Roadside assistance comes in many flavors
AAA isn't the only game in town. Lots of other ways exist to get good -- and cheap -- roadside assistance.
There are three types: full-service, limited programs and free assistance via carmakers. Insurers and oil companies offer a wide range of plans, some cheap. Affinity clubs and cell phone providers may be the most overlooked option, but they offer viable plans.
"These roadside assistance programs can be effective," says Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. "But you must look at the actual coverage. Some programs piggyback onto other programs."
Program details vary widely in cost, benefits and perks. Some charge for extra drivers; others offer limited towing miles. Bigger clubs with full-service assistance may throw in freebies such as map planning, expert opinion hotlines and trip interruption insurance. Such widely varying programs can mean key gaps in coverage that leave you stranded or stuck with extra expenses, warns Consumer Reports.
For happy, hassle-free motoring, know each program's strengths and limitations before signing up. Here are five road-worthy types of roadside assistance programs to check out.