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8 things to consider when shopping for roadside assistance

4 min read
18 Aug 2016

Roadside assistance is much more than just breakdown cover; it can be a real lifesaver if you’re left stranded and in need of help when you’re away from home. It’s the cost-effective way of protecting yourself from life’s little mishaps on the road, so what should you consider before shopping for roadside assistance that will best suit your needs?

Roadside assistance insurance can cover drivers in a variety of different situations; from unlocking your car to pulling you out of a ditch. However, the type of coverage offered can vary across providers and insurance plans. Motorists should begin to consider the level of cover they need on the road before paying for every available insurance cover.

“If you have only had to call on your roadside assistance once or twice in the last few years, or if long road trips aren’t your thing, then perhaps you should consider a more basic product. You don’t want to be over-covered,” says Abigail Koch, spokesperson for leading car comparison service

“Check the policy’s towing distance limits and restrictions on the number of call-outs. Some policies only cover drivers for four call-outs a year, after that you wear the cost. Also, remember that the devil is in the details!”

“Make sure you read each policy’s terms and conditions carefully. Some products only cover you within a certain radius of major metropolitan areas, whilst others cover you if you drive interstate. Some products will cover you as the driver regardless of the car you may be driving and others will only cover you for one specified vehicle,” Ms Koch explains. highlight eight cover options to consider when shopping around for roadside assistance:

Towing distances and locations: Roadside assistance products will differ for the towing distances of your vehicle (free of charge) as well as the geographical locations they cover. Comprehensive providers will tow your vehicle free-of-charge for longer distances and in more areas than basic providers. Comprehensive providers will also tow your caravan/trailer if need be, whereas basic providers only offer assistance in making arrangements to store or transport your vehicle. A tow could cost you around $200 so make sure you’re not out of pocket and read the towing terms in your policy.

Breakdowns and call-outs: Most roadside assistance covers will have a limit on the number of call-outs a driver can receive. Basic products usually cater for four call-outs per year compared to other comprehensive products which are unlimited. Bear in mind that most roadside assistance providers have an ‘excessive use’ policy in place. This means that if a driver requests roadside assistance an ‘unreasonable’ amount of times, then the provider may refuse to provide further assistance to this member. It’s recommended people think about how often they’ve required roadside assistance services over the past few years, to work out whether they’d be better suited to a comprehensive or basic product.

Locksmiths: Roadside assistance doesn’t just help drivers who have broken down or are in need of a tow. It also provides services if your keys are lost, stolen or locked in your car. Should the provider be unable to unlock your car then they will call a locksmith. More comprehensive products tend to contribute towards the cost of a locksmith, whereas basic products stipulate that the cost of the locksmith is at your own expense.

Batteries: Almost all roadside assistance providers require you to pay for a battery replacement. However, someone can come out to your vehicle to jump start your battery if need be. If it is faulty, then they will recommend replacing it.

Emergency fuel: Sometimes if you run out of fuel, some of the more comprehensive covers can provide your vehicle with enough fuel to get to the nearest petrol station. This may not be an option with some basic policies. Cost of fuel is at the policy holder’s expense.

Added benefits: Some of the extras you could receive with roadside assistance includes: the use of a hire car, accommodation if your vehicle breaks down when you’re far from home and passenger transport to help get you to your destination. However, these additional benefits are usually limited to comprehensive plans.

Response times: Many roadside assistance providers use third party contractors, so it’s very difficult for them to guarantee response times even if you’re paying top dollar for a comprehensive plan.

Vehicle restrictions: It’s worth bearing in mind that some roadside assistance providers place restrictions on what vehicle they cover, and where they cover it. Common restrictions include: the age of the vehicle, the odometer reading (many providers will only cover a car with less than 250kms on the clock), and the state that the car will be covered in.


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