5 On Your Side

Flat tire? How to pick the right roadside assistance plan

Posted April 30, 2018 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2018 3:44 p.m. EDT

Whether you've locked your keys in the car, your tire is flat or your battery is dead, a roadside assistance plan can come in handy. Here's how to find one right for you.

"First off, we tell consumers to do their research," said Jon Linkov, a Consumer Reports Auto Editor. "For example, many insurance companies offer roadside assistance as part of a basic package or as an add on to your coverage."

Basic plans typically start around $60 the first year, but some insurance companies view roadside assistance calls as a claim. That could raise your risk status, and, ultimately, your rates.

Long distance travelers may want premium service, which can cost hundreds of dollars a year but may include hundreds of towing miles, emergency fuel delivery and even medical assistance. Triple-A, National General Motor Club and Good Sam Roadside Assistance offer such plans.

"It's important for you to narrow down your needs," said Linkov. "If your spouse or even teenage children drive, look for a plan that covers multiple drivers."

You should also check with your vehicle manufacturer, because some provide coverage for their specific cars during the warranty period.

Vehicles equipped with telematics, such as Hyundai Blue Link and Toyota Safety Connect, may offer roadside assistance.

Calling for help is easy -- many plans have smartphone apps and use GPS coordinates from your phone to provide your location.

Plenty of credit card issuers also offer roadside services. Some offer it for free, and others charge, so check the fine print before you actually need the service.

According to quotewizard.com, here are some important questions to ask when selecting a plan:

  • How many tows do you get per year?
  • How many miles can you tow your car before incurring additional fees?
  • How many services calls do you get annually with your plan?
  • What is the average response time?
  • What is the reimbursement process like?
  • Does my plan follow the driver or the vehicle?
  • Will having multiple service calls cause me to lose my plan or raise my insurance rates (if getting through an insurer)?)