What is roadside assistance?

And should you add it to your insurance policy?

Anna Swartz 1600

Anna Swartz

Published February 26, 2019

With so many coverage options, it can be hard to figure out exactly how much car insurance you need. You don’t want to get too little and leave yourself unprotected, and you don’t want to get too much and pay for coverage you don’t need. Once you’ve met your state’s minimum car insurance requirements (most states require you to have liability insurance, some also require uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage) it’s time to think about which other coverage add ons are right for you.

Roadside assistance, also called emergency road service coverage or towing and labor coverage, is one of those additional options, and, if it’s not already part of your policy, it’s a smart buy for many drivers.

Available from most carriers, roadside assistance covers a host of roadside emergencies. Let’s break down what roadside assistance does and doesn’t cover and how much it will cost you.

What does roadside assistance cover?

Roadside assistance covers the car issues that can leave you stranded by the side of the road. The specifics depend on your carrier, but most roadside assistance packages will usually cover:

  • A flat-tire change
  • Jump starts
  • Delivery of gas, oil or a new battery to your car
  • A locksmith if you’re locked out of your car or if your key is lost or stolen
  • Towing (this is usually only covered up to a specified distance)

Some auto insurance carriers offer multiple tiers of roadside assistance coverage. Travelers, for example, has both basic roadside assistance and premium roadside assistance options.

Their basic roadside assistance covers up to 15 miles of towing, while the premier option covers towing service up 100 miles as well as reimbursement for meals and lodging if your breakdown happens far from home. Nationwide is another major carrier that offers multiple levels of roadside assistance coverage. And Allstate gives drivers the choice between adding roadside assistance to their policy, becoming a member of the Allstate Motor Club (a separate roadside assistance service) or paying for roadside assistance per incident through its Good Hands Rescue program.

How much does roadside assistance cost?

If you only have liability coverage, then your auto policy probably doesn’t include roadside assistance. But if you also have collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, then your policy may include roadside assistance.

Collision coverage covers damage to your car caused by an accident, no matter who was at fault, and comprehensive, or “comp” coverage covers damage to your car that happens when it’s not being driven, like damage from fire, vandalism or extreme weather.

If your auto policy doesn’t already include roadside assistance, it’s fairly easy to add it to your coverage. In most cases you can get what’s called an endorsement — a rider to your base policy — for around $5 to $15 a vehicle.

If you’re not sure whether your car insurance coverage already includes roadside assistance, contact your provider. And if you’re not sure whether you should include roadside assistance as part of your policy, a Policygenius expert can help you figure out how much coverage is right for you.

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Roadside assistance through third-party providers

Another option for roadside assistance is to get it through a third-party source instead of your insurance provider. Roadside assistance providers like AAA, National General Motor Club, Allstate Motor Club and Better World Club offer roadside assistance plans, generally for about $40 to $60 for your first year.

Those plans cover the same services as the roadside assistance coverage you can get as part of your car insurance, but some offer extra perks. Being a AAA member, for example, entitles you to a wide range of discounts.

If you’ve just purchased a new car, the manufacturer may offer roadside assistance, which is usually cost-free up to a certain amount of time or a certain number of miles driven. Car dealerships also offer roadside assistance, usually as part of a warranty.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.