Roadside Assistance: What Is It, and Do I Need It?

Roadside Assistance: What Is It, and Do I Need It?

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If your vehicle breaks down, roadside assistance can help arrange a tow, change a flat tire, jump-start a dead battery and more. Additionally, a plan covers some or all of the cost of emergency roadside services.

Most car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as a coverage add-on for $10 to $20 per year. Drivers can also get coverage through a credit card company, a car manufacturer or an auto club, like AAA.

What is roadside assistance?

When you're stranded on the side of the road, a roadside assistance program will connect you with the right professional — whether your car broke down and you need minor repairs, you ran out of gasoline or you need help with something else.

In addition, roadside assistance coverage helps pay for the cost of emergency roadside service.

Without a plan, roadside services can be pricey, especially if your car breaks down miles from the closest gas station or mechanic.

What does roadside assistance cover?

Roadside assistance coverage varies by company. Some of the most common coverages are:

  • Towing
  • Battery jump-start
  • Flat-tire replacement
  • Lockout and locksmith service
  • Fuel delivery
  • Mechanical labor
  • Winching
  • Trip interruption

What if I don't have roadside assistance?

If you don't have roadside assistance, you'll have to call a towing company or mechanic if your car breaks down. However, that can be complicated if you're stranded in an unfamiliar place, or if you have an emergency late at night or in inclement weather.

You'll also have to pay for any service you need out of pocket. The cost of a tow is usually at least $99, while other services like a flat tire, lockout and dead battery could cost $75. That's much more expensive than a roadside assistance plan, which generally costs between $10 and $60 per year.


Choosing a roadside assistance plan

There are a number of different ways for drivers to get roadside protection. You can:

Insurance companies that offer roadside assistance

Most auto insurance companies offer roadside assistance as a policy add-on, but benefits and costs vary by company.

Purchasing roadside assistance through your insurance company is usually the cheapest way to buy coverage.

However, some insurance companies only offer this service to drivers who have comprehensive and collision coverage, so it's not the best option for every driver.


Company
Annual cost
Towing
Battery
Flat
Lockout
Fuel delivery
Labor
Winching
Allstate$25
Geico$14 +
Progressive$11 - $16
Safeco$8 - $10
State Farm$5 - $10
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Allstate also offers stand-alone roadside assistance policies — that means anyone can get roadside assistance from Allstate, regardless of their car insurance provider. Its stand-alone roadside assistance coverage starts at $79 per year and includes additional perks like discounted oil changes and travel savings.

In addition, Allstate's plan includes $1,500 of trip interruption coverage, which helps pay for lodging and meals if your car breaks down on a road trip.

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Roadside assistance clubs

Drivers can also get roadside assistance coverage by purchasing a membership to an auto club like AAA, Better World or National General.

Anyone can purchase a membership, which also includes benefits like discounted rates on rental cars and travel.

However, auto club memberships are more expensive than getting coverage through your auto insurer. A basic membership to AAA, Better World or National General costs around $60 per year.

All three of these clubs include the following services with a basic membership:

  • Battery jump-start
  • Flat tire replacement
  • Fuel delivery
  • Lockout services
  • Towing
  • Trip interruption
  • Winching

Drivers can also purchase car insurance from AAA, but you don't need to be insured by AAA to take advantage of its roadside assistance plan.


Credit card companies that offer roadside assistance

Some credit card companies automatically offer roadside assistance benefits to card holders, including:

Bank of America

All Visa-branded Bank of America cards have pay-per-use roadside dispatch, currently at $59.95 per call, which provides towing (up to 5 miles), lockout services, tire change, jump starts, fuel delivery and winching.

Capital One

Capital One cardholders with Visa Platinum or Signature cards can use Visa's pay-per-use Roadside Dispatch service. Also, Capital One cardholders with a Platinum, World or World Elite Mastercard have access to Mastercard's pay-per-use Master RoadAssist Service. Both services charge a flat fee for standard emergency roadside assistance services — any additional services you need will be billed directly to your card.

Chase

All Chase Visa credit cards offer roadside dispatch, and cardholders pay a flat rate of $69.95 per call. All Chase Mastercards offer roadside assistance, and rates vary by service provider. A few select cards offer a more enhanced service — you can call for a jump start, tow, tire change, locksmith or gas delivery, and you're covered for up to $50 per incident up to four times a year.

Citi

Roadside assistance dispatch service is available for elite Citi cards, including the Citi Prestige credit card. Citi elite cardholders can get roadside assistance at no cost in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Roadside assistance dispatch service is also available for travel cards with an annual fee and the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi (consumer and business). However, the cardmember must pay a pre-negotiated price per service call.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo consumer credit cards have 24-hour roadside assistance or dispatch access, a pay-per-use program. A standard service call costs $69.95 and covers standard towing up to 5 miles, flat-tire changes, jump starts, winching, lockout service and delivery for up to five gallons of fuel.


Car manufacturers that offer roadside assistance

Most vehicle manufacturers offer roadside assistance programs for new vehicles. The programs generally provide lockout services, flat-tire changes, fuel delivery, battery jump-starts and towing to the brand's dealership if needed.

Company
Roadside assistance benefit
Ford logo
FordFive years or 60,000 miles
General Motors logo
General MotorsFive years or 100,000 miles
Honda logo
HondaThree years or 36,000 miles
Hyundai logo
HyundaiFive years, unlimited mileage
Kia logo
KiaFive years or 60,000 miles
Nissan logo
NissanThree years or 36,000 miles
Tesla logo
TeslaFour years or 50,000 miles
Toyota logo
ToyotaTwo years, unlimited mileage

Service is typically limited to your manufacturer's network of dealerships and auto shops, so you'll have to consider the geographic coverage of your manufacturer's network. Remember that this service is only good for a specific vehicle and won't travel with a driver.

For this reason, a different type of roadside program could be a better fit for drivers who value flexibility and convenience.


Do you need roadside assistance?

Roadside assistance isn't necessary for everybody. People who don't drive often or who already have coverage through a credit card plan may not benefit as much from the additional protection. However, many drivers appreciate the peace of mind of having a roadside assistance plan.

You might benefit from emergency roadside assistance if you:

  • Own an older car
  • Have a long commute
  • Take road trips
  • Worry about the cost of emergency services
  • Want to avoid the hassle of finding the right service provider in an emergency
  • Don't know how to change a tire or fix minor mechanical issues

If you already have access to roadside assistance through your credit card company or car manufacturer, then you should take advantage of it. You'll usually have to pay a flat fee for services, but it will probably cost less than scheduling a service on your own.


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Frequently asked questions

Does roadside assistance cover towing?

Most roadside assistance plans cover towing. The majority of plans only offer coverage for a limited number of miles, so it's important to know how far you can go before you have to pay out of pocket.

How much does roadside assistance cost?

The cost of roadside assistance depends on where you're purchasing it. If you're adding roadside assistance coverage to your car insurance policy, it usually costs between $10 and $20 per year. A membership to an auto club like AAA generally starts at around $60 per year, but you'll get additional perks like rental car discounts. You may also be able to get free roadside assistance through your credit card company, but you'll usually pay around $60 each time you need to use the service.

Will using roadside assistance increase my premium?

If you purchase roadside assistance from your car insurance company, your rate could go up if you make frequent or numerous claims. However, you shouldn't see an increase if you're using the service occasionally for emergencies.

Can I use my roadside assistance for someone else?

If you purchase roadside assistance through your car insurance company, you probably can't use it for someone else. That's because your coverage applies to the vehicles on your policy, not the people. However, auto clubs like AAA usually cover you as both a driver and a passenger, so if you're driving with someone and their car breaks down, you may be able to use your roadside assistance benefits as long as you have your membership card.


Methodology

Roadside assistance coverages and costs are based on information supplied by the providers. Recommendations for who should purchase roadside assistance are based on the likelihood of having to use emergency roadside services and driver profiles that will likely benefit the most from having easy access to assistance.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.