There is nothing worse than having an issue with your car when you are away from home. While it may be something you can fix yourself, you might need some outside help.

One of the scariest situations for car owners is not knowing what is wrong with their car. This is exactly the situation roadside assistance is made for.

Roadside assistance is something that car owners can pay for on a monthly or yearly basis to make sure they are covered for any bumps in the road. It makes sure that you are not on your own figuring out what to do next when you experience car trouble. People who drive motorcycles and recreational vehicles can sign up for roadside assistance and enjoy the same benefits.

What Does Roadside Assistance Cover?

It is important to know what your coverage includes, as well as what it does not. There are several minor problems that roadside assistance can help you with on the spot. They can jump-start your battery, change a flat tire, unlock your car, or bring you gas. If your vehicle gets stuck in some snow, sand, or mud, roadside assistance can send you a tow truck to get you on your way again.

For major problems, roadside assistance will tow your car for you. Most plans state how many miles they will tow your vehicle without you incurring additional charges. If you need to go further than that, be prepared to pay more. More expensive policies generally will tow your car further without charging extra.

If you find yourself stuck due to mechanical or electrical failure, roadside assistance cannot solve your problem. They can, however, tow you to someone who can.

Who Provides These Roadside Services?

You may be surprised at how many types of companies offer roadside assistance. It is entirely possible that you will be able to add it to a service you are already getting. Here are some of the most common providers of roadside assistance:

  • Auto Insurance Providers: Most insurance companies will allow you to add roadside assistance to your policy, provided you have both collision and comprehensive coverage. How much it will cost you will depend on the type of car your drive as well as where you live. This coverage is great because it is very affordable, often costing as little as $3 a month. The major downside, however, is that your calls for service can be treated as claims. This may result in higher insurance premiums. Check with your insurance provider on how they deal with service claims before signing up for their roadside assistance coverage.
  • Credit Card Companies: Some credit card companies will offer their users roadside assistance coverage. Some popular ones are Citi, Chase, and American Express. This is a free service for members with good credit scores and their premium cards. There is a limit on how much they will pay-out per user. If you have a newer car and do not expect to use roadside assistance much, taking advantage of one of these free roadside assistance services may be a good call. On the other hand, if you take many long trips or have a vehicle more prone to breaking down, you may need more coverage than a credit card company will offer.
  • Auto Clubs: When you say roadside assistance, many people think of AAA. This is just one of many auto clubs that market these services. There are different levels of services that come with different price tags. With AAA, for example, you can get 5 miles of free towing with their classic package, and 100 miles of free towing with their Plus package. AARP also offers roadside assistance plans for those who qualify. Another auto club worth checking out would be Good Sam. Since roadside assistance is the main purpose of these clubs, they often offer the best service. With the exception of AARP, these service plans can't be combined with things you already have, making them an additional expense to factor into your budget.
  • Automakers: Whether you buy your vehicle new or used, you should check into any roadside assistance coverage that is offered by the dealership. This coverage is often included in any warranty that they give you with the car. When deciding whether or not this coverage is enough for you and your vehicle, be sure to check to see if it includes towing. Some automakers only offer more basic roadside assistance such as helping with lock-outs or empty gas tanks. Be aware that they will likely only provide you enough gas to get you to the nearest service station. Consult with your dealer or your owner's manual to find out about any roadside assistance you may already have.
  • Wireless Phone Service Providers: Many people are unaware that they can add roadside assistance to their existing cell phone plan. Major carriers, like Verizon, provide these services at very low prices. It is important to note that the coverage is usually not as comprehensive. You will likely get help with running out of gas, unlocking your door, and changing flat tires. Whether or not this will be enough for your needs depends on your vehicle and how much you typically drive. These companies usually offer convenient apps to help you connect with the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How Much Does Roadside Assistance Cost?

The amount you spend on your roadside assistance will depend greatly on where you get it and how much coverage you choose. If you decide to go with an auto club, you are likely looking at a minimum of $40 annually. That number can rise greatly depending on what tier of service you go with. If you want extended towing coverage, for example, be prepared to pay more.

For those concerned with price, there are several free or low-cost options, like those through credit card companies or wireless provider. These coverages are not as comprehensive but are much easier on the wallet.