We researched nearly a dozen different roadside assistance apps, analyzing the costs and the various services they provide. All do involve a cost--even the free apps. It’s just a matter of when you’ll pay for them--upfront as part of the package, or as the services are needed. We looked at basic roadside assistance plans, including towing, flat tire and battery replacement, roadside fuel fill and other services, in making this determination. Our final conclusion is that AAA is the best service overall, based on cost versus benefit.
Roadside assistance service packages cater to a variety of drivers. You really have to analyze the specific services you’re most interested in. The age of your car, as well as the frequency and distances that you drive, are important considerations. The older the car or the longer your trips, the more comprehensive the service package needs to be. We were guided in part by Consumer Reports Roadside assistance programs: Beware the gaps and several third-party reviews.
- Best pay and forget: AAA
- Best free service: Urgent.ly
- Best for security in an emergency: OnStar
- Best pure roadside assistance (and nothing else): Honk
- Best predictable costs: Blink
- Best with other services (traffic, navigation, cheap gas): Waze (with AAA a close second)
Our Selection Methodology
Our selection methodology was based on the following:
- Personal experience in the use of some of the apps
- Cost vs. services provided
- Ease of use of the app or service
- Third party reviews
- Authoritative analyses of roadside assistance programs in general
- Predictability of roadside assistance costs versus money saved on as needed only services
We also narrowed the list of free roadside assistance apps, since there are several available. Since cost is not a factor in these apps, we focused on those we determined to be the most efficient.
With the above methodology in mind, here is our list of the top six best roadside assistance apps for your money.
1 . AAA
Its name is almost synonymous with roadside assistance. AAA was our winner. When 49 million people are willing to pay an annual fee to belong to a roadside assistance service, they’ve voted with their wallets that AAA is worth the price.
And it’s easy to see why. AAA offers near-complete predictability of roadside assistance service costs. You pay a flat fee each year, based on one of three service-level plans, and you’re covered for all services included--towing, flat tire and battery replacement, empty fuel tank, lockout service and more. Under their Premier plan you can even get up to 200 miles on a single tow.
You pay your annual fee, then go about your business, worry-free of being stranded on a roadside somewhere miles from home.
AAA even offers member perks including travel insurance, mobile maps and directions, discounts on hotels, car rentals, attractions and restaurants. They also have life insurance, and various vacation packages available.
Three different member packages are available, one for every budget:
This is the basic package, and it’s available for just $57 per year. It offers free towing up to 5 miles, lockout service up to $50, emergency gas delivery, battery jump starts, flat tire change, and even bicycle coverage and identity theft monitoring.
For $105.50 per year, you get towing up to 100 miles (four tows), battery jump starts, flat tire change, emergency gas delivery, lockout service up to $100, and also bicycle coverage and identity theft monitoring.
This package is $136 per year. You get towing, up to 100 miles for four tows, and up to 200 miles for one tow. You also get battery jump starts, flat tire change, emergency gas delivery, and lockout service up to $150 each for both home and car. It also comes with bicycle coverage and identity theft monitoring. Plus, the identity theft package includes $10,000 in identity theft insurance.
In the runner-up spot, we really liked Urgent.ly. It got a lot of points for being what we considered the best free roadside assistance app available. You pay nothing for downloading the app, and pay only when services are needed. This is a perfect service if you have a late model car, or do very little driving.
The service has been around for 15 years, which means it withstood the test of time. Its also available in all 50 states, 24 hours a day, and every day of the year.
Urgent.ly is like a ridesharing service for roadside assistance. When you get stranded, you enter your location and your assessment of the problem (flat, car won’t start, lock-out, etc.). Various service providers--and there are 55,000 of them across the country--respond to your call for help. You can then choose the provider based on cost and the time it will take to arrive on the scene. This gives you an incredible degree of control over the process.
Because of the competitive nature of the service providers, the app advertises a 50% reduction in response time. Once you select your service provider, you pay online by credit card.
But there’s one other component of the Urgent.ly package that we really liked, and that’s their Family View feature. This is an accident alert detection technology that allows the folks back home--like family members--to track the roadside assistance process from home. It’s an excellent tool for anyone who has young or new drivers in the family, or for someone driving on a long trip or in bad weather.
Much like AAA, OnStar is a paid service, but one that offers more services than the others. However, it’s only available on GM vehicles, including Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac.
Of particular interest is their Automatic Crash Response service. It uses built-in sensors that can automatically alert OnStar, and make first responders aware of the severity of both the crash and potential injuries.
Stolen Vehicle Assistance can pinpoint your vehicle’s location, and work with authorities to recover it. They also have Emergency Services, which provide a priority connection to specially certified and trained advisors who not only contact emergency services but also offer medical assistance by phone.
OnStar offers three different plans, each with its own service level:
Safety & Security Plan
At $24.99 per month or $249.90 per year, this plan provides Automatic Crash Response, Emergency Services, roadside assistance (flat tire, out of gas, or stranded), and Stolen Vehicle Assistance.
Safety & Security Plan + Remote Access
At $34.99 per month or $349.90 per year, you get everything that comes with the Safety & Security Plan. But the plan also comes with Remote Key Fob (remotely unlock your doors using your mobile app), Family Link (to keep tabs on your vehicle, as well as set boundary limits and destination notifications), and On-Demand Diagnostics, where an advisor can run a report and pinpoint the issue.
Safety & Security + Unlimited Access
At $59.99 per month, this plan includes everything offered in the Safety & Security Plan + Remote Access, plus Connected Navigation and unlimited data for 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots.
Honk is an app that connects drivers to towing services and roadside assistance. There’s no fee to join Honk, it’s a free app. Unlike AAA, where you pay an annual fee, and get services as needed, Honk enables you to connect with available service providers in the event of an emergency.
Various services partner with Honk, and form a roadside assistance service that’s similar to Uber and Lyft. If you’re in need of service, you enter your location and situation on the app, and service providers bid for the job. They provide both the cost of the service and an estimated time of arrival.
You, as the user, select the winning bidder, and pay your fee for the service on the app.
The basic idea of Honk is to create competition for the user’s business. With several providers bidding on the job, the user can pick the least expensive service.
5. Blink Roadside
Blink Roadside, or just Blink, is a mobile based roadside assistance service, that enables the user to take advantage of participating service providers. The mobile app claims to be used by over 75 million drivers. The company reports the service is available in 99.4% of ZIP Codes.
The service includes towing, jump starts, spare tire installation, vehicle lockout service, fuel delivery (up to two gallons) and roadside winching.
There is no membership required, and no hidden fees. But they charge flat fees for various services. For example, you pay $49 for roadside services. The fee for towing is $79 per tow for the first 5 miles, then $5 per mile for each mile after. The site claims you can save up to 40% off local market rates, but you have to do a side-by-side comparison of rates in your area to know just how much you’ll save.
Waze is different from the other roadside assistance services on this list, because it’s primarily a community-based traffic and navigation app. In fact, it advertises itself as the world’s largest such app. Drivers participating in the network share real-time traffic and road information, enabling participants to avoid the worst traffic, and seek alternative routes.
Waze enables you to stay in contact with friends who also have the app. You can connect on Facebook and see others driving to your destination or coordinate arrival times. The app may even navigate you to the cheapest gas station on your route, allowing you to save money on fuel.
For roadside assistance, Waze has added a Request Roadside help feature. If you get into a bind, you can send a roadside help report to a fellow Wazer or a service provider to provide assistance. When you enter a report, it will remain live on the map for 30 minutes.
Factors to Consider
Probably the biggest factor to consider is the cost of the service. If you have a newer car and don’t anticipate the need for roadside assistance to any great degree, you may be well served with a free service. After all, there’s no point paying for a service that you have little need for. In this case, you may want to check your auto insurance policy as some provide limited roadside assistance, which may be all you need. However, if you have an older vehicle, or if you tend to travel remotely on a frequent basis, a paid service may be the better choice.
Sooner or later, everyone gets into a situation where they need roadside assistance. It could be a flat tire, getting stuck in a ditch, a dead battery, or just a mystery stall out. Whatever the cause, a good roadside assistance app can get you through the moment.
Lastly, imagine the sense of security you’ll feel if you happen to be stranded in a remote area. Just knowing there’s someone to contact to dispatch help your way can provide incredible peace of mind.