Friday, January 18, 2013

You May Already Have Roadside Assistance And Don't Even Know It

Most people will at sometime need assistance on the side of the road, in a parking lot, or even in their own driveway. When that day comes you will be glad that you have roadside assistance.
What's that? You say you don't have roadside assistance? There is a good chance that you do and don't even realize it. For some, that will be great news, while for those reading this that needed a tow truck, a battery boost, locked their keys in their car, or had a flat tire yesterday, well those folks will wish they had read this a few days ago.
You see, many of the things that you pay for on a monthly basis may already include FREE roadside assistance. That's right....FREE! Companies will add this on as a free service just for using their product or service. They can do this because roadside assistance policies, especially when purchased in bulk, are very affordable, and the payoff when used is extraordinary!
Let me give you a couple of examples of the payoff:

A few days ago I received a call from a roadside assistance company to tow a car to a nearby repair shop. The customer told the dispatcher that she was having transmission trouble and that she needed a tow to the repair shop. When I arrived the customer asked me to try to give her a jump and maybe she could drive it to the shop. So I hooked up the jumper cables on her Toyota Prius only to find out that the car was already running. Not having any experience with a hybrid, I found this intriguing because there was no evidence in the engine compartment that this car was running. As I looked in the car at the instrument panel I noticed a warning on the computer screen reading that the transmission needed to be checked on level ground. This is the warning that prompted the customer to call for a tow. She then suggested that she would check it by putting the transmission in gear. The instant she did this the warning went away. She decided that the warning was a result of the several days of rain that we had had, and the fact that she had parked it on an uneven surface. She then informed me that she would drive it home instead of driving it to the shop.
This mistake would have possibly cost her over $100 had she not had roadside assistance. That is a fairly costly mistake, but because she had roadside assistance as a free benefit with another service she was paying for, it only cost her a signature on my invoice, and maybe a little bit of embarrassment.
The following is a story told to me by an acquaintance:
I own a wreck of a car that breaks down all the time. A couple of weeks ago, I turned the key, and it made no noise. After an hour of trying to start it I gave up. Another hour later, I was riding in a tow truck, looking at my broken car in the rearview mirror.
Two hours of car trouble was bad enough, but then the tow truck driver told me it would cost extra to cross county lines. It was also going to cost extra since my problem was “probably related to the key” – whatever that means. In the end, I paid $400 to have my car towed 20 miles home.

Don't let this happen to you! You may have your towing and roadside assistance covered! Many insurance policies, automobile makers, and credit cards already have this kind of service built-in and you may not be aware of it. Even your cellphone provider could have made it a free add-on to your service and either didn't tell you or just glossed over it when explaining everything you are getting with the service.
Truth is, most of us never think about needing this kind of service because we may go years without actually having a problem with our cars. But eventually it will happen.
So here are a few places to check to see if you have roadside services. Check to see if you have these services available to you, save the contact information in your cellphone, and have every family member do the same. YOU WILL NEED IT!

1. Car manufacturers
Whether your car is new or used, if it has a warranty on it, it could have roadside assistance coverage as well. Read the fine print. Depending on the company this coverage can vary greatly. You may just have to call when you have a problem and see if they cover it. Run out of gas, give them a call. Many roadside policies cover that. Lock your keys in your car? That too. Just call if you need help. They'll usually cover you. Keep in mind that their towing may only tow you to the nearest repair shop or dealer. You can check out for warranties by dealers to see if you could possibly have coverage, or just read you warranty.

2. Credit Card Companies
Many credit cards will offer this as a freebie. Limits will apply on the services. Read your terms.

3. Auto Insurance
They all offer it. Towing and roadside assistance. Very low cost add-on to your policy. I am going to add something more on a personal note to consider. If you have an actual towing policy through your insurance company you can call any towing company of your choosing to come tow you, pay the tow truck driver and then submit the invoice to your insurance company to get reimbursed. Doing this will insure prompter service from the towing company, just trust me on that. As owner of a towing company let me just take this opportunity to say that if you are ever in or near Leesville, LA and you need a tow just call me at 337-789-7925 25 hours a day and I'll come help you out:)

4. Cellphone Service Providers
Though I don't think any of them do it anymore, years ago some of the providers attached a roadside plan to their contracts. If you haven't renewed your contract in years you may still have free roadside assistance. If not though, they all offer it as an inexpensive add-on. Usually from $3-$4 per month. Just call them and find out.

5. Motor Clubs
AAA – The granddaddy of auto clubs, the American Automobile Association has three membership tiers. Basic membership gets roadside and short-distance towing. As an AAA Plus member, you can tow up to 100 miles and receive lock-out assistance. Premier members get up to 200 miles of free towing and 24-hour concierge service. The cost of each plan varies depending on where you live, but they range from under $50 to more than $130.
Better World Club – The BWC is an auto club with an environmentally friendly concept: You can purchase roadside assistance for your bicycle and get discounts for renting hybrids – but you’ll have to pay more if you own a gas guzzler like a Hummer. Basic membership costs $55.95 per year. Premium membership costs $89.95.
Good Hands Roadside Assistance – Not really an auto club, but Allstate’s program is open to everyone. There are no annual fees, but you’ll pay per use. Towing costs $75 for the first 10 miles and $3 per mile after that. If you need another service (like a tire change), it costs $50.
Finding the best plan

Roadside assistance programs come with restrictions, and sometimes the cheapest plans aren’t worth the limitations. Before you sign up, ask these questions:

Does the plan cover the car or the driver? If your spouse or teenage driver takes your car, you need them to be covered under the roadside assistance plan. Making sure the car is covered no matter who is driving is the easiest way to do this.
Am I covered in other vehicles? If you have a rental or borrow a friend’s car, you want to know you’re covered when the tire blows.
What are the signup fees? Most auto clubs have them. For example, the Better World Club charges a one-time $12 signup fee.
How many tows are allowed per year? If you only get one tow, it may be cheaper just to pay for it outright and skip the membership.
How far can I tow? This is the biggest restriction I found. For example, with a basic AAA membership, you can have your car towed 3 miles max. Any further and you’ll pay extra. Personally, I’ve never been lucky enough to break down within 3 miles of my house or my mechanic.

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