Whether driving from coast to coast across our great nation or on the morning commute, one thing most of us dread is running into an unexpected car problem on the side of the road and the need to call for emergency roadside assistance. A flat tire, dead car battery, or lost/misplaced car key are all common reasons to request roadside assistance, but there are many other services they often provide that can help you get back on the road safely.
Common roadside assistance services
Some of the most common roadside assistance services include:
- Towing: one of the most common reasons to call for roadside assistance is to request towing of disabled or destroyed vehicles. Since this service is so common, we’ve dedicated a page to towing services.
- Winching and extrication: if your car’s gotten stuck in a ditch or muddy terrain, you may require winching and extrication from its current location. This may or may not be accompanied by towing depending on the roadworthiness of the car after being winched back onto the road.
- Emergency battery service: car batteries can fail for a number of reasons, such as leaving the lights on accidentally, cold weather, or the battery has not been used for an extended period of time. Jump starting your car’s battery in an emergency situation is a common cause for roadside assistance callouts.
- Flat tire service: driving around with a flat tire isn’t ideal as it puts you, your passengers, and any vehicles passing by you at risk of serious injury. A spare tire is useful in these situations, but not having one (or not knowing how to replace it yourself) means you’ll have to call for roadside assistance.
- Mobile mechanic service: mobile mechanics can perform a wide range of on-the-spot repairs as part of a roadside assistance callout. Anything they cannot do from the side of the road will necessitate towing, however, but simply getting your car up and running again safely can eliminate plenty of headaches.
- Emergency fluid delivery: many of us feel that we intuitively know the limits of our trusty car and how far we can drift on fumes, but running out on the highway is a frustrating experience. Many roadside assistance providers can supply emergency fuel supplies, or jerrycans, to top you up until you reach the nearest gas station, and they can also provide you with other automotive fluids as well.
- Lockout assistance: if you’ve been locked out of your vehicle, many roadside assistance providers double as auto locksmiths, fully capable of enabling access to your vehicle in a pinch. Some provide full locksmithing services as well such as new and replacement key engraving, key fob reprogramming, and more.
These are among the most frequent ‘bread and butter’ services offered by most major roadside assistance providers. Furthermore, the most well-known providers operate on an insurance coverage scheme with either membership plans paid yearly or pay per use services.
Roadside assistance coverage in the US
Most Americans receive roadside assistance in one of four ways:
- By adding roadside assistance to an existing auto insurance policy (e.g. Allstate, Geico, Progressive, or State Farm)
- Receiving coverage from companies you do business with (e.g. credit cards such as Chase, MasterCard, or American Express)
- Being a member of an auto club (e.g. AAA, National General Motors Club)
- Pay per use during emergency incidents
For the first three, roadside assistance is “free,” but as we all know there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Each of the first three options may be free for infrequent emergency roadside assistance callouts, meaning you don’t need to pay the company directly, but normally you’ll be paying as part of an insurance policy or an annual membership fee.
Although most Americans can receive roadside assistance services under an existing insurance policy or from membership with an auto club, some drivers prefer to take their chances and pay out of pocket if their car suddenly breaks down. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In the US, there are over 69 million vehicle breakdowns every year, costing over $41 billion to the economy. Vehicle breakdowns are fairly frequent, especially with older vehicles (up to four times more likely to break down than newer models). Nevertheless, if you only end up calling for roadside assistance once per year or two, the total cost might possibly be lower than if you were insured in the first place.
Other ways to receive roadside assistance
In addition to the previously mentioned roadside assistance schemes, there are other options available for motorists, such as:
- Your vehicle manufacturer: some vehicle manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz offer new car owners with roadside assistance packages which may or may not permit free towing, trip cancellation coverage, and/or other miscellaneous roadside assistance services.
- Online marketplaces for roadside assistance: a growing number of small, independent roadside assistance providers are taking advantage of online marketplaces to help provide quality services at competitive prices.
TowGator is one such marketplace that seeks to connect drivers with reputable roadside assistance services at fair and competitive prices. We only allow vetted roadside assistance providers to be listed on our platform, so you can rest assured that you will receive quality care when you need it most.
TowGator roadside assistance process explained
Step 1: Find a roadside assistance provider
Chances are pretty good that if you’ve already got coverage from Allstate, AAA or through your credit card, you can quickly give them a ring or use their app to get immediate care. For drivers that don’t have coverage (or their coverage doesn’t cover your specific request) then you'll have to do a little bit of looking online.
By using TowGator to find a nearby roadside assistance provider, you’ll save time and money in addition to receiving quality services to get you back on the road safely. Simply enter your ZIP code above and you’ll be able to filter through nearby roadside assistance providers.
Step 2: Negotiate with the provider
Once you’ve found emergency roadside assistance, be sure to explain to them in as best detail as possible the problem with your vehicle. A flat tire, battery jumpstart, or a can of fuel is quite a bit more straightforward than extricating a totaled vehicle from a ditch, for example.
Step 3: Receive roadside assistance
After negotiating the time and place with the roadside assistance provider, await their arrival and allow them to perform their duties safely. If they find that your vehicle cannot be safely operated and it needs to be towed, allow them to tow it away for your own safety.
How can you be sure that they aren’t simply ripping you off and will hold your vehicle as ransom? Ensure that you’re dealing with reputable companies such as those found on TowGator.
Step 4: Evaluate the service
If you’ve found a roadside assistance partner on TowGator, do take some time afterwards to leave a helpful review for future customers. This helps others like you separate the good, honest service providers from the bad and to make more informed choices when searching online for emergency roadside assistance.
The importance of reputable roadside assistance
For drivers who are already covered by their insurance policy or by their automotive club membership for roadside assistance, you are at the mercy of their technicians for any roadside assistance. For those who aren’t covered and require urgent assistance, there are also many risks involved.
For example, if you contact Allstate for emergency assistance and the technician really bamboozles, dupes, or hoodwinks you for repairs, then you do have some recourse to rectify the situation.
With pay as you go roadside assistance, there are unfortunately many cowboys and predatory towing practices to really make a bad situation even worse for you. For this reason, trust and reputation are the most important things to look for in roadside assistance. Everything else, such as skills, expertise, and transparency follow from having a positive reputation in this industry.
That’s why we recommend that you use TowGator to find quality roadside assistance near you, anywhere in the US. Here are some of the benefits:
Saves time and money
A reputable roadside mechanic will save you time and money in the long run because they’ve typically got the right tools, qualified and trained employees, and plenty of expertise to provide you with urgent roadside care.
By getting the job done right the first time, you’ll save money in repairs down the road and time as well.
Preserves your vehicle condition
Again, getting the job done right the first time is crucial - getting shoddy repairs to your vehicle can damage it and necessitate costly repairs in the future. By choosing a reputable provider of emergency roadside assistance, you minimize the risks of damage to your vehicle and preserve its condition.
Improves highway safety
Driving with a flat tire or being stranded on a busy Interstate highway shoulder isn’t safe for you nor is it safe for others on the road. By choosing reputable roadside assistance, you are taking active steps towards getting back on the road safely to the benefit of yourself, your passengers, and others on our busy highways and roads.
How much will roadside assistance cost me?
The short answer is “it depends,” but on what? Consider the following factors:
- Warranty coverage: some new cars come with warranties that cover some (or all) typical roadside assistance services, completely free of charge or perhaps for a nominal charge. Take note of the terms and conditions, especially the services covered. There are also limits on usage, typically one free tow per year, for example.
- Insurance coverage or auto club membership: normally, insurance such as Geico or auto clubs such as AAA have monthly/yearly payment plans and packages, so calling out for roadside assistance when you need it is completely free. Note that too many insurance claims will likely raise your premiums.
- Type of service required: extricating a totaled vehicle and towing it will undoubtedly cost far more than changing a flat tire, so it really depends a lot on which service is required. We have some rough figures on our prices page, so check there to get a rough idea of what out of pocket charges are typical in the US.
- Choice of company: if you’re paying out of pocket for emergency assistance, beware of predatory towing and price gouging from cowboy operators. Some companies will be more than happy to come tow away your vehicle only to hold it ransom for way, way more than is reasonable. Instead, choose a reputable company on TowGator and get fair, transparent prices.
- Time of day/week: towing and roadside assistance is normally paid out for parts and labor as well as a call-out fee, which can be much higher after-hours such as after midnight, on weekends, or on public holidays.
Cool facts about roadside assistance in the US
There’s no denying how important the automobile is to most Americans and our way of life. Not only did we build entire cities and suburbs around the horseless carriage, but we depend on them to this day for most of our daily activities such as the commute, taking the kids to soccer practice, or going shopping.
Naturally, our relationship and dependence on our trusty cars, trucks, and SUVs means that we encounter many more problems, too.
Below are some cool facts about the costs of roadside assistance in the US:
- Vehicle breakdowns are dangerous. More than 700 drivers are killed in the US each year trying to resolve roadside car problems, costing a total of $8 billion in injuries and fatalities.
- The average total cost of vehicle repair costs after breakdowns is about $15 billion.
- Over 150 million Americans spend a total of 120 million hours sitting in traffic caused by vehicle breakdowns every year.
- Nearly 30 million workdays are lost due to vehicle breakdowns in the US every year, which costs businesses and drivers $9 billion.
- The total cost of providing roadside assistance in the US is about $7 billion every year.
And for some cool fun facts, consider the following:
- Most early drivers were able to fix their own vehicles (think over a century ago). As cars became increasingly more complex, most drivers could not perform repairs on their own and thus required roadside assistance.
- Many drivers in the early 20th century formed clubs and associations which pledged to assist fellow members in the event of a vehicle breakdown. Eventually, members pooled together funds to pay for towing and roadside assistance. This is how AAA was born.
- The American Automobile Association was founded in 1902 in Chicago, Illinois from nine auto clubs banding together. Although they were not the first, they are perhaps the most well-known as they are still a major auto club to this day.
- The first roadside assistance program was founded in 1915 by the AAA in St. Louis, Missouri. It consisted of five motorcyclists called the “First Aid Corps” who would patrol the city on Sundays, looking for stranded motorists in need of tire repairs or jerrycans.
Where can I find quality roadside assistance services?
The best place to find quality roadside assistance is by using TowGator. Our online marketplace provides you quick and easy access to a huge network of roadside assistance providers from coast to coast across our great nation.