Kristine Lee, manager of content for The Zebra, an insurance comparison marketplace. TheZebra.com
Auto insurance providers often offer roadside-assistance programs for a fraction of what you would pay for an AAA membership—but there’s a catch. If you use your insurer’s roadside assistance too often, the insurer might increase your premiums or refuse to renew your coverage, even if your driving record is spotless.
More concerning: Insurers sometimes report customers’ roadside-assistance use to the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), a database of insurance claims shared by all insurers. While this isn’t standard industry practice and it may not be noted in your contract with the insurer, it does occur. And that means other insurers will access your CLUE report and perhaps won’t offer you attractive rates.
Self-defense: If you have a reliable car and require roadside assistance only rarely, then an insurer’s roadside-assistance program could be a good choice—no insurer is likely to increase rates or cancel coverage for just one or two roadside assistance calls within six months or a year.
But if you used your insurer’s roadside assistance twice or more during the policy duration…and/or you have an unreliable vehicle or a tendency to require jump-starts, it is better to select a program provided by an organization other than your insurer’s even if it costs more. Options: AAA (AAA.com) and Better World Club (BetterWorldClub.net). Calls to non-insurer roadside-assistance programs never boost insurance rates or end up on CLUE reports.
Some credit cards and auto manufacturers also offer roadside-assistance programs, but read the small print before depending on these—there often are significant limitations. Examples: Credit card programs might impose a per-use charge…while automaker programs might cover only vehicles under warranty or tows to that make’s dealerships, not to independent garages.