Roadside Services Could Be a Scam: What To Watch For

For some, it's an emergency lifeline; for others, it's a money pit.
Written by Jim Belt in Cars

Stranded on the side of the road sucks. Roadside assistance could be your savior...or a money pit scam. Don't just sign up blindly - do the math first.

Crunch those numbers and you'll see the real deal: roadside services are crazy useful when you actually need them. But pay too much without checking costs? You're only scamming yourself.

We're breaking down when roadside assistance is legit, and when it's a ripoff. The truth could save you hundreds, while still giving you the peace of mind every driver wants.

The Pros of Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance can be a lifesaver when you're stranded on the side of the road.
It provides valuable 24/7 coverage for things like flat tires, dead batteries, and lockouts.
It can save you money in the long run by preventing costly tow truck bills.

The average tow can cost anywhere from $75 to $125.
Roadside assistance plans often cover up to $100 in towing costs.
If you need a tow just once, the service has already paid for itself.

Many plans also offer additional benefits like trip interruption coverage and discounts on rental cars.
These extras can come in handy during a breakdown and provide peace of mind on the road.

The Cons of Roadside Assistance

The main downside of roadside assistance is the cost.
Plans can range from $50 to $100 per year.
If you don't use the service, that's money down the drain.

There are also limitations to consider.
Some plans only cover up to $500 for a winch-out, which may not be enough for larger vehicles.
You could end up with a hefty out-of-pocket bill.

Additionally, not all plans are created equal.
Some offer more robust coverage than others, so it's important to read the fine print.

Is It Worth It? Let's Do the Math

For the sake of example, let's say you own a pickup truck and a roadside assistance plan costs $80 per year.
Over 5 years, that's $400 in premiums.

The average tow cost is $100.
If you need just 4 tows over those 5 years, you've already broken even.

However, if you only need 1 or 2 tows, you're losing money.
You'd be better off paying out-of-pocket.

The decision ultimately comes down to your personal driving habits and how often you think you'll need the service.
For frequent road-trippers or those with older vehicles, it could be worth the investment.

The Bottom Line: Roadside Assistance Isn't a Scam

While there are certainly valid concerns and potential scams to watch out for, reputable roadside assistance programs can be valuable for many drivers.
They provide a safety net and can save you money in the event of a breakdown.

Just be sure to do your research, read the fine print, and crunch the numbers to determine if it's a worthwhile expense for your specific situation.
For car enthusiasts who spend a lot of time on the road, it could be a wise investment.