Some friends recently had a discussion – more like a heated debate – about whether or not it was a good idea to purchase a roadside insurance assistance package before their upcoming road trip.

Once bickering stopped, we determined one friend had an auto insurance policy that covered roadside assistance. The other friend had no idea if, or what, his policy covered.

Consider all of your car insurance details before calling a tow company.
Consider all of your car insurance details before calling a tow company.

They agreed they need a few question answered to decide whose vehicle they were going to use.

Did they have coverage for towing and labor as part of an insurance package?

Some policies will cover the cost of having a car towed to a mechanic. Some may also cover the cost of the labor required to get it running again – not the cost of parts but the cost of labor – to a degree.
Reading the fine print will tell you what the limit on labor is, or outline specifics. For instance, it might cover the minor labor costs of adding oil or changing a belt, but not the cost of a more significant and time heavy repair.

To determine whether you are covered, you want to look for something in your policy that refers to roadside assistance or perhaps references comprehensive coverage. If you don’t see it, check with your broker to be sure.

Your tow provider or theirs?

Some insurance providers may want you to call them so they can call in a tow provider. In that case, they may either cover the up front cost of the tow, or may have a previously negotiated rate at a discounted priced.

In other cases, you may be fine to call whomever you want, paying the upfront costs and then being reimbursed. It’s important to know what is expected so you know what is covered. It can avoid a situation in which you’ve made the wrong decision — and will pay for it. You also want to understand the pros and cons of options, and whether you have any.

Details matter

The crux of my friends’ debate was whether to buy a roadside assist package before they headed out on their road trip. Based on their itinerary, there were specific questions that needed to make a proper decision.

Assuming they had to call the insurance company to get a tow, how easy was it to reach a 24/7 call-in service – since they planned to do a lot of late evening driving – which would in turn then call for a tow? What was the typical wait time on a tow booked through the insurer? What happened if they were between states or in a remote location? Did things change if the required tow was because of an accident?

Assuming they could call for their own tow, would the insurer cover the full cost involved with the roadside assist? Were there a list of approved tow providers and was the package they considered part of the approved list?

It’s important as well to ask about exceptions. What if they decided to book a rental vehicle? Would tow services still be covered? Were there circumstances in which a tow was required that the insurance would not cover?

The claim process

If a tow is handled directly through the insurance company, presumably there will be nothing to file, no paperwork to deal with, because everything would be between the tow company and the insurer. If there is a lower negotiated price or you pay up front and get reimbursed, what is the process, how long does it take, and is there anything that can hold up or see a claim denied? You may also want to ask whether using a tow service, or a tow claim, will impact your premiums over time, or whether there is a maximum limit that will be covered over a set time.

Use a qualified tow expertoro Road Runners

If you are able to call your own tow company, it’s important to use a qualified tow expert, like Toro Road Runners to be sure you’re getting expert and professional attention and a 24/7 tow service that isn’t going to cause more damage to the vehicle. That’s another insurance question and another debate.

Text by: Gili Carmi

 

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