Roadside assistance and towing coverage

Coverage for help on the road whenever you need it.

Updated

Roadside assistance insurance helps with a wide range of motor vehicle problems beyond just breakdowns, such as locking yourself out of your car or waking up on the morning of a road trip to a dead battery.

What does roadside assistance service include?

Coverage depends on your provider and how much insurance you can afford. However, most insurance companies include:

  • Initial phone consultation. If you have the right tools the dispatcher could help you resolve your issue over the phone.
  • Sending a mobile technician. If the problem is too much for you to handle, the provider sends a mobile mechanic to you and they can provide you with keys, gas or help changing a tire.
  • Towing services. If your car needs to be towed for repair, it’s covered to a specified distance. A tow further than that specified distance may cost you.
  • Optional extras. Some top-end membership packages get you to emergency accommodation and assistance with taxi fares.

When would I need roadside assistance?

There are several reasons people need roadside assistance.

Battery issues

Whether you need a jumpstart or your battery is faulty and needs to be replaced, most technicians can help on the spot.

Lockout services

If you accidentally lock your keys in your car, your provider helps you access your vehicle, or contact a locksmith.

Emergency fuel supply

Mobile technicians normally carry an emergency supply of gasoline.

Car won’t start

Sometimes you just can’t get the engine running.

Tire replacement

Replacing a tire is a hard and dirty job. Even if know you can do it, there are plenty of reasons to call for help.

Towing/Extraction service

Many providers offer to tow your vehicle if it is within their size and weight limits. If your vehicle gets stuck, you can get help getting it back on the road.

Is roadside assistance included in car insurance?

Sometimes roadside assistance comes as part of your premium, but usually you have to pay for it. Many insurers offer roadside assistance as an extra to a comprehensive car insurance policy.

Alternatively, with membership-based roadside assistance, you can usually choose from different levels of coverage. Popular membership-based programs include CAA, Costco and Canadian Tire roadside assistance. This ranges from cheaper options that includes a limited number of calls per year, basic mechanical assistance and towing, to top-of-the-line coverage that helps with replacement rental cars and accommodation. Roadside assistance may also be included in your credit card perks.

Does using roadside assistance count as a claim?

No. Roadside assistance is part of your car insurance coverage, but using it won’t raise your rates like making a claim would. However, if you abuse the service, your insurer may charge you a higher premium upon renewal, or refuse to renew your policy.

Which companies offer roadside assistance?

  • Most major insurance companies do.
  • Standalone roadside assistance membership organizations include CAA, Costco, Canadian Tire and ESSO.
  • Some vehicle manufacturers offer roadside assistance if your car is regularly maintained at an authorized service center.
  • Depending on your credit card, you could have roadside assistance included.

Motor club vs. roadside assistance

Motor clubs like CAA offer full-service packages that include roadside assistance. While some insurers offer roadside assistance as an add-on, it’s generally more limited.

Policies vary across insurers, but you can generally expect coverage to look like:

Motor club
  • Assistance if your car breaks down
  • Assistance if you’re in a friend’s car and it breaks down
  • 24/7 help available
  • Trip-planning tools and discounts
  • Trip interruption coverage
  • Coverage for bikes and scooters
  • Usually limits towing distance or cost
Roadside assistance add on
  • Assistance if your car breaks down
  • 24/7 help available
  • Doesn’t cover other cars other than yours
  • Usually limits towing distance or cost

How much does roadside assistance cost?

Roadside assistance membership programs usually cost around $60 to $80 or more a year, but there are cheaper options. Memberships usually include access to emergency assistance and a free hour of labor. But you’ll need to pay for any fuel, parts or supplies to get your vehicle back on the road.

They sometimes include a few free tows within a certain distance. So if the repair shop you choose is outside that range, you’ll likely be charged for extra kilometres.

How can I save on roadside assistance?

Prices for roadside assistance vary depending on your area and local service providers, but shopping around to compare your options can help you save money.

  • Always keep a spare tire, otherwise you may be charged for one.
  • Adding on roadside assistance through your insurance provider, auto manufacturer or cell phone company could help you save.
  • Keep jumper cables in your car and consider calling a friend or Uber instead if you need a jump.
  • If your vehicle needs to be towed, save on kilometres by going to closer repair shops.
  • Think about how much gas you need before you start your trip. You’ll often be charged a fee for fuel delivery on top of the price of gas.

What’s not covered with roadside assistance?

Roadside assistance is normally limited to small-scale mechanical problems. Usually you won’t be covered for:

  • Damage caused by an accident.
  • Battery replacement.
  • Older or antique vehicles.
  • Towing outsides specified limits.
  • Breakdowns because of a pre-existing condition may not be covered.
  • Unattended vehicles.
  • Taxis, limousines and similar commercial vehicles.
  • Oversized vehicles.
  • Being pulled out of a ditch if it’s too difficult to maneuver.
  • Service to a remote area may cost extra.
  • Service during a storm like hurricane or snowstorm.

Can I still get roadside assistance if I’m not already covered?

Major providers typically allow you to become a member when your car breaks down, but they’ll charge you an additional “on-the-go” fee. This fee also applies to calls usually within 24 to 72 hours after you purchase membership.

Some stand-alone services charge a flat rate for each call for assistance. So, instead of joining a membership program for a year and forking out an additional on-the-go fee, you only pay for the one-off help you need. This can be a lot cheaper than taking out membership on the spot for a tire change. However, stand-alone assistance rapidly becomes more expensive if you need to make more than one or two calls in a year.

Whichever option you choose, always read the terms and conditions to know exactly what you’re covered for.

Should I add roadside assistance or sign up for a service?

If roadside assistance is available through your insurer, cell phone or credit card company or automaker, you may get a good price since you’re already a member. However, dedicated roadside assistance companies and motor clubs can provide greater coverage and a number of other benefits that you might not get elsewhere.

Here are a few things to consider when comparing roadside assistance services.

  • Price of membership
  • Fees, including kilometre limites, labour and service charges
  • Services provided
  • Response time
  • Customer service
  • Suggested or required repair shops
  • Service area

Does roadside assistance cover me nationwide?

Once you’re eligible for roadside assistance, you’re covered no matter where you are. Most province-based organizations have reciprocal arrangements, meaning you can use the service even if you’re out of province or country.

Can I get roadside assistance if I’m not in my usual car?

Like other coverage, roadside assistance covers a specific vehicle, rather than a specific driver. So in most cases, it doesn’t matter who is driving the car, as long as the car is covered for roadside assistance.

With some organizations, if you’re already a member but the car you’re in is not covered, you’ll need to pay an on-the-go fee, but usually at a discount.

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