your agent can help you understand your roadside assistance options and potential coverage. 

How Much Does Roadside Assistance Cost?

The price of roadside assistance varies greatly depending on the provider and the included coverages. Stand-alone policies may offer more extensive coverage and extended coverage hours for higher premiums, for example.

You may be able to get roadside assistance through your insurance company, a third-party provider, or your car manufacturer. Some credit cards also come with roadside assistance benefits, sometimes at no additional cost. However, these benefits may be limited in scope and availability. 

Roadside Assistance Could Save You Money

When your car breaks down, the cost of getting back on the road also varies greatly. Roadside assistance can help you save money, and the typical cost of a plan may be less than the average cost of the services provided by a roadside assistance plan if you were to pay for them a la carte. 

A tow company may perform a few common roadside assistance tasks for a fee, including: 

  • Average towing cost: $109
  • Average jump-start cost: $50 – $200  
  • Average on-site tire change cost: $50

Alternatives to Buying Roadside Assistance Through Your Auto Insurance

Each roadside assistance plan has small differences, and the program available to you may not meet your needs, or it may be too expensive. Before shopping for a roadside assistance plan, consider any coverage you may currently have. You have numerous options for roadside assistance other than your auto insurance company. 

Auto Clubs

Auto clubs provide roadside assistance plans in exchange for an annual fee. There are various tiers of service to choose from that may include add-ons like identity theft monitoring, car travel interruption protection, hotel discounts, home lock-out service, and rental car benefits. 

Car Dealership or Manufacturer Coverage

Many car manufacturers offer roadside assistance as part of the included warranty that comes with a new car. Some auto dealerships may also offer roadside assistance with their extended warranties

Credit Cards

Credit card roadside assistance works much like any other roadside assistance plan, but it’s crucial to read the fine print to fully understand your coverage. For example, your cardholder may provide coverage for roadside assistance for the cardmember only while traveling in Canada and the United States.

How to Get Help Without Roadside Assistance Coverage

If you do not have roadside assistance and your car breaks down or you run out of gas, there are a few reliable ways to get help safely. If possible, move your vehicle out of the path of traffic and find a safe place to park. Then, put your hazard lights on to warn other drivers. Your flashing lights may also help alert police or highway rescue vehicles that you are in need of assistance. 

If you are in heavy traffic or on the highway, it’s crucial to stay inside your vehicle. If you have good cellular reception and can access the internet, search for a local towing company and call for help. If you are in an area with poor reception or are away from home, it’s fine to call 9-1-1. The dispatcher can provide instructions about how to stay safe and send a police officer to provide assistance until a tow truck arrives to help.

How to Decide If You Need Roadside Protection Insurance

Roadside assistance can make getting help simple while alleviating some of the financial strain associated with a breakdown. Every driver faces minor hazards such as flat tires or other mechanical issues that require professional assistance at some point or another.

Drivers who commute through heavy traffic or take frequent road trips may find roadside assistance plans especially beneficial, as their increased time behind the wheel also increases the chances of needing help.