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Roadside assistance vs AAA

man checking under car hood and making a phone call
urbazon/Getty Images
man checking under car hood and making a phone call
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When it comes to roadside assistance, you may be surprised at the number of choices available to you. Almost all the major auto insurance carriers offer this as a policy add-on. Then you have other third-party companies, such as American Automobile Association (AAA), offering what seems like a similar service.

If you’re considering purchasing roadside assistance coverage, you should understand the major differences between the various programs available. You should also know whether the company you partner with is the one offering the actual roadside assistance, or simply connecting you with the service providers to assist you based on your location.

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, on the highway or even while driving out of town, roadside assistance is available to provide service when needed.

Examples of services include:

  • 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
  • Towing

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.

You can also purchase roadside assistance through other companies, such as your cell phone carrier or a credit card company. Car manufacturers also offer plans and it is possible it is included for a certain number of miles when you first purchase a vehicle.

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.

What is AAA?

AAA was founded in 1902 and is first and foremost 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. There may be an extra charge for extended towing miles.

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:

  • Classic: This is the most basic option. It provides up to five miles towing, lockout service, 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 benefits and a free mobile battery service.

Overall, the membership packages provide a large network for roadside assistance, plus many other travel, auto and home-related discounts and benefits.

How do I know if AAA or roadside assistance is right for me?

There are a few points to keep in mind before deciding if you want to purchase a roadside assistance plan through an insurance carrier versus AAA. Budget is definitely a top consideration for many drivers. If your budget is limited, it helps to compare the costs between several providers to find which one offers you the most beneficial coverage for your money. Purchasing a plan through your insurance carrier might allow you greater budgeting flexibility since you are able to spread the cost out each month if needed.

Another consideration is how much you will use the additional benefits provided by a membership service, such as AAA, versus a straightforward roadside assistance program. You could weigh the likelihood of if you will take advantage of many of the benefits offered by the membership service, or if you only use a handful of options while on the road.

How do I purchase roadside assistance?

If you choose to purchase AAA, you can sign up either online or 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 can add it on during your policy renewal period, either online, via the app, through your agent or by calling customer service.

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.

Company Roadside assistance cost Standout feature
AAA Starting at $59/year Multiple options to fit a variety of budgets
Geico Starting at $14/year Drivers can request assistance in as little as two minutes
Allstate Starting at $7/year You can track the location of the towing assistance
Better World Club Starting at $60/year Eco-friendly option for roadside assistance
AT&T Starts at $3/month No annual contract required

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman is an insurance contributor at Bankrate. She has a couple of years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.
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Insurance Editor