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Is it cheaper to buy roadside assistance through your car insurance company?

Whether your car breaks down, you run out of gas or get a flat, you're first instinct may be to call AAA or another service. But your car insurer may offer roadside assistance coverage at a much better price.

A motorist uses a gauge to check air pressure in a tire in Portland, Maine, in this 2006 file photo.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP/File
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Most people will need to get some roadside assistance at one point in their life. Whether your car breaks down, you run out of gas or get a flat, you're first instinct may be to call AAA or another service. What you may not realize though is that your car insurance company may offer roadside assistance coverage at a much better price than AAA or other similar services. It's not always the case, but there are many instances where it will be better to go through your insurer. So when are those times?

Roadside Assistance Through Your Insurance

All of the major national insurance companies offer roadside assistance coverage as an optional addition to your main policy. So what is covered? Most things basically. When it comes to roadside assistance, you want to be covered for the following: flat tire, dead battery jump start, winching (getting your car unstuck), locked out of car and fuel delivery. Roadside assistance through your insurer will cover all of those things. Every company with the exception of Allstate, charges you a monthly payment as part of your premium. Allstate is the exception which charges $125 per service call.

Overall, your insurance company offers this policy for less than $25 per year, so only a few dollars per month. Depending on the age of the car and your driving history, rates may be a bit more expensive. Roadside assistance coverage provided by insurance companies are also open 24/7, so you may call no matter what hour of the day your car breaks down. The toll-free hotline number will arrange everything, such as calling a tow truck.

A potential downside to going with your car insurer however is that some require you have comprehensive or collision insurance on your policy. Collision and comprehensive are optional, but usually expensive, parts of auto insurance. While we recommend most drivers still add them, if you do not want to have it on your policy, you may not be able to get roadside assistance coverage.

Roadside Assistance Outside of Your Insurance

Getting roadside assistance outside of your insurance company usually requires being a member of AAA or other services such as Urgent.ly. AAA is usually the stalwart in roadside assistance and can boast several million members across the country. The coverage afforded to you by AAA, Urgent.ly and similar companies is the same as those provided by your insurance company: flat tire replacement, lock out services, fuel delivery, dead battery jump, et cetera. There is a price difference between AAA, Urgent.ly and your insurer however.

To call AAA you need to be a member, of which there are three tiers: basic, plus and premium. Basic membership is mandatory for at least one year, and only covers you for three miles worth of towing, which is less than what most insurers offer with their coverage. The Plus plan, which is most comparable to the coverage offered by insurance companies costs $92 per year, which is a bit more expensive than coverage offered by State Farm, GEICO, Progressive and Farmers. On the other hand, while AAA may be a little more expensive, being a member entitles you to several other benefits and discounts for other things outside of your car. Discounted rates with rental cars and certain hotels could actually make AAA a more worthwhile investment if you plan to travel often.

Urgent.ly is not a membership like AAA, but a place to call if your car has broken down. Costs for a tow are usually at least $99, while other services like a flat tire, lock out and dead battery are $75. Urgent.ly is still a bit more expensive than what insurance companies offer. If you have to tow anything over 10 miles as well, it becomes more expensive than AAA, without the added benefits and discounts. Urgent.ly also only operates in major cities in states, excluding large parts of different states. Urgent.ly may be the best option though for people who do not drive often, thus are less likely for a car breakdown. With AAA and your insurance company you have to pay even if you never have to use the coverage.

Should You Go with Your Insurance Company?

We would recommend going with the insurance company for the following people: those who have collision and/or comprehensive coverage on their normal policy, those who drive often and those who will not stand to benefit from the AAA benefits. Overall your insurer offers you the best price. If you drive often, your car is more likely to break down as well, so you have a greater likelihood of actually using the insurance. Finally, if you can't see yourself benefiting from AAA's other discounts, then the price you pay at AAA won't really be worth it.

This story originally appeared on Value Penguin.

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