What is roadside assistance?

Roadside assistance pays for emergency services, like a flat tire change or gas delivery, when you’re stranded on the side of the road.

Anna SwartzStephanie Nieves author photo


Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

&Stephanie Nieves

Stephanie Nieves

Editor & Home and Auto Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is a former editor and insurance expert at Policygenius, where she covered home and auto insurance. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Money, HerMoney, PayScale, and The Muse.

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Roadside assistance, also called emergency road service coverage or towing and labor coverage, is an additional coverage option that you can add to your car insurance policy. If it’s not already part of your policy, it’s a smart buy for many drivers.

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Available from most carriers, roadside assistance covers a host of roadside emergencies, like towing to the nearest mechanic or a jump start if your battery dies. You can also get roadside assistance through a third-party, separate from your auto insurance policy. Let’s break down what roadside assistance does and doesn’t cover and how much it will cost you.

Key takeaways

  • Roadside assistance offers emergency services like flat-tire changes and jump starts when you’re stranded on the side of the road

  • In most cases, you can add roadside assistance to your base policy for around $5 to $15 a vehicle

  • If it’s not already added to your policy, you can get roadside assistance through a third-party source like AAA or the National General Motor Club for $40 to $60 your first year

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)

  • Extrication or winching service

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

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 automatically 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 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.

How to get roadside assistance

If you don’t already have roadside assistance as part of your policy, you can usually add it in just a few easy steps. Check with your provider to see if they offer roadside assistance, and then simply add it to your existing policy. 

You may be able to reach your insurance company by phone, online, or through a mobile app, if they have one. You may also need to provide basic information, like your full name and policy number, in order to make changes to your policy.

If your insurance company does not offer roadside assistance, you can buy it through a third-party provider like AAA. 

Should I get AAA roadside assistance? 

As we mentioned above, you can get roadside assistance 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 standalone 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. So while a third-party roadside assistance plan may cost more than adding roadside assistance to your policy, the extra perks may be worth it.

If you’ve just purchased a new car, the manufacturer may also 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is roadside assistance the same as towing?

Roadside assistance is also sometimes called towing and labor coverage. Roadside assistance will cover the cost of towing up to a certain distance, so if you’re stranded on the side of the road, roadside assistance will help you get it to a mechanic or another safe location.

Where can I get roadside assistance?

Check with your provider to see if roadside assistance is already included in your policy. Otherwise, you may be able to purchase it as an add-on to your policy or through a third-party provider like AAA or AARP.

Will my insurance go up if I use roadside assistance?

Filing a claim usually raises your rates, even if you didn’t cause an accident. But using your roadside assistance typically doesn’t cause your rates to rise, unless you use it frequently.