How does roadside assistance coverage work?
Roadside assistance programs vary by insurer. In most cases, customers pay an extra premium to add roadside assistance to their auto insurance policy. Progressive, for example offers it for $15 for six months of coverage. The services it provides include:
- Towing anywhere within a 15-mile radius (and towing to the nearest repair shop, if there are none within a 15-mile radius).
- Locksmith service, whether you've locked yourself out of your own car or lost your keys.
- Professional assistance to change a flat tire and put on a spare.
- Battery jump-starts.
- Fluid delivery. If you run out of gasoline or other fluids, you can get them delivered for just the cost of the fluids and fuels (no charge for delivery service).
Nationwide, meanwhile, offers an upgrade on its basic roadside assistance coverage that includes trip interruption. If you get stranded more than 100 miles from home, you can be reimbursed for up to $500 worth of expenses.
Tips, traps and limitations
Roadside assistance coverage from your auto insurance company may provide only some of the help you need when you're stranded. For example, your insurer may have a towing radius. If you're within the radius, you can have your car towed to the shop of your choice. If not, your coverage likely will get your car only as far as the nearest repair shop -- not necessarily one you would choose.
There's also a chance that using roadside assistance could ding your premium -- just like getting in a lot of accidents would, according to Consumer Reports. In other words, if you use your roadside assistance as your own personal pit crew, it could reflect badly on you as a driver, and your insurer might adjust your premiums accordingly.
To avoid having your insurer keep tabs on how many times you get stranded with a flat tire, you might want to compare your insurer's roadside assistance coverage with other assistance programs like OnStar and AAA.