Imagine yourself driving far from home and suddenly got into car trouble. You’re on the side of the road, doing a quick Google search for the nearest towing service. Out of desperation, you call the first one you could find only to discover it would cost over a hundred bucks to get your vehicle towed. Did you ever have a chance of getting free towing?
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If this happens to you, don’t panic. The question “how to get my car towed for free” may seem impossible, but you’d be surprised how many free road assistance options you actually have. Planning for this unforeseen (but likely to happen) emergency is the only difference between those who can take advantage of getting their vehicles towed and those who have to shell out money for the towing.
Bookmark this guide – it should help you get free towing and feel more prepared the next time you get yourself into the same problem.
6 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Towing and Roadside Assistance
To get cheap or free towing, make sure you take note of the methods that would fit your vehicle and situation best:
1. Credit Card Companies
What credit card companies have free towing? Of course, it isn’t actually free, because you’re paying an annual fee for the credit cards. But if you maintain one or more credit cards at a time, it’s good to know that you have an option when the need arises.
- Chase Cards – With Chase cards, you can get 5-mile towing, tire change (using your own spare tire), jump start, 5-gallon fuel delivery (you pay for the fuel out of pocket), winch, and lockout service. The roadside assistance will only cover up to $50 per tow, and you can request still serve up to 4x a year. To request roadside assistance, you should call 1-866-359-5402.
- Visa cards – Regardless of the credit card issuer, as long as it is a Visa credit card, you can call 1-800-847-2869 for road assistance anytime. You’d have to pay $69.95 per service, which may include any of the following services: 5-mile towing (pay extra per mile in cash), jump start, winch, lockout service, tire change (using your own spare tire), and 5-gallon fuel (that you’d have to pay cash).
- American Express – The Business Platinum Card®, American Express® Business Gold Card, Hilton Honors Aspire Card, and Delta SkyMiles Reserve, among others all have free roadside assistance benefits. You can get up to 2-gallon gas, lockout service, flat tire (as long as you have a spare), jumpstarts, winching, and free 10-mile towing (you need to pay $3/mile extra beyond this).
Also, check out Capital One® Venture® Rewards and Bank of America® Premium Rewards® – two credit cards known to have the best road assistance flat-rates. Citibank’s Citi Prestige is the only card from this bank with free towing services
MasterCard credit cards also have the same service, but you have to own the vehicle or have papers showing you leased it officially. Discover credit cards used to provide this, but removed it from the card perks in 2015.
Most credit card companies will not bill you annual fees for road assistance, but charge you around $50 to $100 per service call depending on your needs.
Note that credit card companies have their own policies when it comes to roadside assistance, so you should call and ask now to confirm.
While this may not be the free towing you have in mind, having such roadside assistance options and knowing the actual amount you need to have your vehicle towed gives peace of mind to most people. Plus, you don’t need to pay cash while you’re being towed. You can just settle the towing bill once your credit card statement arrives.
2. Car Manufacturers and Car Dealers
What about car warranties, do they include free towing?
Well, it depends. If you’re using a relatively new car that is still under warranty, you may still be able to get free roadside assistance from your coverage. Like with the credit card benefits, the mileage is limited with the service (usually up to 10 miles).
Every automaker sets its limits on how long they would provide new cards free roadside assistance by either by age of vehicle or mileage (ranging from 36,000 to 50,000 miles).
This table comes from the automotive industry resource, Edmunds, and should be a sufficient guide to help you determine your car warranty coverage.
If your vehicle isn’t on this list, I recommend you visit the manufacturer’s website, or call the car dealer where you bought your car and ask for roadside assistance coverage of your car.
If you choose this method, know that some manufacturers or dealers would require the car towed to their nearest location. This can be a good thing if you live near one, but if not; it could carry additional expenses on your part.
3. Car Insurance
What car insurances cover free towing?
If you have an older car and have no credit card with free towing coverage, you can purchase separate car insurance from your trusted auto insurance provider. The law requires car insurance, so it’s either you have one from the car’s manufacturer, or you’ve purchased extended insurance for an older car.
Either way, as long as you have comprehensive and collision auto insurance, you’ll be able to add towing assistance to your coverage.
THE TOWING IS NOT FREE per se, but the $5/month you pay extra for this service is definitely worth it. Imagine all the stress you’d avoid for having towing assistance that you’re not going to pay in cash.
Auto insurance plans with roadside assistance cost between $ 5 and $10 a month. Here are some estimates from known companies:
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The biggest advantage of car insurance plans is that they have better distance limitations. Instead of just 10 miles, the free tow can go for 20 to 30 miles before you have to pay additional per-mile fees.
4. Phone Companies
Most of the major telephone companies offer roadside assistance with monthly plans. You’ll get gas service (you shoulder gas fee depending on how much you need), locksmith assistance, tire changes, and free towing (distance limits apply).
These come from the 2 most popular carries:
- Cost: $2.99 per month billed monthly ($36/year)
- Up to 4 calls per year (max $75 service per call)
- Covers drivers, passengers, family members, their car, and yours, as long as the enrolled phone is present during the car trouble
- Any person the account holder authorizes can use the service.
- Use this service 72 hours after enrolling with this plan
- Fees beyond $75 have to be paid in cash on the day of service (not billed)
- Cost: $3 per month
- Up to 4 calls per year
- Like AT&T, this coverage can be used as long as the account holder (and his/her phone) is present during the incident
- Use this service 48 hours after enrolling with this plan
- Fuel is free up to the third gallon
- Winching (up to $100 worth) and 10-mile towing included
Note that you cannot enroll in any of these plans on the same day you need free towing. You’ll need 2 to 5 days for your plan to be activated and used for road assistance.
As you can see, the coverage is very similar to car insurance, manufacturer warranty, and credit card perks. The amount and services included in the coverage changes between providers.
5. Auto Club Road Assistance Programs
You’ve likely used these road assistance programs in the past. All of them require membership. They advertise nationally, so people recall their names in road trouble and similar emergencies.
Unfortunately, if you used their services without a membership, the fees of towing could be pretty steep. The good news is if you paid for membership, you can get heavily-discounted or free towing and other road assistance services at any time you need it.
How can you sign up for AAA? How much does it cost? What other perks do you get for having AAA? Is it worth signing up for AAA for a free tow even if you have to pay for the membership?
AAA (short for American Automobile Association) is the granddaddy of auto clubs, so I’m sure the majority of you are aware of it.
- AAA Cost: You’ll choose from 3 membership tiers – basic at around $50, plus/single at $80, and premiere at $120. The fees are just estimates because they vary by region. The sign-up fee (around $10 to $20) also varies based on your location.
- Basic membership gets roadside and short-distance towing, up to 3 calls a year
- Plus membership also gets lock-out assistance and towing up to 100 miles, up to 5 calls a year
- Premiere members also have 24-hour concierge service and free towing up to 200 miles
If you’re particular about supporting green companies, then Better World Club is your best bet. Its eco-friendly program, which gives better deals to green cars (those renting hybrids/those who require road assistance for bicycle trouble, and so on).
- Better World Club Cost: They have two plans – basic (around $60/year) and Premium (around $90). BWC gives discounts to customers who drive a hybrid, diesel, or biodiesel vehicle. There’s a sign-up fee of $12 for new customers, but this is waived if you’re switching from AAA.
- Coverage: BWC plans come with five-mile towing for basic and 100-mile for premium plans. Up to four calls per year, with BWC boasting 30 to 60-minute response time after you call.
Allstate offers several options:
- Roadside assistance – This isn’t considered an auto club, so you won’t be paying any annual fees. Instead, pay $70 for 10-mile towing, plus $3/mile after that. Additional services are available and priced individually (for example, tire change goes for $50).
- Motor Club – Covers basic road assistance.
- Cost: There are two plans: Roadside Advantage (about $50/year) and Platinum Elite (about $100/year).
- Coverage: Includes standard assistance for any family members in the car. Services allowable per call is only up to $100 (for Roadside Advantage) or $250 (for Platinum Elite).
- Pay-per-use – As its name suggests, you don’t need to pay membership fees. You just need to create an account and pay for the service rendered whenever you need it.
6. Other Types of Free Towing Programs
Here’s one company that you wouldn’t necessarily think would offer free towing or roadside assistance: Costco.
Yes, Costco offers free roadside assistance for any Costco Executive member enrolled with the auto insurance program as well. If you are, you can receive up to $75 worth of roadside assistance per call.
More Free Stuff for Your Car
As you can see from the methods above, there really is no such thing as free towing or roadside assistance. But opening an account, being picky with your credit cards and car insurance, as well as getting the best membership plans you could find removes the stress of having to find help when you’re actually experiencing car trouble.
Being prepared not only saves you money in the long run, but it also ensures you wouldn’t have to shell out cash that you do not expect.
But if you’re only getting into car trouble because of gas, make sure you never do by learning how to get free gas cards.