Roadside Assistance: How Can I Be Prepared?

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Even the safest drivers with the most reliable vehicles may need roadside assistance at some point, which is why it is important to be prepared. Roadside assistance coverage gives you peace of mind that help may be available if something beyond your control happens.

What to Know About Your Coverage

Auto insurance coverage varies, so it’s important to know what type of roadside assistance you have, or if your policy includes roadside assistance at all. For example, make sure you’re aware of your provider’s towing radius — how far and how often they’ll tow your vehicle without incurring out-of-pocket costs. This may be as little as three miles once a year, so consider your driving habits before purchasing roadside assistance, and make sure you pick a plan that fits your lifestyle and needs. Your costs should be nil to minimal at the time you use the assistance services, as you’ve already paid for them as part of your insurance payments if you’ve added it to your policy.

When to Use Roadside Assistance

Make sure you understand your coverage so you know when roadside assistance service is available. Roadside assistance is designed to help drivers in times of need, for emergencies such as mechanical or equipment breakdowns, flat tires, running out of gas or dead batteries. Other emergencies like flash foods, forest fires, hail, hurricane and wind damage won’t be covered by roadside assistance, but may be covered if you have added Comprehensive to your policy.

What to Do Before You Call

The first thing to do when you encounter an issue with your vehicle is to get it off the road so you are not vulnerable to other, fast-moving vehicles. Make sure to turn your hazard lights on — this will help other drivers see your vehicle and alert them that something is wrong. If you can’t get your car out of the way of traffic, stay inside. Even stepping out to pop the hood could put you in danger, so it may be best to wait until assistance arrives before exiting your vehicle.

How to Use Roadside Assistance

Putting your roadside assistance to use may take little more than a phone call to your provider’s hotline or the closest towing company, depending on your coverage. Make sure the phone numbers, your policy number and any other necessary information are easy to access in an emergency. After you have called for assistance, while you wait for help to arrive, remain cautious of traffic and of your surroundings. Once your car is ready to go, you’ll usually have to sign an invoice before driving away. Make sure to save your receipt or invoice in case you need it in the future.

Tips for Roadside Assistance

Make sure you know the locations of auto mechanics in areas where you normally drive, especially if you prefer to have your vehicle towed to a specific one. You can also map out a few potential mechanics before a long road trip. An independent insurance agent may be able to guide you to nearby mechanics. If your friends or family recommend a mechanic they trust, you may want to have that information easily accessible.

To avoid calling for roadside assistance, keep a few emergency supplies — like jumper cables, extra fuses and a spare tire — in your vehicle. If you do need to call a roadside assistance professional, do not feel obligated to tip them. Some people may choose to tip for exceptional or difficult assistance, but it’s not expected or required. Requiring roadside assistance can be stressful, but adequate preparation will help you through the situation. Make sure to share this article with your friends on social media — you never know who it might help through a future crisis.