Assistance – Who Should You Call?
It’s late and you’re driving your car rental along an unfamiliar roadway. Suddenly, you hear a popping noise and the car begins to heave to the right. You’ve got a flat – now what?
Most car rental customers rarely stop to think about what to do when their rental vehicle malfunctions, a critical error that can cost you a ton in unexpected towing costs. Don’t let poor preparation leave you stranded on the side of the road. Car Rental Express has the inside scoop on car rental roadside assistance protection.
Be Weary of Agency Assistance
Most major car rental companies boast their own car rental roadside assistance programs, many of which are offered at no additional charge. Unfortunately, there’s a catch – these basic assistance programs only cover issues that couldn’t have been caused by driver neglect. That pretty much rules out everything except for an engine malfunction – flat tires, locking your keys in the cars, lost keys, a dead battery due to customer neglect (i.e. leaving your lights on) can all be traced back to customer error. Premium car rental roadside assistance programs will often waive the fee for some of these services, but you’ll still be on the hook for the cost of towing if you choose to have your vehicle towed instead of driving it after roadside assistance has come out and fixed the issue.
Be sure to review our car rental comparison search results to learn which companies offer car rental roadside assistance.
The Moral of the Story
Before you hit the road in your car rental, review your personal roadside assistance plans. Many motor club programs cover the person and not just the vehicle, which means you’re protected even if you’re driving a rental. Taking the time to review all of the details of your roadside assistance program (or programs) can really pay off when you’re stranded in a foreign place. Here’s a quick review of some of the more popular free and stand-alone programs.
Free Plans from Credit Cards and Cell Phone Providers
These roadside assistance programs require some close scrutiny. Two supposed carriers have faced lawsuits for charging customers for services that appeared to be free as part of the program. If you think you’re covered by a free plan, read the small print. For example, some cell-phone-based plans require that the assistance call be placed from the cell phone that includes the plan.
Free credit card plans are never as good as they first appear. After a closer review of the small print, these services often turn out to be more of a glorified dispatch service rather than roadside coverage. When you call, the credit card company will send a tow service to your rescue, only to add the charges to your credit card account at a later date.
There are numerous organizations out there that offer roadside assistance plans for a small charge, provided you’re already a member. Sam’s Club and AARP are two good examples. These plans are usually contracted out from a national assistance provider, like Road America. Again, make sure you read the small print before signing up. Each program comes with its share of conditions. If you obtain a roadside program through a personal Allstate insurance policy, for example, you’ll only be covered if the assistance request is for the vehicle insured on your policy. What’s more, some insurance companies treat roadside assistance requests through their add-on plans similar to accident-claims. Too many calls and you could be hit with an unpleasant price increase.
Stand-alone Options to Consider
If you do a lot of driving, you’ve probably taken the time to invest in a stand-alone roadside assistance plan. These plans offer a full range of service, and often cover calls to rental vehicles. AAA (or CAA in Canada) actual connects clients to dozens of regional auto clubs, providing you with coverage from coast to coast. This organization also inspects auto repair companies and will arbitrate complaints made by members.
Reviewing roadside assistance options can certainly be frustrating, but the piece of mind you’ll have when traveling is well worth the hassle.