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AAA vs. Roadside Assistance Coverage: Which is Better?

Stressed about getting towed? Quoted has the 411 on all things towing that you need to know

On your list of car things to square away ahead of time, “What to do when you need a tow” should be fairly high. While some car troubles can be sorted out over time (like fixing a scratch or a dent), as a general rule, when you need a tow, you need it now. If you’ve ever had your car towed, then you already know tow truck companies charge by the mile, and if you’re not literally next to a mechanic, the bill can add up fast. And, lest you be tempted to rely on the ever-solid plan of, “Well, maybe I’ll never need a tow,” let us snap you back to reality with the facts: in the US, most drivers will experience a breakdown at some point in their driving career. Dead batteries, overheating engines, and flat tires are all just too common. So if it’s not a matter of if, but when, the question becomes: Should you rely on AAA for towing and roadside assistance, or might your insurance company offer cheaper coverage? What’s the verdict in the ruling: AAA vs. Roadside Assistance?

The answer is nuanced, and Quoted is here to help you figure out your game plan.

Most drivers will experience a breakdown at some point in their driving career.

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When it comes to towing, you never want to assume you’re covered. Most insurers include towing in their optional roadside assistance coverage (which is sometimes called towing and labor coverage). If you have comprehensive coverage, you’ll likely need to add (read: pay for) roadside coverage. The upshot? Tacking roadside assistance coverage onto a policy is often not more than $5-7 extra dollars each month—so for the cost of one fancy latte, you could have additional roadside support at the ready.

Roadside coverage often includes:

  • Towing (The big insurance guys tend to cover up to $75-$100 for towing incidents)
  • Tire Changes
  • Battery service (jump-start)
  • Labor costs once you’re at the mechanic (but not parts)
  • Gas, water, and oil delivery
  • Lockout service

If you only have liability insurance (and not comprehensive), you may not be able to add roadside coverage to your car insurance plan. In that case, AAA and other roadside assistance companies are a good option.

If you’re already a member of AAA, you probably don’t need roadside service coverage through your auto insurance, but you should still tell your carrier. Many insurers will offer drivers who hold an outside assistance plan a discount. Win-win, for sure.

AAA offers three levels of membership—classic, AAA Plus, and AAA premier—at three price points ($52, $82, and $105, respectively). Compare plans to see what might be best for you—and do note that classic coverage only covers towing services for a seven-mile radius. (Plus extends to 100 miles.) Even at the Plus price point, that’s still a monthly average of $6.83, and you get added discounts, to boot.

Both AAA and roadside assistance usually cost less than a lunch out per month.

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Once you know who’s footing the tow truck bill, you still need to get from point A to point B (or, from the side of the road to the mechanic). If you have AAA, the plan is simple: call them and simply wait for deliverance (but you already knew that). Many insurance companies have a 24/7 emergency line you can call and they’ll find a towing company nearby and have a truck sent. Some tips if you need to hire a tow truck on your own (from Esurance):

  • Avoid unsolicited tow trucks. Often, companies of ill repute happen to show up along the side of the road after a breakdown. While there’s a chance the company is on the up and up, you’re more likely to get caught in a scam.
  • Before the tow truck takes your car, be sure you have a copy of an invoice or price list with all towing fees, daily storage fees, and any other charges so there are no surprises.
  • Make sure you know where your car is headed before the tow truck pulls away.

Quoted hopes you never find yourself in need of a tow, but if you have your “in the event of a breakdown” plan in place ahead of time, you can make the process much easier on yourself. Have any other towing tips? Big fan of AAA, or think it’s not worth it? Tell us in the comments.

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