Why You Should Never Use Roadside Assistance

Written by |

The thought of getting stuck on the side of the road isn’t fun. But knowing you’ve got someone to call when it happens can offer you peace of mind. That’s where roadside assistance comes in. Unfortunately, not all roadside assistance is the same.

If you get roadside assistance from your auto insurance company, using their services can come with a catch. That’s why money expert Clark Howard calls their coverage, “a cynical attempt of the auto industry to cheat its policyholder.”

In this article, I’ll share why Clark says getting roadside assistance from your auto insurance can cost you a lot of unnecessary money down the road. I’ll also cover other options for getting roadside assistance. Keep reading for more on:

What Roadside Assistance Offers

From a battery failing to running out of gas on the highway, there are many non-accident-related reasons why you might find yourself stuck on the side of the road. When this happens, roadside assistance is a service you can use for support to get going again.

Put simply, a roadside assistance plan is a service that sends help when you’re stuck on the roadside.

The first step is choosing a provider. Once you decide who to purchase protection from, you’ll get a card with a phone number that serves as your emergency line.

If you find yourself stuck, you’ll call the number and the company will get someone out to help you get back on the road. Some companies also have apps you can download and use to report an issue and request support. Either way, roadside assistance is available 24/7.

Companies that offer roadside assistance work with many different tow truck providers and mechanics across the regions they serve. That way, there’s always someone within a reasonable distance to provide you with support.

Payment for the services you require to get your car up and running again can either be fully or partially covered by the company that provides you with roadside assistance. But coverage will vary depending on your provider and plan.

Never Get Roadside Assistance From Your Insurer

One place that you are likely to hear about roadside assistance plans is your auto insurance company. Lots of major insurers offer the service and advertise their low rates for the policy add-on. But there’s typically a major drawback. Clark warns:


“A number of auto insurers will offer you very, very low-cost roadside assistance in competition with AAA and other third parties. And they do it as a trick, because many of the insurers will treat towing as an at-fault claim.”

An at-fault claim can cause your insurance premiums to go up. Why? When you file a claim, it gets added to your C.L.U.E. — or Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange — report. You can read all about what a C.L.U.E. report is and how it impacts your insurance here. But this report contains info about you and any insurance claims you’ve made for up to seven years after. And insurance companies use the data on your C.L.U.E. report to determine how much they’ll charge you for coverage.

“When you try to shop with someone else for auto insurance, you’ve got that poison pen letter right there that destroys your ability to get good premiums,” Clark says.

Insurance Companies Treat Roadside Assistance As Claims

I looked at the roadside assistance offerings from several of the largest insurance companies (based on premiums paid) in the nation. And many of them do link roadside assistance to their claims resources for customers.

State Farm, for example, is the largest auto insurance company (by market share) in the country. On their website, “Get roadside assistance” is listed for members under the claims center:

Progressive is the second largest auto insurance company (by market share), and they explicitly refer to roadside assistance as “Roadside assistance claims” on their website:

Additionally, Progressive has a towing FAQ section, which states:

Is roadside assistance considered a claim?

Yes, if you have roadside assistance coverage and your car experiences a breakdown not related to an accident, you’ll file a claim to use your coverage.

While I can’t speak firsthand on how any insurance company handles roadside assistance, it is notable that many companies I looked into explicitly refer to roadside assistance as claims.

That said, Clark says that there may be auto insurers here and there that don’t treat roadside assistance as an at-fault claim. But he doesn’t want you to take the chance.

Where To Get Roadside Assistance

The good news is there are plenty of other places to get roadside assistance coverage without fear that your calls for help could be treated as at-fault claims and raise your premiums. Take a look at some of your options:


AAA Motor Club is well-known for its roadside assistance. They offer AAA members roadside service throughout the U.S. and Canada. The club offers services for just about anything you can imagine, including towing, assistance with changing a tire, getting a jump or replacing an old battery and more. You can learn more about AAA Roadside Assistance here. Also, be sure to check out our Team Clark guide on whether AAA membership is worth it.


Cell Phone Providers

Your cell phone provider might offer roadside assistance as an add-on subscription with your phone plan. Here are two examples of services offered:

  • T-Mobile currently offers its eligible members a year of AAA for free, which includes their roadside assistance. Currently, the offer is for members with Magenta Plans. With this option, however, your AAA membership will renew at the standard AAA rate once your first year is over. Learn more about how to get AAA through T-Mobile here.
  • Verizon offers roadside assistance for $4.99 per month per phone line. The company says they’ll cover you no matter what vehicle you’re in, as long as you have your mobile with you wherever service is needed. As a bonus, Verizon says, “You can even lend your mobile device to a friend or family member, and they’ll be covered, too.” Read more about Verizon’s Roadside Assistance here.

AT&T no longer offers roadside assistance as an add-on for members, unless you already have a plan with them. In this case, roadside services are handled by Dominion Motor Club. If your cell phone provider isn’t listed here, you can always give them a call and ask if roadside assistance is available.

Credit Cards

Some credit cards offer roadside assistance to cardholders. When offered, it’s common for credit cards to have pay-per-use services. Here are some credit cards that offer this type of roadside assistance:

Even if you have a different card with a bank listed above, you can likely still qualify for their roadside services. Just know that there might be fees or other costs associated with some of the cards and/or roadside services.

Other Options

In addition to the options above, there are several other companies you can get roadside assistance through. For example, there are many other motor clubs besides AAA. Companies like Good Sam and Better World Club are motor clubs with roadside assistance benefits.

AARP offers its members roadside assistance through a partnership with Allstate Roadside. And if you’ve recently bought a new car, some vehicle manufacturers — like Ford, Toyota and more — offer roadside assistance for a few years after your purchase.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t want to risk higher insurance premiums after using roadside assistance, Clark says skip the roadside services offered by your auto insurer. But he does have one exception:

“Never get roadside assistance from your auto insurer unless they say in writing that use of that rider will not count against you or be treated as a claim or reported as an at-fault claim.”