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Everything You Need To Know About AAA Roadside Assistance

AAA insurance provides 24/7 roadside assistance coverage to 52 million of its members. In the U.S., the carrier has a network of 32 motor clubs, 13,000 garages under contract and more than a thousand U.S. branch offices. AAA promises roadside assistance anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The level of AAA roadside service is based on the level of the member's coverage, whether Basic, Plus or Premier.

AAA has 32 motor clubs around the country, and each club has its own roadside assistance program.

No matter what plan you choose, AAA roadside assistance includes fuel delivery, battery jump-start, flat-tire change, lockout service and ditch extraction. Also, you'll have four rescue calls a year, whether you're a Basic, Plus or Premier member. To receive service, all you need is a AAA membership card and a photo ID.

But there are some differences with each type of plan. For example, the Basic plan will tow your car three miles, the Plus plan will tow your car up to 100 miles and  the Premier plan will tow your vehicle up to 200 miles, perfect for members who live or drive in remote locations. However, the Premier plan offers that 200-mile tow only once: The remaining three tows are capped at 100 miles.

Do You Really Need Roadside Assistance?

About one in three drivers will have a breakdown in any given year. According to AAA, vehicles that are less than 10 years old are half as likely to break down as older vehicles. While drivers with newer cars may think a roadside assistance plan won't be worth the money, the following facts suggest otherwise:

  • Almost 11,000 tire-related vehicle crashes take place every year, resulting in more than 600 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • More than 4 million AAA drivers locked themselves out of their vehicle in 2012.

  • There were 6,756,000 accidents in 2019 alone, according to the NHTSA.

  • Almost 1 million drivers run out of gas every year, according to Auto Cheat Sheet.

  • Of 513 Nissan LEAF owners who drove a collective 10.2 million miles, 98 ran out of power while on the road, according to Plug In America.

Purchasing AAA's or another carrier's roadside assistance can very easily pay for itself. For instance, if you lock yourself out of your vehicle, a locksmith will charge anywhere from $75 to $150 to get you back in your car. For one thing, AAA's Basic plan costs less than $75 a year. Also, AAA's Basic plan will unlock your car up to four times a year.

What Is Included in AAA Roadside Assistance?

AAA offers three roadside assistance packages: Basic, Plus and Premier.

AAA roadside assistance is based on membership level: Basic, Plus or Premier. The following chart spells out the differences between the three programs.

Services

Basic

Plus

Premier

Max calls per year

4

4

4

Max miles towed

3

100

200 (0nce)

Fuel Delivery

yes

yes

yes

Charge for delivered fuel

yes

no

no

Recharging electric vehicle

yes

yes

yes

Flat-tire service

yes

yes

yes

Battery jump-start

yes

yes

yes

Battery testing, replacement

yes

yes

yes

$25 off AAA battery purchase

no

no

yes

Extricating, winching

no

yes

yes

Vehicle lockout service

up to $50

up to $100

up to $150

Meals, lodging, car rental

up to $500

up to $1,000

up to $1,500

Post-tow free car rental

no

no

yes

Cost per month

$5.67

$9.25

$12.42

If a car is stuck in a mud, snow or a ditch, AAA will "winch" the car out. If more than one service person or vehicle is needed to do the job, the AAA member may have to pay an added fee.

The "trip interruption" component of your roadside assistance package pays for alternate transportation, meals and lodging, but each AAA club has its own restrictions. For example, some clubs will cover these costs for up to three days, whereas other clubs provide this service for up to four days.

What Is Not Included in AAA Roadside Assistance?

Most auto insurance carriers offer 24/7 roadside assistance coverage, but every program has its own services and restrictions. All roadside coverage is "add on" coverage, which means state law does not require it. The AAA program offers a lot, but it doesn't cover everything:

  • AAA's roadside assistance is not car insurance. It is an insurance product that you purchase separately from your auto insurance.

  • AAA's roadside assistance does not extend to a disabled vehicle whose driver is intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs.

  • While AAA services the U.S. and Canada, it does not offer roadside assistance in Mexico.

  • AAA will not recompense you for repair work done by your favorite mechanic if that mechanic's repair shop is not in AAA's network.

Car Insurance with Roadside Assistance Plan

How To Contact AAA When You Need Assistance

If you're an  AAA member who is stranded on the side of the road and needs assistance, you can either use the AAA mobile app or call 800-AAA-HELP (800-222-4357). You can also request assistance through their local AAA club website, which has the same functionality as the mobile app.

When using the mobile app or club website, you will be asked to submit a "road service online" request. Next, you will be prompted to provide the following information:

  • Your 16-digit membership number

  • The location of the disabled vehicle. In order for AAA to process your request, you'll have to provide the street name and the nearest city.

  • Type of service needed

  • Description of the disabled vehicle

  • Phone number where you can be contacted

AAA will verify your membership, confirm that they have received your request and send help, locating you and your disabled vehicle using your mobile device's GPS. If your vehicle needs to be repaired, AAA may send you pertinent local information, such as network repair shops in the area. If you call the 800 number, AAA will want the same information and may call you back to get a clearer idea of your location.

The average response time is 21 minutes, notes AAA, but you may have to wait up to an hour, depending on the circumstances.

Pros and Cons of AAA Roadside Assistance

As was noted earlier, every AAA club offers slightly different roadside assistance packages, so you should check with your area's club to get the details. Generally speaking, here are some pros and cons of AAA roadside assistance:

Pros

  • You can request AAA roadside assistance whether your vehicle is owned, leased or rented.

  • You can request AAA roadside assistance whether you are a driver or a passenger.

  • AAA roadside assistance covers not only vehicles but also specialty vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.

Cons

  • AAA roadside assistance doesn't automatically include your whole family. However, you can add a family member as an "associate."

  • If you use your AAA roadside assistance within 48 hours of signing up, you will be charged a fee.

How Claims Are Handled

When you report a breakdown, AAA will set up a claim file for your case. Later, you will receive a claim form. However, you must file your claim within 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on your AAA club's policy.

When you receive your claim form, you should be ready to back up your claim, citing all pertinent information to support the claim. For example, all receipts and documents related to your breakdown should be saved and stored. If the police or fire department were involved, you should get the police or fire department report. Of course, having all this information will not only verify your loss but also expedite the processing of your claim.

Using a Non-AAA Service Provider

If an emergency situation makes it impossible to use service providers in the AAA network, you can use a non-AAA service provider and then submit a reimbursement form to AAA. The reimbursement will be based on whether you're a Basic, Plus or Premier member; in any case, you will be compensated only up to the dollar amount of service AAA would have provided in the same or similar situation.

To get reimbursed, you must be a member in good standing who made every attempt to get AAA service  before settling on a non-AAA service provider. You must ask for a reimbursement within 60 days of the  service date, and it takes about three weeks for processing. Questions are answered at 844-765-6428.

AAA Roadside Assistance vs the Competition

AAA's roadside coverage varies from club to club, so prospective members should check out the offerings of the AAA club in their area. The majority of roadside assistance programs offer fuel delivery, battery jump-start, flat-tire change, lockout service and ditch extraction. Let's compare AAA's plans with Nationwide's and Allstate's.

AAA vs Nationwide

  • Whereas AAA has three levels of coverage—Basic, Plus and Premier—Nationwide only has two: Basic and Plus. While AAA's Premier program offers a $25 discount on a new battery and a onetime 200-mile towing distance, for example, Nationwide doesn't provide similar perks.

  •  If you're in AAA's Basic program, your car will be towed up to three miles. In contrast, Nationwide's Basic members can have their car towed up to 15 miles.

  • If you're in AAA's Basic program, your lockout service is capped at $50. On the other hand, Nationwide's lockout service is capped at $100.

  • Nationwide's Plus plan offers "trip interruption coverage," which will compensate your alternate transportation, lodging and meals up to $500 if you're stranded more than 100 miles from home. If you are a member of AAA's Washington club and a Premier member, for example, you can get up to $1,500 in trip-interruption compensation.

  • Nationwide's Basic plan costs about $25 a month, and the Plus plan costs about $40 a month. AAA's Basic plan is less than $6, and both the Plus and Premier plans are under $13.

AAA vs Allstate

  • Allstate's Roadside Advantage plan is similar to AAA's Basic plan. Whereas Roadside Advantage offers only three rescues a year, AAA's Basic plan offers four.

  • While AAA's Basic plan will tow your vehicle up to three miles, Allstate's Roadside Advantage plan will tow you up to 10 miles.

  • Allstate's Platinum Elite plan falls somewhere between AAA's Plus and Premier plan. Platinum Elite provides up to five rescues a year, whereas AAA's Plus and Premier programs offer only four.

  • Allstate's Roadside Advantage plan costs $6.59 a month, while AAA's Basic program costs $5.67 a month.

  • Allstate's Platinum Elite plan costs $12.42; AAA's Plus program costs $9.25 a month, and the Premier program costs $12.42 a month.

Shopping for a Roadside Assistance Plan

When looking for the right roadside assistance program level, you should think about how much you drive and where you drive. Whether you break down in the U.S. or Canada, AAA's roadside assistance program will help you out if you need fuel delivery, a battery jump-start, a flat-tire change, lockout service or ditch extraction.

Whether you're a Basic, Plus or Premier member, every year you'll get four rescue calls, which can cover a rental car, lodging, meals and other "trip interruption" costs. The Premier roadside assistance program costs about $40 more per year than the Plus package, which costs about $40 more per year than the Basic package. AAA's mobile app is easy to use and facilitates fast service, which will come to your rescue between 20 minute to an hour.

If you're looking for auto insurance, SmartFinancial can find the best, cheapest car insurance for you in your area. You'll be connected with insurance pros who can help you determine which roadside assistance carrier is right for you. You may also save up to 40% on your car insurance when you compare rates. For a free, real-time quote, just enter your zip code below or call 855-214-2291.

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