Stranded on the side of the road? Here’s how to get help right away.
Roadside assistance helps you get back on the road when you’ve got a flat tire, an empty tank of gas or if your car is giving you trouble. Many companies provide this service, and some are free if you with a membership. All it takes is a simple phone call and help is on the way.
Can I use my roadside assistance coverage?
Insurers and other companies cover a wide range of help when you’re stranded on the road:
- Battery issues. Roadside assistance can try to fix your battery or even replace it if a jumpstart doesn’t work.
- Car lockouts. If you manage to lock yourself out of your vehicle, get help from a locksmith to get you in quickly.
- Run out of gas. Find yourself stranded with an empty tank? Roadside assistance services bring you enough gas to make it to the nearest station.
- Flat or punctured tires. Get help replacing your flat tire with a spare or have your vehicle towed to the nearest repair shop.
- Stuck vehicles. If you’re stuck in the snow, mud, a ditch or anywhere else, roadside assistance can pull your vehicle to safety.
- Towing. If you get in an accident or if your vehicle can’t be repaired on the spot, get a tow to the nearest repair shop.
Who offers instant roadside help?
Companies that you might not expect to provide roadside assistance could, if you’re a member or customer. You could have roadside assistance without even knowing it.
- Cell phone providers. Some mobile phone providers like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer access to roadside assistance for a fee.
- Credit card companies. American Express and Bank of America are two examples of credit card issuers that offer roadside assistance.
- Insurance providers. Many insurance providers offer roadside assistance included in their policies or allow you to add on coverage for a fee.
- Automakers. Some automakers offer roadside assistance when you purchase a vehicle or as part of a warranty program.
- Motor clubs. Motor clubs like AAA, AARP and BP Motor Club get you access to roadside assistance when you need it.
- Phone apps. Have help in the palm of your hand with mobile apps willing to help when you need it — fast.
Compare popular roadside options and how you can get in touch.
|Name||Membership required?||Contact information|
|Urgent.ly||No||Download the app|
|Good Hands Rescue||No||844-251-2475|
|Honk||No||Download the app|
|Encompass||Yes||Download the app|
|Direct Auto & Life||Yes||877-463-4732|
|BP Motor Club||Yes||800-732-9600|
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How can I get help fast?
Roadside assistance is only a phone call away, but there are a few ways to speed up the process:
- Know your exact location. The technician needs to know exactly where you are, so find your location by GPS or with nearby street signs or mile markers.
- Park in a safe, accessible place. If possible, pull over to the side of the road, into a parking lot or any safe area to avoid traffic while you wait for assistance. If possible, move your car to a place a tow truck can easily access.
- Describe your issue in detail. Clearly explain your issue so the technician is prepared to fix your problem.
- Have your member card or number ready. Most motor clubs and roadside assistance services require a membership. The company will probably ask for your membership number when you call, so having it handy can speed up the process.
- Provide your vehicle information. When you call, include your car’s year, make, model, VIN, body style and modifications. This makes it easier to find your vehicle.
- Leave your phone number. When you speak with a roadside assistance service, leave your phone number so the company can contact you.
- Increase your visibility. Turn on your hazard lights so that the technician and other cars can clearly find you.
- Have a plan. If the issue can’t be fixed on the spot, the technician may tow your car to a repair shop. Do your research to find reputable shops in the area and decide how much you’re willing to pay for repairs.
Fastest recommended service: Use an app or in-vehicle communication system
Apps and in-vehicle communication systems like OnStar typically have faster response times compared to phone calls. A growing number of roadside assistance apps aim to save you time and money, allowing you to send your location and issue directly to the dispatcher. AAA, Encompass, Honk and Urgent.ly are a few of the top roadside apps.
What if I’m on a road trip?
If you’re on a road trip and your car breaks down, towing your car home might not be the cheapest solution. Here are a few options.
- If it’s early in the morning … Have your car towed to a repair shop, and park it in the parking lot until the shop opens.
- If it’s during normal business hours … Get a tow to the nearest repair shop, and find a place to stay until repairs are complete.
- If it’s late at night … Get a tow to a nearby hotel. Once the shop opens, have your car towed there to be fixed.
- If your plan covers long-range tows … Get a tow back home to a repair shop you know and trust.
What if I have passengers or pets in my car?
The situation shouldn’t be any different even if you have kids or pets in the car with you. When you call for roadside assistance, just mention how many passengers you have with you so the technician can have room for everyone in the tow truck if you need a ride. Also, mention if any of your passengers need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
What if I need roadside assistance after an accident?
If your vehicle is still drivable after a car accident, you can typically take it to a repair shop that you choose.
If not, you may need to call for roadside assistance to get your vehicle towed. Most insurance policies don’t cover towing fees. But if you have additional roadside assistance protection through your provider, insurance could waive the fee.
How long does it take for help to get here?
Expect to wait between 30 and 90 minutes for help to arrive. Wait times vary depending on your location and damage to your vehicle, but most of the time multiple technicians arrive ready to help you.
When you call for roadside assistance, the nearest qualified technician is dispatched to your location. It all depends on how many technicians are in the area.
In most cases, you’ll be given an estimated waiting time, though you can usually expect to wait between 30 and 90 minutes. If assistance hasn’t arrived within an hour of you calling, you may want to call again to follow up and make sure the tow truck’s not lost. If you’re still waiting after another hour or so, consider calling another roadside assistance company.
How long until I’m back on the road?
If your technician can fix your car right there, you could be ready to roll in as little as an hour. Here’s how long you can expect to wait for common roadside repairs.
- Jump start: 15 minutes
- Battery replacement: 1 hour
- Emergency fuel: 5 minutes
- Tire change: 30 minutes
- Tow: 10 minutes to load
- Locksmith service: 10 minutes
- Pull vehicle stuck off road: 30 minutes or more
How much does roadside assistance cost?
Roadside assistance typically covers the cost of most fixes. If you don’t have roadside assistance, compare average out-of-pocket costs.
|Type of service||Time to fix||Out of pocket cost|
|Jump start||15 minutes||$25–$75+|
|Battery replacement||60 minutes||$75+ plus cost of battery|
|Emergency fuel||5 minutes||$25–$75+ plus cost of fuel|
|Tire change||30–60 minutes||$25–$75+|
|Locksmith service||10 minutes||$25–$75+|
What should I do while I wait?
- If possible, pull your vehicle off to the side of the road or into another safe area.
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- If it’s safe, place flags, cones or flares 10 to 30 feet behind your vehicle to warn other drivers.
- Find your paperwork and all other vehicle information.
- Gather your belongings if your vehicle needs to be towed.
- Do some research about which repair shop you want your vehicle towed to.
What to watch out for when calling for a tow
Roadside assistance can come in handy, but there are a few things to watch out for know exactly what you’re paying for.
- Outsourcing. Some roadside assistance providers outsource services to local repair shops, meaning the service you receive might not be consistent.
- Insurance rates. If you have roadside assistance included on your policy, your insurer might keep track of your car troubles and raise your rates accordingly.
- Fees. Be sure to read all fees and charges before calling for roadside assistance. Some memberships include all the costs that come with towing, while others will charge for all service, on top of the membership fee.
- Membership costs. Do your research before choosing a provider, some roadside assistance companies cost more than others, despite similar services.
- Upcharging. You don’t have many options when you’re stuck on the side of the road, and companies may charge higher rates because it’s your only option.
- Unsolicited services. Avoid any unsolicited roadside assistance services from tow trucks that pull up after your car breaks down. They could be scams or way overpriced.
- Specific repair shops. The company you call should allow you to choose a repair shop. If not, your vehicle could end up at a shop that charges too much, and you won’t have a choice but to pay up.
Roadside assistance can provide peace of mind when you’re on the road, and it might be more affordable than you think. Though prices vary depending on the location, type of breakdown, company and other factors, this service is convenient if you travel often or commute to work.
Policies are often available directly through insurance providers, so compare your options to find the best coverage for your situation.