Is Roadside Assistance Worth It?

A man wearing a blue button up shirt, brown glasses, and gray pants is outside looking at his car's engine while on the phone.

Like insurance, roadside assistance is a service you may pay for and never use. Still, it could be helpful if you ever end up stranded. Before you purchase coverage, weigh the costs and benefits, along with the risks of going without the service to determine if it's a worthwhile investment.

What Is Roadside Assistance?

Roadside assistance coverage is designed to get you back on the road if your car becomes inoperable. In the event you need assistance, you can typically call the coverage provider directly at their designated hotline or request help through a mobile app. The provider will send someone to give you the service you need, assuming it's covered under the plan.

Most roadside assistance coverage can help in these situations:

  • You run out of gas and need a fuel delivery.
  • You have a flat tire that needs to be changed.
  • Your car battery dies and you need a jumpstart, replacement or tow to a charging station.
  • Your vehicle is stuck in sand, mud, water or snow.
  • You lock yourself out of your car or misplace your keys.
  • Your car isn't driveable and requires a tow to the dealership or an auto repair shop. (Note: Some plans include a free hour of on-scene labor by a licensed mechanic.)

Before you sign up for coverage, there are some limitations to be aware of. Many plans cap the number of service calls you can place each year, and the towing service may only allow up to a certain number of miles. You could also be billed for replacement items, like batteries, tires and fuel.

Some insurance providers also require you to carry comprehensive and collision coverage before you can add roadside assistance to your policy. They could also restrict the use of roadside assistance to one specific vehicle.

Who Offers Roadside Assistance Services?

Most insurance companies offer some form of roadside assistance coverage, but you may find these services through other providers as well. Here are some options:

  • Insurance companies: Roadside assistance coverage is generally available through your insurance company as a rider (an add-on to your policy) or as stand-alone coverage if you already have a policy with a different insurance company.
  • Automotive clubs: A subscription through an auto club could be more expensive than coverage through your insurance, but it may also offer you perks such as discounts and benefits that insurance companies can't provide. For example, while insurance companies may only cover one specific vehicle, coverage through an automobile club like AAA usually applies to any vehicle you operate.
  • Auto manufacturers: Some car companies and auto manufacturers offer roadside assistance programs that come with the purchase of a new vehicle.
  • Cellphone providers: Your cellphone carrier may offer roadside assistance, typically at a small monthly fee. One thing to note is that often coverage is linked to a specific phone, so the phone and subscriber have to be present to qualify for assistance.
  • Credit card companies: Select credit card companies offer a variety of roadside assistance programs. Some provide service on a pay-per-use basis, so you won't be charged unless you use it. With some cards, services are only covered up to a certain amount.

How Much Does Roadside Assistance Cost?

Roadside assistance through insurance providers is generally quite affordable, but the cost varies by plan. Automotive clubs such as AAA and the Better World Club also offer annual subscriptions with varying coverage and membership costs.

Here's what you can expect to pay from two insurance companies and two auto clubs that offer plans:

  • Allstate: For non-policyholders, Allstate offers a $79 package for your first year of coverage. They charge $25 to add roadside assistance to an existing policy or around $119 per tow when you pay per use.
  • Geico: Roadside assistance insurance starts at $14 per year for existing policyholders.
  • AAA: This auto club is well known for its roadside assistance service memberships, offering Classic, Plus and Premium memberships at $70, $106 and $133, respectively.
  • Better World Club: Basic and Premium plans start at $59.95 and $97.95, respectively, which differ based on towing range, trip interruption reimbursement and fuel delivery options.

With some plans, you may also have the ability to add on services, such as legal defense reimbursement or trip interruption coverage, for an additional fee.

How to Decide if Roadside Assistance Is Worth It

Roadside assistance can come in handy, regardless of your vehicle's age. While older cars are more likely to need repairs, common issues such as a flat tire, dead battery, empty gas tank or lock-out can happen to anyone.

Here are some additional pros and cons to consider when deciding if you should buy coverage:

Pros and Cons of Roadside Assistance Coverage
Pros Cons
  • You may be able to call for help 24/7 if you need assistance, regardless of your location.
  • You could save a significant amount on services like towing and locksmith services.
  • You won't have to rely on strangers to get your car back on the road if you run into mechanical issues.
  • Roadside assistance can be costly unless you purchase coverage through your insurance provider.
  • Some coverage providers limit the number of service calls you can place each year.
  • You may not be eligible for services if the vehicle that needs servicing is not covered under the plan.

Ultimately, you want to weigh the features and benefits of each plan with the cost to determine if roadside assistance is a good fit. If you decide to buy coverage through your insurance provider, it should only increase your premiums by a small amount. But if you buy a plan from an auto club, you'll want to budget between $60 and $135, depending on the level of coverage you're seeking.