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- Roadside assistance programs from AAA and other companies may be useful if you lock yourself out of your car, run out of fuel or get a flat tire.
- Each insurance carrier, company or membership provider that offers roadside assistance offers different coverage levels at varying prices.
- AAA’s roadside assistance program is available for purchase even if you don’t insure your vehicle with the company.
There are dozens of roadside assistance options available for drivers. Many major auto insurance carriers offer this add-on as an optional coverage, plus several third-party companies also offer their own services. However, not all roadside assistance programs offer the same services at the same cost. While some companies provide the actual physical assistance, other coverage types exist to connect you to a local service provider based on location. To make sure you are properly supported in the event of a roadside emergency, it is important to understand the major differences between a carrier’s roadside endorsement and a standalone service like AAA.
What is roadside assistance?
Roadside assistance is a service that provides help when you find your vehicle inoperable. Whether the incident occurs while the vehicle is parked in a driveway, around town or even on a road trip, roadside assistance typically covers specified services such as:
- Vehicle refueling when your vehicle runs out of gas
- Locksmithing services
- Flat tire changing or spare tire mounting
- Extracting your vehicle from a collision
- Jump-starting a dead battery
Roadside assistance plans are offered through almost all auto insurance carriers. The actual services offered through each carrier are quite varied, with some companies only offering towing up to a certain number of miles, or a limited number of lockout and fuel delivery services.
Membership organizations, such as AAA, are another option for roadside assistance. These organizations tend to offer additional perks on top of the roadside assistance, making it more enticing to enroll in an annual membership.
You may be able to purchase roadside assistance other ways, such as through your cell phone carrier or a credit card company. Some car manufacturers also include roadside assistance as an added perk for a certain number of months or miles after you purchase a new vehicle.
What is AAA?
AAA was founded in 1902 and is all-in-all a car, travel and insurance company. Many people recognize AAA as a company providing insurance products, travel discounts and roadside assistance. Over the years, AAA has grown to include a wide variety of financial products, including home mortgages, banking and credit cards.
AAA charges a yearly fee for the roadside assistance and bundles the program with other discounts and incentives besides vehicle services.
AAA membership packages
AAA is also well known for its roadside assistance program, and the coverage is sold as a membership package.
AAA offers three levels of membership options, with each level increasing in the number of benefits and perks. However, exact plan inclusions may vary based on your location or ZIP code. One example of the packages available in the Carolinas include.
- Basic: This is the most bare bones option. It provides up to five miles of towing, lockout service, tire change, fuel delivery (you pay for the fuel) and a battery jumpstart. Plus, the membership comes with various discounts for attractions and services across the country.
- Plus: This package level provides up to 100 miles in towing and increased locksmith benefits, plus free fuel if you need AAA to provide fuel delivery. There are numerous other increased benefits, including higher accidental travel coverage and other perks.
- Premier: This level provides up to 200 miles of towing, even greater locksmith and legal defense coverage, identity theft insurance, free passport photos and all of the benefits of the lower package options.
AAA vs. roadside assistance: Pros and cons
When looking at AAA vs. insurance roadside assistance, the choice typically hinges on some main factors: budget, potential benefits and customer service. For drivers with budget constraints, comparing quotes from AAA with the cost of adding a roadside assistance endorsement or purchasing the coverage elsewhere will help you narrow down the most cost-effective option.
Equally important is evaluating how much you’ll utilize the broader benefits of a membership service like AAA compared to a more basic roadside assistance program. Lastly, roadside assistance is most useful in emergencies, so you’ll likely want to look at customer service reviews to see how people rate each assistance program you’re considering. If a program has a reputation for slow response times or poor service quality, it may not be worth it, even if it’s the cheapest option.
Pros and cons of AAA
Some of the AAA-specific pros and cons are listed out below:
|Comes with additional potential membership perks
Strong reputation as the most widely-available roadside assistance program with efficient response times
Policies often allow assistance for any vehicle, not strictly limited to those owned by the member
Service management is generally very simple, especially for AAA auto insurance policyholders
|Most basic membership tier may be more restrictive than other carrier’s roadside assistance endorsements
Coverage may be more expensive than opting for your auto carrier’s endorsement
Pros and cons of roadside assistance
Below are some of the perks and drawbacks of a non-AAA roadside assistance plan:
|May be more cost effective if available as an endorsement from your carrier
Some programs, like those from car dealerships, may be available at no additional cost
You may be able to customize the services and coverage to your needs
|Actual roadside services may be contracted out to a different company than the one you purchase the policy from
Response times and availability are generally less reliable than AAA
Is roadside assistance cheaper than AAA?
When considering roadside assistance options, cost is often a primary factor for many drivers. AAA, known for its comprehensive service packages, starts its basic membership at around $65 annually. This fee covers a range of services, including towing, fuel delivery and jump starts, providing value for members who frequently travel or own older vehicles. Additionally, AAA offers benefits like travel discounts and more extensive towing options in its higher-tier memberships, which may appeal to drivers looking for broader coverage.
In contrast, roadside assistance through other companies, like insurance carriers, often presents a lower (or even no) upfront cost. However, these rates can vary significantly based on the provider, coverage level and additional service fees. For a precise comparison, it’s helpful to compare personalized quotes from AAA and other companies to see how rates vary for your location, vehicle type and selected services.
The table below compares some of the most popular roadside assistance programs available to a wide range of drivers, including both the costs and what makes the program one to consider.
|Roadside assistance cost
|Starting at $65/year
|Multiple options to fit a variety of budgets
|Starting at $14/year
|Drivers can request assistance in as little as two minutes
|Starting at $8/month
|You can track the location of the towing assistance
|Better World Club
|Starting at $62/year
|Eco-friendly option for roadside assistance
|Starts at $3/month
|No annual contract required
How do I purchase roadside assistance?
If you choose to purchase AAA roadside assistance, you can sign up either online, by calling the customer service number or sending in your application through the mail. If you are interested in purchasing roadside assistance through a carrier, you could add it on by contacting your auto insurance company either online, via the app, through your agent or by calling customer service.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can have AAA roadside assistance alongside a different car insurance carrier. AAA’s service is independent of auto insurance, allowing you to purchase it separately from the carrier’s auto insurance product. While many insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an optional add-on, AAA’s membership includes unique perks and services that might not be available through other providers.
Each plan has different rules regarding who is covered within a single plan, so it is important to verify this before making your decision. For example, AAA only covers the person who is the account holder, unless you purchase the family coverage plan.
This depends on which one offers you the options which work the best for your driving habits. For example, if you drive an older vehicle and are concerned about needing towing at some point, consider a roadside assistance program with this option.
Most roadside assistance plans travel with the person and not the vehicle. This means if you are in someone else’s car but you have a roadside assistance plan, you should be able to get the same coverage as if it were your own vehicle. However, this can vary depending on the company, so you will need to verify this beforehand to avoid making service calls to your roadside assistance provider.