Your current car insurance provider likely offers roadside assistance as an optional and affordable add-on, but a AAA membership can give you perks and services that insurance companies can’t.
Roadside assistance covers the kind of emergencies that leave you stranded on the side of the road
Getting roadside assistance through your car insurance provider is usually affordable and simple
Roadside assistance through another service, like AAA, can be more costly but come with membership perks like discounts and other services
No driver wants to wind up stranded on the side of the road, but it happens to most people at one point or another. A flat tire, a dead battery, an empty gas tank — all relatively fixable inconveniences that can still leave you stranded on the highway shoulder hoping for help to arrive quickly. That’s where roadside assistance comes in.
Roadside assistance coverage is an optional add-on to your standard car insurance coverage that covers the types of roadside emergencies that can leave you stuck. It’s typically affordable, and will likely only add between $5 and $15 per vehicle to your policy. But getting roadside assistance through your car insurance provider isn’t your only option — there are also third-party providers that offer standalone roadside assistance packages through memberships, the most well-known of which is the American Automobile Association, or AAA.
AAA is a national, nonprofit association for drivers that offers tiers of annual memberships. AAA provides roadside assistance services to its members, as well as other benefits including a wide network of membership discounts and identity theft monitoring.
You can also get car insurance from AAA, but many drivers have car insurance from a separate provider and have a AAA membership for roadside assistance and other perks. If you’re trying to decide whether to go with roadside assistance through AAA or through your regular insurance, it’s important to consider factors like cost, accessibility and the relative value of benefits from an organization like AAA.
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Whether you get roadside assistance through your regular car insurance provider or through another service like AAA, it will likely cover the same range of roadside emergencies.
Some car insurance companies, like Nationwide and Travelers, offer multiple tiers of roadside assistance, like what you’d find with AAA. But at its most basic level, any roadside assistance coverage will probably include:
Gas or fluid delivery
Jump starting a dead battery
Locksmith services if your key is lost, stolen or locked inside your vehicle
Towing up to a certain distance
If you spring for a higher tier of roadside assistance coverage, it may include towing for longer distances, reimbursement for meals and lodging if a breakdown leaves you stranded far from home, or identity theft monitoring.
As we mentioned above, AAA is a membership organization. Drivers can pay for an annual AAA membership in addition to your standard car insurance coverage. The cost varies depending on where you live and which local AAA club services your area, but the most basic level of AAA membership might be around $60 a year and a top-tier membership might be around $160.
That makes a AAA membership more costly than adding roadside assistance through your car insurance company, but the perks may outweigh the costs for some drivers. Pros of getting roadside assistance through AAA include:
24/7 roadside assistance covers you in any eligible vehicle you’re driving or riding in, even if you’re in someone else’s car
Some levels of AAA membership allow you to add coverage for vehicles like motorcycles and RVs
Membership covers up to four road-service calls a year
AAA membership gets you discounts at a wide range of restaurants, hotel chains and stores
Reviews cite good customer service
There are also drawbacks to getting your roadside assistance coverage through AAA. Cons include:
An additional AAA membership is likely more expensive than roadside assistance through your car insurance provider
Cheapest level of membership only covers up to 5 miles of towing, less than most insurance providers’ roadside assistance plans
Adding roadside assistance coverage to your policy is usually easy and affordable, and most major car insurance providers offer roadside assistance, including GEICO, Progressive and State Farm. With some insurers, roadside assistance is included if you have comprehensive and collision coverage as part of your policy. Benefits to getting roadside assistance through your current car insurance provider include:
Costs will likely be around $5 to $15 per car
If your car insurance company has a mobile app, you can call roadside assistance, start claims and make payments all the same place
Roadside assistance may already be a part of your policy if you have comp and collision coverage
Some drawbacks to getting roadside assistance through your car insurance provider include:
Costs go up the more vehicles you have
Doesn’t offer the discounts and membership perks that come with AAA
Customer service varies, make sure to read reviews of your car insurance provider’s roadside assistance coverage
If you want roadside assistance but affordability is your top concern, it might make sense to go with the coverage offered by your car insurance company. It will be less costly for nearly identical services. But if you have multiple vehicles, or think you’d get a lot of use out of the membership perks offered by AAA, the extra expense might be worth it.
Adding roadside assistance to your existing policy or getting a AAA membership are both simple processes that can be done in an afternoon, although you should know that once you activate your AAA membership, there can be a waiting period of several days before the roadside assistance service begins.
If you’re interested in saving money on car insurance by shopping around, a Policygenius expert can help you compare quotes from top car insurance providers and choose the coverage that’s best for you.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, where she has been since 2018. An expert in home, auto and renters insurance, she loves making tough concepts easy to understand and helping readers feel confident about their insurance options. Before joining Policygenius, she was a senior staff writer at Mic. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
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