What Is Roadside Assistance and Do You Need It?
Ever found yourself stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire or an empty fuel tank? This is an incredibly inconvenient and stressful situation especially if you don't have anyone to help you out. Roadside assistance gives you a number to call whether it's in the early morning hours or late at night when such a situation happens. But do you really need it? How does it work? And most importantly, is it worth it? In this guide, we'll cover just that.
What Is Roadside Assistance?
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Roadside assistance is a service designed to help you when your vehicle has a problem that stops you from getting where you need to go. Most of the time, you pay for it annually, and when you need help, you just call a number, and help comes to where you are. Some car insurance plans already include it, while others offer it for an extra fee. You can also join auto clubs that provide this service.
What Does Roadside Assistance Cover?
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Here's what roadside assistance usually covers:
- Flat Tires: If your tire goes flat, they'll either replace it with your spare or tow your car to a nearby shop where it can be fixed.
- Dead Batteries: Car batteries can die for all sorts of reasons, and if you're stuck with a car that won't start, roadside assistance can jump-start your battery.
- Lockouts: We've all been there – you close the car door and then realize your keys are still inside. Roadside assistance can help you get back into your car.
- Running Out of Gas: If you misjudge the distance to the next gas station and your tank hits empty, roadside assistance can bring you enough fuel to get you back on the road.
- Towing: If your car needs more serious help, roadside assistance can tow it to a mechanic.
- Mechanical Labor: If your car has a minor issue, like a loose wire or a belt that's come off, roadside assistance can provide short-term repairs right where you are. This doesn't include major repairs or parts, but it's great for those little fixes to get you moving again.
- Winching: If you're stuck in mud, snow, or a ditch, roadside assistance can pull your car out using a winch.
- Trip Interruption Coverage: If you're far from home and your car breaks down, this service can be a real help. Depending on your plan, you might get reimbursements for things like hotels, meals, or alternative transportation while your car is being repaired.
- Battery Replacement: Sometimes, a jump-start isn't enough, and you actually need a new battery. Some roadside assistance services will deliver and install a new battery on the spot. This is super convenient if you're in a hurry or not near a service station.
What Does Roadside Assistance Not Cover?
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Roadside assistance is mainly for minor repairs and emergencies that happen while you're out driving. This means it doesn't cover the cost of regular maintenance or repairs that your car needs. So, things like oil changes, brake replacements, or fixing that weird noise your car makes every time you start it in the morning? Those are usually up to you and your mechanic.
Another key point is that emergency roadside service assistance generally has limits on the number of service calls you can make in a year. If you call them too many times in a year, you might have to pay extra for additional services.
Also, if your car needs to be towed, there's often a limit to how far they will take it for free. If the nearest repair shop is beyond that distance, you might have to pay extra for the additional miles.
And remember, if you're involved in a car accident, roadside assistance is not the same as a car insurance policy. They can help get your car to a safe location, but the costs associated with the accident and repairs will be through your insurance, not through roadside assistance.
Lastly, if your car is stuck somewhere off-road or in an area that's hard to access, there might be limitations or additional costs for services like winching or extraction.
How Much Does Roadside Assistance Cost?
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The price can vary depending on where you get your coverage from and what kind of services are included. For starters, some car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an extra service, and it's usually pretty affordable – around $10 to $20 per year. On the other hand, if you're looking at auto clubs like AAA, the cost is a bit higher, typically ranging from about $70 to $150 per year.
Do You Need Roadside Assistance?
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Deciding if you need roadside assistance really comes down to your personal situation. Let's think about a few key points to help you make the decision.
Firstly, consider how much you drive. If you're someone who only uses your car for short trips around town, you might not need the extra coverage. However, if you're regularly hitting the road for longer journeys or commuting a significant distance, roadside assistance can be a real stress-reliever.
Next, think about the age and condition of your car. Newer cars might not have as many issues, but as cars get older, they tend to need more care and are more likely to run into problems. If you're driving an older model, having roadside assistance could save you from unexpected headaches.
Another thing to consider is your own comfort level with car issues. Are you handy enough to change a flat tire or jump-start a car? If you're confident in handling minor car troubles on your own, you might not feel the need for roadside assistance. But if the thought of dealing with car problems leaves you uneasy, it might be worth the investment for the peace of mind it brings.
Lastly, look at your budget. Roadside assistance is generally affordable, but it's still an extra expense. If your budget is tight, you might want to weigh the cost against how likely you are to use the service.
What If You Don't Use Roadside Assistance?
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So, what happens if you find yourself without roadside assistance and face car trouble? Well, it's good to know what you might be up against financially.
Let's talk about the cost of a tow. If your car breaks down and you need to call a tow truck, the price can be quite steep. Usually, you're looking at at least $99 for a tow. This cost can go even higher depending on how far you need to be towed and the towing company's rates.
But towing isn't the only service you might need. Other common car troubles like fixing a flat tire, getting help with a lockout, or dealing with a dead battery can also cost you. These services typically run around $75 each time you need them. When you add it up, these one-time costs can really put a dent in your wallet.
Now, let's compare this with the cost of a roadside assistance plan. As we discussed earlier, roadside assistance generally costs between $10 and $60 per year, depending on the level of service you choose. When you look at it like that, the yearly cost of a roadside assistance plan is often much less than what you might pay for just one emergency service.
Can You Use Roadside Assistance for Someone Else?
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This depends on the type of plan you have.
There are generally two types of roadside assistance plans: vehicle-based and member-based. With a vehicle-based plan, the coverage is tied specifically to your car. This means no matter who is driving your car, they can use the roadside assistance benefits if they run into trouble. So, if your friend is driving your car and gets a flat tire, they can use your plan.
On the other hand, member-based plans are tied to you as an individual. This kind of plan is more flexible because it covers you regardless of which vehicle you're in – even if it's not your own. So, if you're with a friend and their car breaks down, you can use your roadside assistance to help them out, as long as you're present.
Where Can You Get Roadside Assistance Coverage?
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Now that we've covered what it is and why it might be a good idea, you might be wondering where you can actually purchase roadside assistance. Luckily, there are several options:
- Your Car Insurance Company: Many car insurance providers offer roadside assistance programs as an add-on to your existing policy. This is one of the most convenient options, as it bundles your car insurance and roadside assistance together. Plus, it's often the most budget-friendly choice.
- Auto Clubs: Organizations like AAA are well-known for their roadside assistance services. These clubs often offer a range of plans with varying levels of coverage. While they might be a bit pricier, they also come with extra perks like travel discounts and trip planning.
- Credit Card Companies: Some credit card companies offer emergency roadside assistance as a benefit for cardholders. This option can be great if you already have a card that offers this service, but be sure to check the specifics of the coverage.
- Car Manufacturers: If you've bought a new car, check with the manufacturer. Many offer a free roadside assistance program for a certain period after your purchase.
- Stand-alone Roadside Assistance Services: There are also companies that specialize solely in roadside assistance. These services can be more customizable, allowing you to choose the exact coverage you need.
Roadside assistance is a valuable service that can provide you with peace of mind and assistance when you encounter unexpected vehicle issues. When making a choice, consider your individual circumstances and weigh the potential cost savings and convenience of having roadside assistance on your side.
And, to enhance your preparedness even further, consider complementing your roadside assistance with Emergency USA—an essential emergency roadside kit that ensures you're always ready for whatever the road may throw at you. Shop with us today.