The Truth About Roadside Assistance: Little Known Facts About Using Your Car Insurance Company Vs. AAA

image shows tow truck towing a car

The Truth About Roadside Assistance:

Little Known Facts About Using Your Car Insurance Company Vs. AAA

Roadside assistance and car insurance concept: broken car on a tow truck and woman calling emergency services

Let an insurance expert help you decide whether to purchase roadside assistance through your auto insurance policy, or use a third party vendor such as AAA

AAA Vs. Through Insurance Company


It happens… driving down the road, the vehicle starts to act up, you get a flat tire, or you just simply lock your keys in the car.  Now what?  Time to call a tow truck or a locksmith.  The cost for the tow truck will vary depending upon where you break down. Most towing companies will charge per the mile that the vehicle is towed.  There can also be hook-up fees involved.  Not to mention, there may be different rates for holidays, weekends, or after hours.
There are products that a consumer can purchase to help mitigate the cost of a vehicle disablement.  The two most popular are roadside assistance through your auto insurance policy, and also using a third party vendor such as AAA.

Auto Insurance policies with Roadside assistance:

It is important to know what is, and what is not covered under the roadside addition option that you may have purchased on your auto insurance policy.  Most basic roadside assistance will consist of towing and leaves out other items such as lockout, flat tire change, or running out of fuel.    Additionally, the mileage covered during a tow service is a good idea to know.  Some roadside assistance products will put either a dollar amount or mileage limit on what is covered such as $50 or $75 per disablement, or up to 5 or 10 miles.  Additional cost associated with the tow may be left up to the policyholder.

Not all Carriers offer roadside assistance

Additionally, some Insurance companies will only offer roadside assistance if the vehicle in question has full coverage (meaning comprehensive and collision coverage with liability.)  Either way, you must have purchased the additional coverage prior to needing to use it.  In other words, you cannot be broken down on the side of the road, call up your insurance agent and then add the coverage.
Some insurance carriers will go a step beyond just towing service for roadside assistance.  For example, Progressive can have the covered vehicle that is disabled towed to the nearest qualified repair facility. They will also help pay for labor at the place of disablement such as flat tire change, or lockout service. But, they will not bring you fuel if you run out of gas. This is what would be referred to as a Premier Roadside assistance program.  It is slightly more comprehensive than a standard policy with a few additional amenities.

But what if my vehicle has just liability insurance, or my insurance carrier does not have a roadside assistance option. What do I do then?

There are different motor clubs out there that you can purchase in addition to your insurance policy.  One of the most famous programs is through AAA.    Even though there are many quality motor club companies out there, for this article, we are going to use AAA as an example.
AAA memberships provide all of the basic roadside assistance such as towing, and lockout service.  They also include delivery of fuel (of course you will have to pay for the gas) throughout their different membership options; Classic, Plus, and Premier.

Classic AAA Membership

If a consumer purchases a Classic Membership, they are entitled to 4 service calls per membership per year.  Additional service calls may be called into AAA service, but there will be additional out of pocket expense for the member.   The mileage covered during a standard tow with AAA is 3 miles free per call or back to the station that the tow truck was dispatched from.  AAA includes the labor cost to send someone out to bring you gas if you are on empty. The member will pay for the gas out of pocket.  They do have a $50 reimbursement for lock and key service in case you are locked out of the car.

AAA Plus Membership

The Plus membership has all of the same benefits of the Classic except they will tow the vehicle up to 100 miles, and the lockout service will reimburse up to $100 for disablement.
Finally, their Premier Membership program is their most comprehensive.  Providing up to 5 service calls per membership per year.  100 miles of towing (plus one extended tow per year of up to 200 miles), no charge for the fuel if you run out of gas and up to $150 in the lock and key service.
Additional amenities are also provided to service members such as free Tour Book Guides, Triptiks Routings, and AAA maps if you let them know before heading out on that family road trip.  But one of the largest draws to their program and the membership discounts that people can get through participating companies.  Anywhere from discounts on automobile repair, shoes at Payless Shoe Store, and even savings on hotel stays can add up over the year.  These savings can help offset the cost of the annual membership.

Are there any other differences between using a Motor Club or using roadside assistance on your insurance policy?

Yes, there is one significant difference that we have yet to touch on.  Roadside assistance through your insurance policy is tied directly to your vehicle.  A motor club membership through AAA is linked to you as a person.  
Let me provide an example. Person A has two vehicles, one full coverage with roadside assistance, and one with just liability and no roadside assistance.  While driving the vehicle, the car stalls and will not start.  On an insurance policy, because there is no roadside assistance on the liability vehicle (the one that is now disabled on the side of the road) there is no coverage for the driver to get the car towed without the cost coming entirely out of his pocket.  Let us take the same scenario. Let us say that person A has a membership through AAA.  It does not matter what vehicle he is in; the coverage is following him (as the driver, and even as a passenger.)

OK… So what is the average cost for the consumer?

There is an additional cost to the consumer when it comes to purchasing these roadside assistance tools.  The cost can vary depending upon the level of membership, or program selected.  Many insurance carriers offer basic roadside assistance programs for towing.  That could add anywhere between $3 to $15 per month to their insurance bill.  AAA memberships are purchased on an annual basis.  They price varies from state to state but on average of $68 per year for the Classic membership to $130 for the Premier.  It is best to check with your local office to determine the actual cost for you and any additional family members.

Is it better to have it on my insurance policy or through a separate motor club such as AAA?

As an insurance agent, I find that using a motor club is far more beneficial and comprehensive for my family.  I typically make back the cost of the annual membership through the different savings.  I earn discounts at hotel stays, and even through Payless shoes.  When you have teenagers, shoes and something that they go through all the time while growing if you know what I mean.  Let the insurance companies do what they are good at, helping you in the event of an accident or a comprehensive claim.  Let the motor club do what they are good at, roadside assistance.
Roadside assistance provides peace of mind when out of the roads.  Especially when out on road trips.  It is worth the time to check out both coverage options, either through an insurance policy or with a motor club.  Remember, you have to have a product in place before you wind up on the side of the road.  If not, then it is too late for that disablement to be covered.


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Last Updated on July 9, 2021 by Veronica Moss

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By Shawn Christie

The Insurance Guy