If you ever find yourself needing help on the road, the knee-jerk reaction may be to call your car insurance company. Even the worst car insurance company can offer roadside assistance – but should you use it?
Money expert Clark Howard says getting roadside assistance from your auto insurer can actually cost you a lot of unnecessary money down the road. He calls this coverage “a cynical attempt of the auto industry to cheat its policyholders.”
Read This Before Calling Your Auto Insurer for Roadside Assistance
Car insurers may advertise roadside assistance as an add-on to your policy for a few dollars a year, but there’s typically a major drawback.
“A number of auto insurers will offer you very, very low-cost roadside assistance in competition with AAA and other third parties,” Clark says. “And they do it as a trick, because many of the insurers will treat towing as an at-fault claim.”
An at-fault claim will typically lead to higher insurance premiums for you. Here’s why:
That claim will likely get recorded on your C.L.U.E. report, and that’s not a good thing. A C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report contains seven years’ worth of information about you and any insurance claims you’ve made over that period. Insurance companies use them to help determine your rates.
“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,” he says.
Clark adds 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.
The good news is that there are plenty of other places to get roadside assistance coverage.
3 Places That Offer Roadside Assistance (Besides Your Auto Insurer)
1. Credit Cards
There are several credit cards that offer roadside assistance as an option. My Prime Visa card is one of them — and offers everything from a tow to a tire change (for a predetermined fee).
Here are some other credit cards that offer similar pay-per-use roadside assistance:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card
- Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
- U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Be mindful that some of these cards may come with introductory or annual fees.
Although AAA Motor Club offers many benefits, it is perhaps best known for its roadside assistance. I’ve been a member for some years now.
An annual membership can cost as little as $37, but it depends on where you live.
3. Cell Phone Providers
Some cell phone companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on subscription alongside your phone plan.
T-Mobile offers it through a partnership with AAA. To get a free AAA membership for a year, including roadside assistance, you must have T-Mobile’s Magenta or Magenta MAX data plan or be an eligible small business customer, the carrier says.
For $4.99 a month, Verizon covers roadside assistance. All customers are eligible, the carrier says.
For $2.99 a month, AT&T offers standard roadside assistance for up to four calls a year, the carrier says. The service covers the car your phone is in rather than any vehicles owned by the plan subscriber.
Clark says to protect your wallet from higher rates, don’t get roadside assistance from your auto insurer — with 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.”
Want more money-saving advice? Read up on how to save money on car insurance.