Should I get roadside assistance coverage from my auto insurance company?
Knowing that they'll have someone to call for help when their car breaks down can bring drivers peace of mind. Therefore, many auto insurance companies offer roadside assistance coverage. This type of coverage is designed to cover emergencies that otherwise would leave you stranded on the road, and to help you avoid hefty towing or tire repair bills.
Roadside assistance basics
While the coverage varies with each company, roadside assistance offers actual assistance to stranded customers rather than reimbursing you for bills incurred while stranded. Typical roadside assistance includes:
- Battery jump-starts.
- Flat tire repairs.
- Emergency fuel and fluid refills.
- Locksmith services.
Some auto insurance companies offer basic packages as well as packages with more perks for an additional premium. Nationwide, for example, offers a "Roadside Assistance Plus" plan that includes travel and lodging reimbursement for up to $500 if you are stranded more than 100 miles from home.
If you choose to purchase roadside assistance coverage, most auto insurance companies will roll its cost into your policy's premium. Allstate offers a different option that lets you opt out of monthly or annual premiums and pay for services as you need them at a heavily discounted cost; for example, towing is $75 and other services are a flat $50.
Roadside Assistance pros and cons
Roadside assistance coverage from your auto insurance company can be beneficial. A few pros include:
- Affordability. Depending on the coverage you purchase, most roadside assistance plans more than pay for themselves after one use. For example, Progressive's basic plan averages $15 a month for a six-month policy. When compared with a $150 towing job, roadside assistance is much more affordable.
- Convenience. Services provided by roadside assistance carry a convenience factor. If you get a flat tire on a busy road in the middle of a rainstorm, it is much more convenient to call your insurance company for assistance than it is to change the tire yourself.
- Peace of mind. Many customers choose roadside assistance plans for peace of mind. This is particularly true for younger drivers or senior citizens.
Before you buy roadside assistance, however, consider some potential drawbacks:
- Limitations. Almost every roadside assistance program has a radius it will cover. For example, Progressive's plan will tow your car anywhere within a 15-mile radius. If your trusted repair shop is more than 15 miles away, Progressive's coverage will get you to the nearest repair shop -- not necessarily one of your choosing.
- Double coverage. Many dealers offer similar coverage programs and include them as a perk for purchasing a car from them. If your car is new, or if you bought your car from a used authorized dealer, you already may have roadside assistance coverage for a certain amount of time.
- Increased premiums. Some auto insurance companies may view your use of roadside assistance negatively, which in turn could affect your premium just as a ticket or accident would. According to ConsumerReports.org, your insurer keeps track of how much you're using roadside assistance. Frequent calls for help could show you're riskier (and therefore more expensive) to insure.
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