There are few things as inconvenient as being stranded with a disabled vehicle. Whether you’re involved in an accident, had a flat tire or suffered a mechanical break down, getting your vehicle towed is always a top priority. Unfortunately, towing can be expensive and you may not know who to call to get the assistance that you need. In times like this, having roadside assistance can be a lifesaver. Before you go anywhere on the road, it’s a good idea to know what towing coverage is available to you and what limitations it may have.

What if My Vehicle Breaks Down?

If your vehicle breaks down due to mechanical problems or other non-accident damage, your insurance company will only be able to provide a tow truck if you carry the appropriate towing coverage. Otherwise, you will need to have your vehicle towed on your own or use a third-party service like AAA.

On the other hand, if your vehicle is rendered non-drivable by a car accident, the towing cost may be covered under your auto policy even if you don’t carry towing or roadside assistance coverage. In this case, the towing will be covered as long as the accident itself is covered, and the bill will be paid under the same coverage. For example, if you hit a deer, the towing will be paid under comprehensive coverage; if someone hits you on the highway, it will be paid under collision.

In some cases it’s not immediately obvious whether a disabled vehicle was the result of a covered accident. For example, you may hit something without noticing and put a hole in your oil pan, rendering the car non-drivable, or your vehicle may break down due to having water or sugar in the gas lines. When the mechanic discovers these problems, you might be able to file a claim for the damages.

Because of this, it’s usually a good idea to keep receipts for any towing charges or other vehicle-related expenses that you accrue. You never know when a vehicle problem may turn out to be related to a covered insurance peril, and if you file a claim later you will want the receipts so you can get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.

Towing vs Roadside Assistance

For some insurance companies, towing and roadside assistance are the same coverage. Other companies sell them separately. If you carry a towing-only policy, it will only pay to have your vehicle towed in situations where it is non-drivable. A roadside assistance policy is much more flexible. It might pay to deliver gas to your car, change a tire or jump start a dead battery. This flexibility is usually more expensive, however, so be sure to get a quote for both options and go for the coverage that better suits your needs and budget.

Tips for Getting Your Towing Paid For

If you do choose to purchase towing coverage from your insurance company, it’s a good idea to verify exactly what you’re buying as not all towing coverages are the same. They vary from one company to the next, so you might not get the same service if you switch companies. For example, some insurance companies handle all towing through reimbursement, while others will actually dispatch a tow truck to pick up your vehicle.

In situations where the towing will be paid as part of your insurance claim, you will most likely need to pay for the tow truck and then submit your receipt to the insurer. Anything you pay on towing would count toward your deductible amount, so you may have your deductible for the claim reduced rather than receiving a separate check for your towing reimbursement.

Also bear in mind that most towing coverage is limited by mileage. Many companies will only cover the first 10 miles or $50 of service, whereas others will pay for any “reasonable” tow, although the rules for what makes a distance reasonable will vary from once company to the next. If you’re in a remote area, you should be prepared to pay out of pocket for towing expenses even if you have coverage for it.

Some insurance companies do not offer good roadside assistance coverage or their coverage is simply not affordable. In many cases, it may be cheaper to purchase third-party towing or roadside assistance. In addition to motor clubs like AAA, many cell phone providers offer towing services for a very small fee. You can check around to see who offers the best deals to ensure you don’t pay too much.