Roadside Assistance: What is it and do I need it?

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If you own a car, you know that breakdowns are often unexpected. That’s why roadside assistance is helpful. Roadside assistance covers your vehicle when it breaks down, you get a flat tire, you run out of gas or get stranded. You can use roadside assistance anywhere your car breaks down—on the side of the road, in a parking lot and even in your driveway. 

Roadside assistance is usually offered through your auto insurance provider and is also available through third-party providers. Depending on the company, you might see roadside assistance referred to as roadside coverage, emergency roadside assistance or breakdown coverage. 

What is roadside assistance?

Many drivers view roadside assistance as something that is there for convenience. Not everyone can change a tire themselves or has the tools to jumpstart their battery. With roadside assistance, a mechanic or towing company can solve the problem for you. 

However, roadside assistance is intended for safety reasons. For instance, if your car breaks down at night on a busy highway, it’s not safe for you to get out of your car and assess the situation.Roadside assistance can use the property safety measures like setting up flares or cones while working on your vehicle. 

Most insurance companies do not automatically include roadside insurance in auto policies. It’s usually an add-on coverage that can be purchased for an additional cost. Cars often break down when you least expect it, so having roadside assistance can be a lifesaver.

What does roadside assistance cover? 

The best roadside assistance provides immediate help when you’re stranded on the road. Each carrier covers different things, but most providers will handle the following situations:

  • Changing a flat tire
  • Jump starting a battery
  • Towing
  • Delivering gas, oil or a new battery
  • Retrieving keys locked inside a car

For towing, check with your provider to determine the distance coverage. There is usually a limit to how far a company will tow your car for free as part of your roadside assistance. If you need your car towed further, you might be charged extra.

When you call roadside assistance, the towing company will meet you wherever you’re stranded. They will try to fix your car on the spot, so you can drive home without any issues. However, if they can’t make the necessary repairs, they’ll tow your vehicle to an auto body shop where a mechanic can assess the situation. 

If you’re in an accident and your car is totaled, you can also call roadside assistance to have your car towed from the scene. This is often a more cost-effective option than calling a towing company directly. Depending on where the accident took place, roadside assistance can tow your car to your home or your auto shop if it’s within the mileage limit.

How to get roadside assistance 

Roadside assistance is offered through your auto insurance provider and third-party companies. Both options have their pros and cons. Choosing a third-party company for roadside assistance usually comes with added perks, like member discounts.

However, some people might find it more convenient to have all of their coverage under their auto insurance carrier. Ultimately, it depends on the person and the value of the perks from the third party companies you’re evaluating.

If you’re looking at third-party providers, AAA roadside assistance is the most popular option. It offers a range of great benefits for members, including moving discounts, car rental discounts, fuel rewards, discounted tickets and restaurant savings. AAA also offers glass repair, driving school services, auto loans and travel discounts.

National General Motor Club is another choice for third-party roadside coverage. It offers perks like affordable 24/7 roadside assistance, towing without mileage limits and free trip planning. National General Motor Club also offers emergency expense reimbursement, which will pay for $750 in meals, lodging and rental cars if you’re in an accident far away from home.

You can also look into Better World Club. It is considered to be “America’s only eco-friendly auto club,” with a focus on sustainable practices. Better World Club offers roadside assistance to drivers across the U.S. and in Canada. The company also offers bike, motorcycle and RV coverage. Better World Club offers towing up to 100 miles. It also offers hotel and car rental discounts.

Also, check with your phone provider to see if they offer roadside assistance services. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have all started providing roadside coverage for customers. These companies offer the same services as traditional insurance companies and auto clubs. As an existing phone customer, this might be a less expensive option. 

What is the cost of roadside assistance? 

Roadside assistance tends to be inexpensive. In most cases, it’s cheaper to get roadside assistance through your auto insurance provider. If you have both collision and comprehensive insurance, roadside assistance might be included in your policy. Check with your provider to see if you’re already covered.

While third-party roadside assistance providers tend to be more expensive, you’re also getting benefits that the insurance company doesn’t offer. For instance, if you’re a frequent traveler, getting roadside assistance through AAA can save you money in the long run because you can get discounted airline tickets, rental cars and hotel fees.

If you purchase add-on roadside assistance coverage through your insurance provider, expect to pay anywhere from $50-$360 a year. Most people will pay less than $20. To compare, AAA’s most basic membership costs $60 per year, and the most expensive plan costs about $350 per year. Overall, it’s up to the driver to weigh the cost benefit for each option. 

The takeaway

Roadside assistance is a smart investment for all drivers. It doesn’t matter how old your car is, or your history of breakdowns. Roadside assistance is there for your safety. After a breakdown, it can help you get back on the road quickly. 

If you’re considering roadside assistance, decide if you want coverage from your car insurance provider or a third-party. Determine what makes the most sense for your budget and your lifestyle. Before choosing a provider, make sure you understand what’s covered and know how to get in touch with your provider if you need service.

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is an insurance writer for, where she covers insurance providers and reviews policies to help consumers find comprehensive and affordable coverage for every area of their life. She has more than three years of writing experience for top online insurance and finance publications.

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