Roadside assistance helps you when your vehicle breaks down. Some companies automatically include this coverage, but it is often an optional coverage that can be added to your auto policy. It is important to understand what roadside assistance coverage you have and how the claims process works.
Generally, roadside assistance provides coverage to get your car back to driving condition. Here are some of the types of services covered and some information about each of them.
- Towing. If the person sent to help you cannot make your vehicle drivable again, the vehicle can be towed. Coverage may only include towing the vehicle to the nearest repair facility. There usually is a distance or dollar limit.
- Changing a tire or jump starting your car (if you have a flat tire or a dead battery). Generally, this coverage is limited by either the labor time (example: one hour) or dollar amount (example: the roadside assistance limit listed on your declarations page).
- Delivery of gas, oil or other fluid. Most policies only cover the cost to deliver gas, oil, or other fluids to your vehicle. This means that usually you will have to pay the cost of the gas, oil, or other fluids.
- Extrication (to remove your vehicle when stuck). Generally, roadside assistance only covers your vehicle if it is on or close to a public road. This means it usually will not pay to pull you from a dirt or gravel road, or a field or pasture.
- Lockout service (for when you cannot get in your vehicle). Some policies may limit the labor time (example: one hour), or the dollar amount (example: $100 max). If the person sent to help you cannot unlock your vehicle and a locksmith is called, some policies will not cover the cost of the locksmith.
- do not offer roadside assistance coverage once a vehicle reaches a certain age or mileage;
- limit the number of roadside assistance claims allowed during a policy period;
- pay less if you do not get prior approval from the company before getting help;
- and have a time limit to submit your receipts for reimbursement.
Ask your agent or company about what coverage you have in the event of a breakdown. Keep in mind that some vehicle manufacturers provide this service with new vehicles. Some credit cards and clubs provide roadside benefit services too. You may also be able to find some services for free in your area. For example, the greater Austin area has the HERO Roadside Assistance Program. It is important to know what type of roadside assistance coverage you have before you find yourself stranded.