Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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In a nutshell...

  • Essential service plans average between $10 and $100 per month, depending on the company
  • The options for roadside assistance are as diverse as the number of vehicles on the road
  • Some companies hold calls against policyholders, just as they would accidents or traffic tickets.

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.

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.

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What kind of coverage is available?

A basic plan often includes towing service, which is usually limited to nearby facilities and a set mileage but drivers can typically purchase extended coverage packages.

Essential roadside services typically include:

  • Changing a flat tire
  • Opening a locked vehicle or replacing a lost key
  • Assistance with cars 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.

Some car insurance companies even include essential roadside assistance for free in standard auto insurance policies.

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Are all plans alike?

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.

Essential 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.

The Better World Club, in Portland, Oregon, is an eco-friendly club, offering discounts to customers with hybrid vehicles.

What is OnStar?

One of the newest high tech roadside assistance plans is OnStar.

OnStar has been available for some 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.

OnStar is a sophisticated and comprehensive roadside assistance program. The first option is $18.95 per month and provides the user with all the OnStar services.

These services include:

  • 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.

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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 essential 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

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 roadsides calls you’ve made when renewing your policy.

Much of the actual emergency work is outsourced to existing groups. For example, auto giant BMW uses AAA, as do many other groups.

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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.

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.

What else is AAA involved in?

One of the most critical 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.

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 most significant road racing events, including the Indianapolis 500.

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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