How to get roadside assistance when traveling away from home
It is every traveller’s worst nightmare. Moments before you go on vacation, you try to start your car – and it won’t.
This happened to me recently in Provo, Utah. On an unusually cool summer morning, I pushed the start of my Honda CR-V and heard a low hum, followed by silence. I tried again. No answer.
It was time to call roadside assistance.
âº USA TODAY Travel Newsletter: Get our latest titles delivered to your inbox daily
But which one? It turns out I had a choice, and so did you. You can contact your automobile club, your credit card issuer, or your insurance company. Sometimes roadside assistance is included with your rental car. With driving vacations growing in popularity and even more in store for the upcoming holiday season, it’s time to revisit all of your options, including a few you may not be familiar with.
âRoadside assistance isn’t always something drivers think about before going on vacation,â says Joan Trach, COO of Allstate Roadside.
But there are plenty of companies and organizations that can help, she says. You can pay an additional $ 25 per year to add roadside assistance to your Allstate policy, for example. If you rent a vehicle through its carsharing service, Avail, roadside assistance is included.
Trach says they saw an 11% increase in roadside inquiries last summer, compared to the same period a year ago. In 2019, the last normal year for travel, there was a record 69 million outages, according to Agero Insights, a driving technology company. Trach expects us to hit 2019 levels again this year, and maybe even surpass them.
Who to call for roadside assistance?
For most drivers, the knee-jerk response to a flat tire or dead battery is to call a car club like AAA. This is what I did in Utah. A tow truck showed up about half an hour later, installed a battery, and I made it to Los Angeles that evening without incident.
But AAA is far from perfect. Romeo Raabe discovered this when his Monaco Cayman RV recently pulled up on Interstate 43 near Cleveland, Wisconsin. He called AAA for help, but a representative said they couldn’t arrive until the next day. When someone did, he billed Raabe $ 624 for the tow.
âIt turns out that two fuel filters and one of the fuel pumps needed to be replaced,â recalls Raabe, a long-term care planner from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
AAA eventually reimbursed Raabe for the tow, but the experience left him disillusioned. He says the AAA has been reluctant to cover its expenses, saying it recently changed its coverage limits. He researched other road services but decided to stick with AAA after reading user reviews.
How to get free roadside assistance
Sometimes you don’t have to pay anything for roadside assistance. When the trailer carrying Alison Ilg’s kayak and windsurfing gear punctured a tire near Fort Myers, Fla. Recently, she made two calls – one to AAA and another to Road Rangers Service Patrol. AAA wanted $ 100 to respond, but the Road Rangers quickly arrived at the scene.
âThe ranger was awesome,â says Ilg, Atlanta public relations consultant. âHe installed cones and helped my husband change the tire. He also had all the necessary tools.
The Road Rangers Patrol Service is a free service of the Florida Department of Transportation. Most states offer roadside assistance services. Look for road signs for directions or search for free road service online before your next trip.
Roadside assistance is sometimes included with your car
If your car is less than three years old or has less than 36,000 miles on the clock, roadside assistance is probably still covered. Most major manufacturers offer some sort of limited-time roadside assistance service that covers battery starts, puncture assistance, fuel delivery, lockouts, and towing.
When Adeodata Czink had a flat tire in the driveway of her Toronto home, she searched her glove box and found the car manual. On the first page, it had a number for ToyotaCare, the manufacturer’s roadside assistance.
âThey knew exactly what kind of car I had – a Toyota Corolla – and they were there within half an hour to fix the tire,â explains Czink, consultant and tour guide.
Services may be limited. For example, the Toyota plan only covers you for the first two years. One of the most important restrictions: clauses that limit coverage to paved roads. If you are camping and have a flat tire, you might be out of luck.
Car rental companies and sharing services also include roadside assistance. For example, if you rent a motorhome through RVshare, roadside assistance is included with the vehicle. RVshare has a partnership with Questx Tow Network to make sure all of its renters get help with towing, tire issues, battery issues, and lockouts.
âIt helps you have peace of mind knowing that someone is there to help you get back on the road as quickly as possible,â said RVshare spokesperson Maddi Bourgerie.
How to process a roadside assistance request
I should have thought twice before calling AAA. Turns out I had roadside assistance coverage through Progressive, my auto insurance company. I had already paid extra for a full plan that included towing, winching, fuel delivery and a flat tire change. I could also have paid a flat fee of $ 69.95 for the same services through Visa’s road shipping service.
Some travel credit cards such as American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer roadside assistance benefits, but fees may apply depending on the service required as well as limits on how often you can use the vehicle.
So what’s the best way to go through all of the options? Well, knowing that the options are there, it is a sensible first step.
âTake the tour,â says Kirsten Reneau, a consultant for Superior Honda in New Orleans. âIt’s tempting to go for a big name because that’s what’s easiest, but it won’t always be the cheapest or right for you. Find out what roadside assistance your insurance already covers and look for coverage. additional based on this information to get the best deal. “
A careful assessment of your travel needs may cause you to reconsider your roadside assistance plans. Like Raabe, you can stick to AAA. Or you might find that you already have all the coverage you need through your insurance or credit card and save some money on that AAA annual membership. Either way, it’s worth a closer look.