Auto insurance

What’s better for roadside assistance?

Image source: Getty Images

Evaluate your options to make the best choice for you and your car.

Key points

  • Roadside assistance is extremely useful.
  • Many auto insurers offer it as supplemental coverage or even include it as part of a regular policy.
  • AAA is best known for its roadside assistance, but a membership comes with other benefits that you might find useful.

If you’ve been a licensed driver for a while, chances are you’ve found yourself on the side of the road and need help. Maybe you ran out of gas, locked yourself out of your car, or just had a flat tire. Or maybe you’ve had something more colorful go wrong, like accidentally rolling over someone’s discarded exhaust pipe on a snowy highway, puncturing your oil pan and leaking all the oil of your engine. That was me one day when I was a graduate student. It wasn’t a fun day, but luckily I had roadside assistance coverage through my auto insurance.

Roadside assistance coverage can be added to many car insurance policies, and having access to it can be very useful. Roadside assistance can help if your car breaks down for any reason – it can include towing services, battery jump starts, locksmith help, and more. And it can be especially useful if you have an older car that’s no longer under manufacturer’s warranty, as it’s more likely to need mechanical intervention.

But if you’re interested in roadside assistance, as well as access to various discounts and other helpful perks, you might be wondering if you should get AAA membership instead of opting for roadside assistance through your insurer. . Here are some questions and answers that can help you decide between auto insurance and AAA for roadside assistance.

Does my auto insurance come with roadside assistance?

If you’re trying to decide if you want roadside assistance through AAA, it’s a good idea to review your car insurance policy details, as you may already have it. If you have a comprehensive policy with your insurer, roadside assistance may be included, or you may already be paying for it. Through your insurer, it’s probably a nominal fee of $8 to $25 per year. If you already have this coverage, or can easily add it to your insurance policy, is it worth considering AAA membership as well? Maybe.

How much does a AAA membership cost?

Prices for AAA memberships vary depending on where you live, how many vehicles you wish to cover, and whether or not special offers are available. As of this writing, here are the membership tiers/annual costs available to me:




$40.60 per year



Data source: AAA Northeast

As you can see, even the basic membership level is more than the average annual cost of roadside assistance through a car insurer. However, AAA very clearly describes the level of service they provide; for example, if I opted for the Plus level membership, I would be entitled to four roadside assistance calls per year, and AAA would tow my car up to 100 miles. My car insurance policy is underwritten by one of the largest national insurers, and according to their website as well as my experience using this service in the past, it only covers towing my vehicle up to “nearest repair shop”. This is less useful to me than being able to choose where my vehicle is taken. And remember, AAA membership offers more than just help if your car breaks down.

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What does a AAA membership include?

AAA is pretty well known for offering myriad discounts on hotel stays, car rentals, and other travel expenses. But it also gives members the chance to get discounts on restaurants, gym memberships, and even prescription eyewear. And these discounts are available regardless of the AAA membership level you purchase. So paying even for a basic subscription might make more sense to you.

Now we get to the heart of the matter: does paying for a AAA subscription make sense for your budget? If you use the discounts and benefits available to you as an AAA member, you are a frequent traveler, or even if you drive an older vehicle prone to mechanical issues and prefer more flexibility in assistance available to you, a membership in the AAA might indeed make sense to you. It’s a good idea to find out if you have roadside assistance coverage with your car insurer, what it might cover, and how much a AAA membership might cost you. This information will help you make the right choice.

If you, too, have experienced the fear that accompanies a car breakdown and leaves you stranded on the side of the road, you were no doubt glad that roadside assistance programs could save you (or at least your account). bank, as towing services are often expensive). Now that you know how to choose between roadside assistance through your insurer or AAA, you’re better prepared to be safe behind the wheel (as well as save money).

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