Do You Already Have Roadside Assistance and Not Know It?
If you’ve ever had a roadside breakdown, you know what stress and anxiety that experience can bring. Whether it’s flat tires, empty gas tanks or general mechanical failure, you are thrust into a panic situation where you are not in control. When this happens, we call the white knight known as the tow truck.
For these reasons and more, roadside assistance is a universally popular service to have for motor vehicle owners. This is especially true during the winter months when a breakdown can be far more serious due to frigid temperatures. The last thing you want is to be stranded on a snowy roadside.
Some key questions to ask about roadside assistance is – who are the most popular service providers in Canada? What services do I get access to with roadside assistance? Should I subscribe or pay only when I need it? Do I already have roadside assistance?
Let’s answer these questions and more.
What services come with roadside assistance?
Think of roadside assistance as the solution to those “this cannot be happening to me” moments. Examples of these ruinous roadside situations include:
- getting a flat tire
- dead battery or other engine trouble
- running out of gas
- locking your keys in the car
- getting stuck in a ditch
A roadside tow truck can help solve most of these incidents as part of its service. If it can’t, it can at least get you and your vehicle home or to a repair shop. That’s valuable peace of mind for many. There is no greater sight than a tow truck barreling through the snow to come to rescue your battery-dead car on a cold Canadian winter evening.
What are the top emergency roadside service providers?
If you stopped someone on the street and asked them to name one roadside assistance provider, chances are they will say CAA. It is the most well-known in Canada with over 6 million members according to their website. But they’re not the only game in town. Let’s compare:
- CAA: Boasting over 35,000 towing vehicles, CAA is the behemoth of roadside assistance in Canada. It varies by province, but the Basic membership for short-distance commuters usually starts at around $75 a year with up to five emergency calls included and towing up to 10km per call. The Plus membership costs around $120 and typically offers a towing distance of up to 200km, while the Premier membership ($150 per year) will usually get you up to 320km per call. CAA also offers a variety of insurance and travel discounts for its members.
- Costco Roadside Assistance (**Currently unavailable**): Not just good for family-size jars of pistachios, Costco also offers roadside service at a discounted rate of around $70 a year. Of course, you will need a Costco membership, which means additional yearly fees. Their Standard Plus plan offers four emergency calls per year and comes with a 100-kilometre tow range. Costco also offers a 1-year membership to their Vengo Emergency Roadside Assistance package for $75.
- Canadian Tire Roadside: It’s no surprise that the country’s largest retailer in automotive goods also provides a roadside service program. Canadian Tire’s standard Silver Member Plan is $70 with a towing range of 10 kilometres and an emergency call limit of three. For an extra $30, you can get 5 emergency calls and a towing limit of 200km with the Gold Member Plan. There’s also a Silver and Gold Family Plan to consider.
Is it better to subscribe to roadside assistance or pay per use?
Many describe roadside assistance as something you never think about until you really need it. It’s basically an insurance policy against the helpless experience of being stranded somewhere with an uncooperative vehicle. But unlike insurance, you can pay for it only when you need it.
But is that method more economic?
As discussed, basic roadside assistance is not particularly expensive, usually around $7 per month or $70 a year. The service can be tiered with towing expenses covered by distance. For example, basic plans usually give you around 10 kilometres in “free” towing, while a premium plan might offer over 200 kilometres of towing range. If you travel long distances regularly, premium roadside assistance plans seem important to have.
If you’re someone who would rather pay for assistance on the spot, short-distance towing services can range from $60-$100 per tow, and that’s if you’re lucky. If you need to get towed long distances, there will usually be a cost per kilometre to add on. The size of your vehicle and the time of the day may also factor in (extra charge for after-hours or weekends). All in, if you break down in the wrong place and at the wrong time, a one-time tow truck call could set you back up to $300.
But supposing you don’t need a tow, you only need a jump start. That jump is going to be in the $50-$70 range, but this service would be covered by any roadside assistance plan.
So, which makes more sense for your budget? There are a few questions to consider before committing to any plan. How often do you drive your car? Do you just intend to drive locally on familiar roads or is long-distance travel in your plans? Has your car let you down in the past? Do you expect it might in the future?
Also, do you live in a region that gets a lot of snow? Welcome to Canada and the possibility of getting stranded more frequently. When this happens, it’s nice to just have one phone number to call. You don’t want to be stuck Googling “tow truck” in the freezing cold with 5% of battery power left on your phone.
But there’s another question you should ask yourself...
Do I already have roadside assistance
Those who subscribe to roadside assistance usually sign up for it at the point when they complete their auto insurance. It’s usually a box to check and an added line on your auto insurance bill. But even if you declined that option, you might be covered regardless.
The two main vehicles for roadside assistance coverage that may have slipped under your radar are manufacturer and extended warranties. The other is credit cards.
1. Manufacturer and extended warranties in Canada
If you’ve recently bought a brand new car, then it’s unlikely you’re losing sleep over suffering the kind of roadside breakdown that requires assistance. But while brand new cars are generally in peak condition, some will experience defects within the first few months. You might also run out of gas or drive over something sharp and puncture your tire. You will then need roadside assistance, and fortunately, you’re most likely covered under the car’s factory warranty.
Each manufacturer usually has its own roadside assistance program that runs concurrently with the powertrain warranty (typically 5 years/100,000km) or comes attached to the powertrain or comprehensive warranty. Simply dig into your owner’s manual accompanying documents and look for information on such programs. If you come up empty, call the dealership where you bought the vehicle or call the manufacturer's customer service number.
If you’ve bought a used car, the factory warranty and roadside assistance may have expired by the time you become the new owner. If that’s the case maybe you purchased an extended warranty to cover your used car’s health. Extended warranties usually come with coverage for towing costs to the repair shop. Many plans also include fuel or oil delivery and battery boost services.
To check if your extended warranty includes roadside assistance, simply peruse your warranty documents or call your warranty provider for details.
2. Credit cards with roadside assistance
Credit cards are increasingly getting into the insurance and services game to compete for customers. With coverage for everything from travel insurance to cell phone damage, credit cards are expanding their offering in order to differentiate from each other. And this includes roadside assistance!
Roadside assistance might not be an immediately attractive credit card feature like free baggage check at the airport, but it can save you even more if your car fails you someday. As we mentioned, roadside assistance with big auto insurance companies like CAA can cost around $70-$100+ a year. Paying for a tow on the spot, or services like a dead-battery boost or keys locked inside, can cost more than that.
Some of the top credit cards with roadside assistance include:
TD Cash Back Visa Infinite: This TD Cash Back Visa card features the Auto Club membership with its 24/7 coverage and unlimited service calls. This will cover almost every situation and even offer up to $200 in meals and accommodations if you get stuck somewhere.
Triangle World Elite Mastercard: This rewards card is ideal for those looking for some automotive perks. Not only do you get the Roadside Assistance Gold Plan, featuring towing, fuel delivery, and 24/7 coverage, but it offers a host of Canadian Tire Money benefits, plus gas savings at select stations, including Husky.
BMO Cashback World Elite Mastercard: Similar to the Home Trust card, this Mastercard gives you up to four service calls a year, but with a slightly longer towing range offer at 10 kilometres. However, the annual fee is $120 compared to the Home Trust’s $0, so you should weigh that into any decision on getting a card based on its roadside plan.
How to check your credit card for roadside assistance
When you receive your credit card in the mail or at a bank, you will also have received a booklet detailing the credit card’s features. Check those materials for information on a roadside assistance program. If you no longer have the booklet, simply phone the number on the back of your card and inquire about it. These materials might also be available on your card issuer’s website.
Time to upgrade?
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