How to Choose a Roadside Assistance Provider
It used to be that you’d be hanging out with your buddies in downtown Victoria, and if someone accidentally locked their keys in their car, someone else would know somebody with a BCAA membership. Problem solved.
But these days, BCAA is no longer the frontrunner in the roadside assistance realm, as it seems like every man and their dog is offering some sort of roadside assistance package.
Consumers can now purchase their plans through big box stores, local towing companies and ICBC. Even banks, credit card companies and cell phone providers are throwing in roadside assistance packages to sweeten their deals.
What is Roadside Assistance?
If you’re on the road a lot, or have teenagers at home who are regularly borrowing the car, roadside assistance is worth every penny and often pays for itself with just one use of the services they provide.
Think of it as another layer of insurance, where, if you ever require a tow, or experience a flat tire, dead battery, empty gas tank or a minor accident, help shows up fast and free of charge.
How to Choose a Roadside Assistance Provider
Determine If You Are Already Covered
If you purchased your car brand new, or freshly used from a dealership, chances are its factory warranty includes some variation of roadside assistance. Ask the dealership to look into it if you are not sure.
Likewise, if you purchased extended warranty when you bought your car, you are likely covered. This level of protection might be adequate, but it only covers you for when you are in that vehicle, whereas other plans are portable and remain with you, no matter what car you’re in.
Decide What You Need
Although they all work on the same basic principles, each roadside assistance plan offers slightly different options. Some have built-in extras, like hotel discounts and special rates for rental cars, while others have severe limitations, such as a set maximum amount of times you are able to use the service per year.
Plans also differ in how wide of a service area they cover, how many kilometers they are willing to tow you without added costs, and general wait times.
Where to Start
Start comparing plans by first looking into a business you hit up a lot, and comparing their numbers to the guy down the street. It all comes down to options, and as you know by your cable bill, the more options packed into the package, the higher the cost.
In general, roadside assistance plans vary in the following ways:
Find out what the price of the plan includes, and what costs extra. For example, it might cost more to include family members in the plan, but still be cheaper to all be under one plan. Is there a special promotion going on, and how long is the contract for? Is it non-negotiable?
- Towing Capacity.
Most plans include towing services, so read the fine print to see the maximum distance they are willing to tow you. If you don’t commute, this number won’t affect your decision as much as it would if say, you commute to Nanaimo or Duncan a few times a week. Also, plans should explicitly state where they will tow your car for servicing. Is it the nearest auto mechanic, or the nearest dealership?
- Amount of Service Calls Included:
Unlike your Netflix account, there is no such thing as “unlimited” when it comes to roadside assistance. Most plans will cover up to three or four service calls in an annual membership fee. Exceed this limit, and you will most likely have to pay full price the next time you need a hand.
- Service Range:
Some plans are hyper-local, while others offer nationwide service. If you travel frequently, a plan that can accommodate you, even when you are out of province, is going to be more useful. And if you want more assurance during bad weather, you should opt for a larger company with a greater capacity to handle large call volumes.
When it comes time to shake hands after a service call, some plans make you pay upfront, only to reimburse you later. If this is not ideal for you, keep shopping around.
Get a Second Opinion
Like the majority of Nicholas Cage’s recent movies, roadside assistance providers fall victim to a barrage of negative reviews, many of which are from outspoken folks who say the level of customer service they expected just wasn’t there. Read some online reviews—they’re going to be everywhere—before deciding on a plan, and find out which provider your friends and family swear by.
Mix and Match
There’s no rule saying you can’t double-up your roadside assistance, after all, the roadside assistance built in to your new vehicle purchase may not fit your needs. And if your car or truck is prone to breakdowns, you might just need extra service calls. (However, if your vehicle is really that bad, we believe a better idea is to come see us at Searles for a tune-up!)
Roadside assistance is a worthy investment, no matter what company you end up choosing. We swear by it so much that when you bring your car to Searles for a major repair, we will provide you with a complimentary Roadside Assistance Card that is good for six months anywhere in North America! Book now to experience the Searles difference.