AAA vs. Roadside Assistance Coverage: Which is Better?

Stressed about getting towed? Quoted has the 411 on all things towing that you need to know

driving car
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On your list of car things to square away ahead of time, “What to do when you need a tow” should be fairly high. While some car troubles can be sorted out over time (like fixing a scratch or a dent), as a general rule, when you need a tow, you need it now. If you’ve ever had your car towed, then you already know tow truck companies charge by the mile, and if you’re not literally next to a mechanic, the bill can add up fast. And, lest you be tempted to rely on the ever-solid plan of, “Well, maybe I’ll never need a tow,” let us snap you back to reality with the facts: in the US, most drivers will experience a breakdown at some point in their driving career. Dead batteries, overheating engines, and flat tires are all just too common. So if it’s not a matter of if, but when, the question becomes: Should you rely on AAA for towing and roadside assistance, or might your insurance company offer cheaper coverage? What’s the verdict in the ruling: AAA vs. Roadside Assistance?

The answer is nuanced, and Quoted is here to help you figure out your game plan.

Most drivers will experience a breakdown at some point in their driving career.


When it comes to towing, you never want to assume you’re covered. Most insurers include towing in their optional roadside assistance coverage (which is sometimes called towing and labor coverage). If you have comprehensive coverage, you’ll likely need to add (read: pay for) roadside coverage. The upshot? Tacking roadside assistance coverage onto a policy is often not more than $5-7 extra dollars each month—so for the cost of one fancy latte, you could have additional roadside support at the ready.

Roadside coverage often includes:

  • Towing (The big insurance guys tend to cover up to $75-$100 for towing incidents)
  • Tire Changes
  • Battery service (jump-start)
  • Labor costs once you’re at the mechanic (but not parts)
  • Gas, water, and oil delivery
  • Lockout service


If you only have liability insurance (and not comprehensive), you may not be able to add roadside coverage to your car insurance plan. In that case, AAA and other roadside assistance companies are a good option.

If you’re already a member of AAA, you probably don’t need roadside service coverage through your auto insurance, but you should still tell your carrier. Many insurers will offer drivers who hold an outside assistance plan a discount. Win-win, for sure.

AAA offers three levels of membership—classic, AAA Plus, and AAA premier—at three price points ($52, $82, and $105, respectively). Compare plans to see what might be best for you—and do note that classic coverage only covers towing services for a seven-mile radius. (Plus extends to 100 miles.) Even at the Plus price point, that’s still a monthly average of $6.83, and you get added discounts, to boot.

Both AAA and roadside assistance usually cost less than a lunch out per month.


Once you know who’s footing the tow truck bill, you still need to get from point A to point B (or, from the side of the road to the mechanic). If you have AAA, the plan is simple: call them and simply wait for deliverance (but you already knew that). Many insurance companies have a 24/7 emergency line you can call and they’ll find a towing company nearby and have a truck sent. Some tips if you need to hire a tow truck on your own (from Esurance):

  • Avoid unsolicited tow trucks. Often, companies of ill repute happen to show up along the side of the road after a breakdown. While there’s a chance the company is on the up and up, you’re more likely to get caught in a scam.
  • Before the tow truck takes your car, be sure you have a copy of an invoice or price list with all towing fees, daily storage fees, and any other charges so there are no surprises.
  • Make sure you know where your car is headed before the tow truck pulls away.

frozen car stuck waiting for aaa vs. roadside assistance

Quoted hopes you never find yourself in need of a tow, but if you have your “in the event of a breakdown” plan in place ahead of time, you can make the process much easier on yourself. Have any other towing tips? Big fan of AAA, or think it’s not worth it? Tell us in the comments.

  • AAA is worth it just for all the discounts membership gets you, especially hotel rates.

  • Meg Lund

    Thanks for the insight that most insurance plans don’t cover roadside assistance. You talk about how if you have comprehensive coverage, it’s likely that I would need to add this coverage to my plan. I will definitely take this advice so that I can look into my policy, make sure that I am covered, and be prepared for any unexpected roadside emergencies. Thank you again for the insight!

  • Gwen Miller

    My husband and I love taking road trips. We spend a lot of time traveling, so we think it would be a good idea to have some sort of roadside assistance. It’s good to know some of the differences of roadside assistance, and AAA. We will be sure to take this all into consideration before we make our decision!

  • Josh McClung

    Making a choice about who to select for your roadside assistance can be a tough decision, but a necessary one – cost, experience… We’d love for you to come check out our solution – Axle. It is like Uber for roadside assistance. We also give you unlimited access to our team of independent, car experts to help diagnose problems, give second opinions and answer general car questions. You can email us with any questions.

    • Thanks for the tip, Josh. We’ll definitely look into Axle.

  • Dom Reidman

    Article sounds like it was written by AAA themselves. Jesus could it be more infomercial like?

  • Bob Johnson

    I love the point about unsolicited tow trucks that just happen to show up when you are stuck on the side of the road. In my time as owner of a tow truck company, i’ve seen my fair share of good, honest people get taken by these types of folks.

    It can be such a relief to have someone show up and offer to tow your vehicle when you are already in panic-mode. The bad part is the outrageous bill you get once they finish with you. I always recommend my customers look into AAA. Like you said, it’s the price of a lunch out per month… in my opinion, definitely worth it for that one time when you really need good service, fast.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. I’m sure it will open some eyes for some people, and help others to avoid major problems in the future when they need a reliable towing service.

  • Noah Stern

    As an independent agent, I have seen clients who have used their policies as “maintenance plans” (which is not what insurance is supposed to be) and make an excessive number of towing claims within a short time span only to have the insurer non-renew or cancel the policies. At the very least, such carriers would use these claims as another reason (possibly in conjunction with other underwriting factors) to adversely affect the policy. It may not be the case with every carrier. By having a separate company like AAA for roadside assistance you can be sure no claims would every impact your auto policy. Also, AAA’s roadside coverage follows the driver, not the vehicle, so any vehicle driven by the AAA member would be covered for roadside assistance.

    • Neil Richardson

      Great point, Noah! Thank you for sharing

  • Annette McDonald

    As a towing company in rural Alaska who provides service for AAA and a number of other roadside assistance plans, I have some advice on towing coverage. Check what the limitations are on your policy for towing distance. AAA Plus is 100 miles while AAA Premier provides one tow per year per household of 200 miles with other tows covered up to 100 miles. Some insurance companies (State Farm, Progressive, USAA, etc.) cover to the closest qualified repair facility. Geico covers to the closest dealership. Be careful though. Some plans only covered short distances such as ten (10) miles and that is in the fine print. In some cases, the insurance coverage could be a better plan than AAA, while AAA can be better, especially if you want to be towed back home and it is farther to a repair facility, but less than 100 miles. Be cautious; I routinely deal with dispatchers from motor clubs and insurance companies who tell me that the customer is only covered for a certain distance when I know that they should be covered in full.

    • Neil Richardson

      Thanks for sharing, Annette! We always appreciate commentary from the experts!

  • Tracy

    I got triple AAA and within a month my car overheated badly and I got towed 90 miles home for free. I rode in the tow truck with the driver. I was happy it was free. I wouldn’t go without triple AAA. My 3 year old nephey got inside my car and turned a bunch of stuff on. A few days later I got in the car and battery was so dead it just clicked when I turned the key. Once again getting a jump was free. I got more than my moneys worth.

  • Sandra Adorno Taylor

    What they dont tell you is that after 4 uses you are charged 90.00 for a tire change, gas delivery or any other service also if you have AAA plus you are no longer entitled to a hundred free miles of Towing it goes to 3 miles