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Does auto insurance cover towing?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Driving can be dangerous. Without warning, you could find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire, a dead battery, or a crunched up car after a catastrophic collision. No matter how safe you drive or how much you take care of your car, you’re probably going to need roadside assistance at some point. Not only is driving unpredictable, but cars are too. 

Will you be prepared for it when it happens? 

In this article, we’ll discuss why you need car towing insurance and what you need to know about it.  

What is roadside assistance?

When your car breaks down, roadside assistance can help either get your car moving again or towed to a nearby mechanic.

Many insurance providers offer roadside assistance as a coverage option, which is great because it can be a real lifesaver— no matter how reliable your car is. Though it’s not a free service, it’s worth spending the extra money each month. If you don’t, a single tow could be costly.

What does roadside assistance cover?

Roadside assistance covers the following events:

  • Flat tire: Never changed a tire? Uncomfortable doing so? With roadside assistance coverage, a technician will change your flat tire to a spare or plug up the hole right then and there. 
  • Jump starts: Left the lights on while you were at work? A jump start will recharge your battery long enough for your alternator to work. 
  • Fuel or battery delivery: Run out of gas while driving, or your car’s battery suddenly dies?  A roadside assistance specialist will bring you what you need to get you moving again. 
  • Locksmith/Lockout: Lock yourself out of your car? The roadside assistance specialist will be able to open your car, or a locksmith will be called. Depending on your provider, the cost of a locksmith may be an additional expense.
  • Towing (up to a certain distance): If nothing can be done on the side of the road to make your car drivable again, you will need to get your car towed to a nearby mechanic. Most towing services will tow your car up to a certain number of miles. If you need your car towed farther than the tower’s service range, you can still make it happen, but it will cost more.

Many providers offer two types of coverage options: Basic and premium. There are generally a few differences between the two that make one more favorable over the other.

The first difference usually revolves around towing— meaning how far you can get towed without incurring additional fees. The cap depends on the company, but with basic coverage, expect it to be around 10 miles or less. With premium, don’t be surprised if it jumps up to 100-200 miles.

Other differences will likely include how many times you can use the service throughout a single year, and much your provider will put towards a locksmith service.  

Is a car insured while it’s being towed?

Yes, but it depends. Many assume the car isn’t protected during a tow because there isn’t a driver in it. However, should the tow truck driver get into an accident and your car is subsequently damaged, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for any needed repairs. 

How to file a towing claim

If you have roadside assistance coverage, filing a claim is easy. Call your insurance provider (or use their app) and tell them you need roadside assistance. They will then contact a roadside assistance technician and get them out to you.  

The pros of filing a claim when you need help are:

  • You don’t have to find a technician.
  • You don’t have to pay much, if anything.
  • You don’t have to worry about any paperwork.

The cons are that it may take longer to get help. This is because the tow company will want to call you and verify that you need help and because you may have to go through filing a claim with your insurance provider before your provider will contact a towing company. 

How to get a towing reimbursement

Some insurance providers don’t mind if you arrange for the tow, pay for it yourself and submit your receipt to them afterward for a reimbursement. With this option, the towing company gets to you sooner, but you may have to wait for your money to be returned. There might also be some back and forth with your provider if the towing range was farther than they would normally pay. If this happens, expect only to get partial reimbursement.

Will insurance cover towing without roadside assistance?

Does insurance cover towing? 

Some car insurance providers offer roadside assistance as a free perk. However, it’s usually only free if you have collision coverage.

Does liability insurance cover towing?

For the most part, towing is not covered if you only have liability. Expect to pay out of pocket for any roadside assistance, including towing. 

If there was an accident and you were not at fault, however, the other driver’s insurance will pay for damages incurred to your car, as well as any towing expenses, too. 

The takeaway: Roadside assistance pays for itself

  • Roadside assistance should only add a few dollars to your premium each month
  • It protects you from a variety of roadside hazards
  • Can make an anxiety-inducing situation less stressful

You’re going to need roadside assistance at some point in your life if you drive. 

With roadside assistance coverage, you won’t need to worry about finding a company that can get to you, nor will you have to worry about how much it will cost. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you needed help but couldn’t find any, you’ll know how much peace of mind this type of coverage gives.

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a writer for Coverage.com. She specializes in all things personal finance, including insurance, loans, and real estate.

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