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Will my car insurance cover a flat tire?

Many car insurance companies have added roadside assistance programs to their coverage package but never assume a flat tire is covered. Some companies include coverage to assist with changing the tire but they often do not pay for a new tire. Others charge additional fees or may not offer roadside coverage at all.

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Years back, the only choice for roadside assistance was the Automobile Club. Today, everyone has gotten into the roadside service business, from auto manufacturers and insurance companies to national associations and motorist clubs such as Good Sam.

What kind of coverage is available?

A basic plan often includes towing service, which is usually limited to nearby facilities and a set mileage (five or 10 miles) but drivers can typically purchase extended coverage packages. Basic roadside services typically include:

  • Changing a flat tire
  • Opening a locked vehicle or replacing a lost key
  • Assistance with vehicles that are stuck in mud, water, or snow
  • Gas or coolant delivery when needed

Service vehicles will also come and start a car with a dead battery and often carry new, replacement batteries if needed.

How much is basic coverage?

Basic service plans average between $10 and $100 per month, depending on the company and the level of service required or requested, such as additional towing miles. Some car insurance companies even include basic roadside assistance for free in standard auto insurance policies.

Are all plans alike?

No! Some plans offer more benefits than others. Starting at as little as $52.99 and up to $199.99 a year, Allstate will cover all family vehicles, including RV’s and motorcycles. The national organization, AARP offers a plan that provides $1000 for legal fees and an equal amount for emergency room charges while away from home. The Better World Club, in Portland, Oregon, is an eco-friendly club, offering discounts to customers with hybrid vehicles. For $68.95 per year, Better World will even cover your bicycle! The options for roadside assistance are as diverse as the number of vehicles on the road.

What premium plans are available?

One of the newest high tech roadside assistance plans is OnStar. OnStar has been available for a number of years as a luxury car feature but is now gaining popularity in all types of vehicles for the security and peace of mind this program provides its customers.

What is OnStar?

OnStar is a sophisticated and comprehensive roadside assistance program. Consumers may select from two monthly service plans. The first option is $18.95 per month and provides the user with all OnStar services (except navigation) which includes:

  • Automatic crash response
  • Emergency roadside assistance
  • Antitheft and security
  • Connections
  • Blue tooth access

For $29.90 per month, navigation is added to the service package. To connect with this wireless program, motorists are first required to install the OnStar control device which is usually a specially designed rearview mirror. The hardware package with installation costs between $300-$400.

What should I look for when shopping for a roadside plan?

You don’t have to buy the fanciest or most expensive plan to get the benefits that average motorists need. Every driver will have unique needs but it is important to consider:

  • A full service plan, especially if your family has more than one car
  • Your auto manufacturer’s program, if it’s the only car you have
  • Plans with liberal towing miles and travel benefits if you often drive far from home

Beware of gaps in service coverage. Cell phone plans, for instance, might not cover you if you don’t have your cell phone with you at the time of the service call. Read every contract carefully before signing up for service. It’s also important to note that insurance companies may consider how many roadside calls you’ve made, when renewing your policy. Some companies hold these calls against policyholders, just as they would accidents or traffic tickets.

Who else offers roadside service plans?

Besides insurance companies, credit card companies, cell phone companies, membership organizations such as AARP and auto manufacturers, all offer roadside assistance plans. Much of the actual emergency work is outsourced to existing groups. For example, auto giant BMW uses AAA, as do many other groups.

How long has AAA been around?

AAA, the American Automobile Association, began in 1902, when the auto industry itself was still in its infancy. At the time, there were few highways and roads suitable for travel by automobile. In the same year, 9,000 new cars were manufactured in the U.S.

AAA was founded in Chicago by nine individual clubs, coming together for a singular purpose, to support the burgeoning number of automobile owners taking their new vehicles on America’s city streets and country roads. AAA began printing road maps in 1905 and published its first hotel guides in 1917. By the early 1930s, there were more than 26 million registered vehicles in the United States traveling on more than 830 thousand miles of roads. By then, the Auto Club was offering full travel services to its growing membership.

What else is AAA involved in?

One of the most important and enduring AAA projects has been the School Safety Patrol, founded in 1920. Through this program, grade school children are taught about pedestrian safety. Students in the higher grades are selected and trained as crossing guards. Once trained, they are posted at nearby intersections and help their fellow students cross busy streets each school day. The original white safety patrol belt, (now fluorescent orange) is a symbol of pride and achievement for these young people.

AAA also founded the first national automobile racing association, The Contest Board, in 1902. This group became The Racing Board, sanctioning some of the nation’s biggest road racing events, including the Indianapolis 500. The Board also named national racing champions for many years.

Today, through its network of 51 clubs and Canadian affiliates, AAA reaches across the length and breadth of North America, servicing the travel needs of its more than 51 million members.

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