I’ve never really given thought about buying roadside assistance protection before as I considered it just another unnecessary cost.  However, with an alternator failure the other day in our 8 year old car, it made me think about what it would cost to get a tow truck should I ever need one.   Along the same line of thought, the idea of roadside assistance started to appeal to me.  Being the comparison shopper that I am, I started to do some digging around on the available roadside assistance options out there.

From my research, there seems to be quite a few players in the Canadian roadside assistance industry.  They all seem to price their packages in the same range,with similar offerings as well.

CIBC Auto Club Costco CAA Plus Deluxe TD Auto Club PC Financial CAD Tire Gold Plan
Cost $99.95 $134.95 $117 $79 $69.97 $99.95
Towing KM 250km 200km 160km $200km 40km 250km
Traffic Accident Coverage $600 $500 (more than 250km from home) $500 Covers towing, accomm, car rental, meals $700 (more than 250km from home) $200 (more than 100km from home)
Calls Per Year 8 4 5 Unlimited ? 5
Battery Boost Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Flat Tire Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gas Delivery Yes, Free Yes, Free Yes, Free Yes, Free Yes, Pay for Gas Yes, Free
Lockout Service Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trip Accident Insurance $0 $0 $500k $0 $0 $0
Extrication Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Extras Trip planning services 20% ($27) off  for Exec members Trip planning services, CAA discounts at various establishments Free with TD Gold Visa, trip planning services. Only for PC M/C customers, trip planning services, 1 free oil change, trip planning services

As you can see from the table, most of the offerings are very similar with a bit of variation in price.  The beauty of a table like this is that every option can be compared side by side.  At first glance, it seems that the TD Deluxe Auto Club provides the most value.  For $80 per year, it’s among the lowest cost, but with the most benefits.

Roadside assistance is just like purchasing insurance.  You buy it in the hopes that you’ll never use it.  However, is the $100/year worth the peace of mind and convenience?  Or could you call a tow truck yourself and pay as you go?  Locked out of a car?  Perhaps keep an extra set at home or with a family member.  Battery dead?  Keep a pair of cables in your trunk and call family/friends for a boost.

How many of you have roadside assistance?  Which company do you recommend?

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I had Costco’s roadside assistance when my car broke down on Vancouver Island just outside Sidney. The call centre kept calling tow trucks out of Vancouver, because according to them, “Vancouver is on Vancouver Island, Victoria is on Victoria Island.”

We have used CAA for years and I’ve always felt that the $100 was well worth it. If you get a tow once every two years or so, it pays for itself. We’ve had a couple of breakdowns where they’ve been a huge help. Remember also that CAA gets you discounts at hotels, gives you free maps and guidebooks when you travel, and some other side benefits that make it well worth $100 a year.

I guess it all depends on which roadside assistance cover is right for you, some companies offr more benegits but you don’t want to be paying for something that you don’t even need.
I think online comparison sites are a great way to be sure you are getting the best deal but as the says goes, always read the small print!

Up till 2 years ago, I never considered there to be a need at all for roadside assistance. But then I learned that I could get movie passes cheaper at CAA, which are used just like cash, always accepted. This was enough of a benefit on it’s own to swing me over. The yearly premium for CAA isn’t that great – I only have the minimum coverage, not the CAA Plus, I have the piece of mind that I’m covered (to date has not been used), and I get discounted movie tickets. I also was able to get reasonable health insurance coverage for a trip for my dad (senior, and you know how insurance can cost), and he’s not even a member. I strongly urge all MDJ fans to check it out. It’s one of few things I wish I had done years earlier.

Good, useful article FT. Now, are extrication services if your car is stuck or is it for you if you’ve eaten too much drive through and can’t get out of your car?

I have had CAA for a few years. The price is worth the peace of mind plus if something were to happen and it was my wife and kids in the car without me she would not have to deal with changing a flat, getting a boost, etc. Just make a quick call and wait for help to arrive.

One additional metric for comparison is whether the coverage is on a “per driver” or “per automobile” basis. For example, I remember going with Canadian Tire years back because they covered the car regardless of the driver, whereas CAA required an additional “associate membership” (or something to that effect) for a secondary driver.

My wife and I use Mastercard’s Roadside Assistance Plan whenever the situation arises. It is included as part of your benefits on the standard no fee Mastercard. Basically there is a fixed fee of around $80.00 for a tow anywhere within 100 km or so….

I am sorry I don’t have the specifics with respect to the exact fee and distance, but the numbers are in the “ball park”….. we used the service a couple years ago with no issues. Unless you have more than one breakdown a year, I think the MC deal is a good one

We have roadside assistance. I wouldn’t want my spouse to be stranded anywhere. We have a Husky right buy our house and always file up there. They have some type of program where we swipe our card and get points towards our membership costs.

FYI: there’s also http://www.hbc.com/hbcfinancial/membership-services/en/auto.shtml. We are members, even though I cannot tell you how good it is because my car never broke in 3 years.

I currently have it through my phone provider about $60/yr gives 5 calls/yr. towing $50 limit and battery boost, gas deliver (pay for gas), lockout service……not very comprehensive but in the past 10 years only 1 time did I have to pay extra for towing services. It doesnt have to be my car to use the service, I have often used it for friends and family members.

How does the Roadside Assistance included in the $50/yr BMO Shell MasterCard compare?

I’m a big fan of my TD Gold Elite Visa card because of the included TD Auto Club Membership, car rental insurance, and 1% cash back with no spending tiers or limits.

I’ve used the Auto Club at least twice, and had the car rental insurance cover $2500 in damage caused by my father on a car I rented. I’ve never had any issues with the service.

I find that the $99 annual fee more than makes up for these benefits.

Sorry, another sell for TD Select Services ;-p

Adding that
$5000 minimum balance leads to (–>) TD Select Service –> free TD Gold Elite or TD Travel Infinite VISA cards –> free auto club

Not to mention below “freebies” with TD Select Service
– Free USD account –> free TD USD VISA
– Free safety deposit box
– unlimited transaction

I have used the battery boost a few times, very courteous and quick service, tow truck distance is limited but anything longer, my insurance covered it (hint: insurance is involved = not good)

Personally I’ve found only one situation in 12 years of driving did I need service and that tow driver charged me $60 for extrication from an idiot manouvre on my part.

But I agree with others if I had loved ones, then I would get it. On my own can’t justify the cost unless I did a lot of out of town driving.

If I did want it, I’d get TD select service. That’s like 1.6% yield on the based on the $80 value of the service if you kept $5000 in the account. Otherwise I’d hate to have $5k idle

Over the years I have had to use roadside assistance many times, however I now have a new car and it comes with roadside assistance for 5 years. I considered cancelling my roadside assistance that I have through BCAA but had to consider the other benefits that come with the membership.
I live in a smallish city in BC and moved here from Toronto, I chose to keep my CAA coverage which I had in Toronto. The basic coverage is the best for me because I get my car & home insurance through them also and the cost of the membership is covered by the discount I get on the insurance. And in BC if you fill up at a Mohawk gas station you get a discount on your membership.

I have had CAA for about 10YRS now, used them 2 times over that span. By looking through my Auto insurance I found out it actually includes roadside assistance with my premium. Its nothing comprehensive but covers all the basics (flat tire, min. tow, boost, lock out ect) so I have since canceled CAA. I figured its not worth the cost of a separate membership unless you have an older car that you are putting a lot of miles on or you are taking advantage of the travel benefits that come with these memberships. (Which I was not doing a whole lot of.)

I have had CAA for years and still have it. When they use to be partnered with Sunoco, I would get CAA dollars every time I get gas and swipe my CAA card. Long story short, all the dollars I accumulated from going to Sunoco went directly to my renewal. One year it cost me 11 dollars. They are no longer associated with Sunoco. I have not considered getting another coverage as I use to have two cars. Now only down to one, the newer one still has road side 24 assistance with Nissan. But the other thing I like about CAA is the various discounts you get not just here but in the states as well. Great table and didn’t realize that some of the places listed even carried road side assistance.

I really have gotten my money’s worth out of my CAA membership. I don’t think there has been a year in which I haven’t used at least something on my CAA since we purchased it about 3 years ago.

I got CAA when my car battery died and I had to call my brother for a boost. Towing in upto 200KM

Check with you car insurance company to see if they offer a roadside assistance add-on. For $5/year (yes, $5/year!) my company will reimburse me for towing and locksmith services. I have to pay up front and submit a mini-claim, but for the savings it is well worth it.

I don’t get any of the other fancy bits (trip planning, free maps, etc.) but I also don’t need all of those other fancy bits.

I have been happy with TD Visa Gold Elite as well. Used a couple of times by wife with good, prompt service. 1% cash back on everything and no annual fee if one asks fee to be waived.

Also have been driving Acura’s and their roadside is also very good with no extra charge as far as I know. Came quickly for flats on 2 occasions. Cheers.

CAA has been an excellent choice for me and now my family. We have two cars, but one is over 15 years old. Over the past 5 years I’ve had the battery die, needed a boost a few times, had two flat tires, 2 lockouts and the car needed towing twice.

Every time the service from CAA has been ridiculously fast and friendly. In fact, I bought a battery from them. Shortly after, I was on vacation for two weeks and accidentally left an interior light on, which drained the new battery. They replaced the battery on the spot, no questions, no charge (I kept the receipt in the glove box).

There honestly just aren’t enough good things I can say about my CAA plus membership. Especially given my ancient car.

I use CAA here in British Columbia. It’s not just roadside assistance that you get with this as other posters have mentioned. Ever want to buy a map of that city you are going to visit? Free at CAA, which has come in handy plenty of times at no additional cost. I also get line item discount for buying car and apartment insurance through them as well which helps with the cost not covered in this summary.

I have used CAA plus a couple of times because it includes motorcycle coverage which I have had to use with a flat tire. Used it once on our car when it was pouring rain to change a tire and have used it three times for other family members for towing.

I probably have other coverage with TD Select service and with my car insurance, and our newer car warranty but there is a different level of service you get from CAA and the maps are good too.

Offtopic:
Hey FrugalTrader.. I just published my podcast interview with Jon Chevreau – author of Findependence Day. During our discussion he mentioned that your blog was one that he visits !! MDJ seems to be popular with the other bloggers I’ve interviewed as well! Nicely done!

Check out this interesting discussion with Jon Chevreau!

I’m inviting all Canadian PF bloggers to participate in my Personal Finance Podcasts for Canadians Series… Let me know if you’re interested.

Cheers!

Have had BCAA (CAA) for about 17 years and in the early days, use them often (had old cars) and even used them when I locked keys in a friends trunk. In the last 10 years have only had to use them one. I try to buy my gas at Mohawk or Husky which give a small percentage of purchase price towards renewal of membership.

I’m considering cancelling the membership as I figure with one call out in 10 years, it would just be cheaper to pay for the service directly. I’m also going to look into the Mastercard $5 option that someone mentioned above.

I had the TD Gold Elite card for some time (no fee with the chequing account we have), and thankfully never had the opportunity to try their services. Then I got the wise idea to switch it to the TD Travel Infinity Visa (also no fee with our account) thinking we could go on a holiday. Promptly after making the switch, our alternator seized about 20 minutes outside of Calgary’s city limits. One Humpty’s breakfast (we broke down right outside the only restaurant for miles)and an expensive tow into downtown Calgary (the only garage willing to sneak in the out-of-towners and save the day) I was feeling pretty sheepish!

I wonder how many travel points I earned on the tow and repair bill?! ;-)

When I went searching for cheap auto insurance a couple of years ago, it turns out that the insurance offered to CAA members from Alberta Motor Association was $500 per year lower than my insurance broker quoted. So that makes it much easier to swallow the cost of membership.

It’s all a matter of perspective…and everybody’s different. We no longer make really long car trips (ie NS to Ontario, via the States, etc) so I think that for us we no longer require the extra ‘piece of mind’ roadside assistance for the “loved ones”. Most of our trips are within a 300km radius of home. We keep a short list of tow operators that we have used (2 in the three years.) At $80/tow (cash) I think that means I’m ahead $140 bucks on the average $100/year CAA membership over three years. We had CAA before and GMC roadside assistance before that on a previous vehicle. Keep your money and keep an independant tow operator’s number in your cell phone. And get a great mechanic and keep him (or her on your cell phone too! :) Should we return to the annual need to drive across this great land of ours we might revisit our needs.

FT

Our two cars are 5 and 9 years old now. We got rid of the 14 year old car last spring to upgrade to the “new” one.

I just received an offer in the mail for a CAA basic membership affiliated with Petro Canada.

You get the membership for $54 ($64 if you don’t use sign up for automatic renewal) plus 10,000 Petro Points plus a North American atlas. In addition if you want another family member covered their fee is $31. The membership covers any car the member is in even if it is just a friend or coworker.

Plus you have 8 months to decide if you like it or cancel for a full refund.

No where in the mailer do they try to upwelling to a Plus membership. They don’t even explain the differences.

Shawn S. Good point. We went with Canadian Tire for a while for the same reason. We only have one car and it was much cheaper to get the car covered for whoever was driving it than to get protection for two people which we would have had to get if we went with CAA.

In the end we cancelled because we never used it. Their plans have changes since then and have gone up in price. I like the idea of their ‘roadside on request’ plan but hate that they’ll only take you to a Canadian Tire for car repairs.

Cancelled my spouse’ lame, over-priced BCAA coverage and continued with my TD Deluxe Auto Club – which also covers her as my spouse.

The decision was easy and satisfying.

PS Have also had several occasions on which to utilize the TD Club and was never disappointed.

Had CAA plus for years. Used it a few times. It’s great peace of mind, and a relief when they come to help. A no brainer IMO. used to always get the triptics (sp?) when going on a trip, but GPS made that serviece obsolete. Save money on hotels all over NA. Makes my cost basically free by doing that.

I’ve never done a comparison with others. Thanks for doing it. Won’t switch for a few dollars as CAA service has been fast everytime, and travel discounts are good.

We use CAA, their basic package. No complaints. With older vehicles, every few years the membership pays for itself. We pay about $85 for both memberships. Given the extras, triptiks, maps and other services, you can’t beat it for pennies a day piece of mind.

I have AAA roadside assistance and it only costs $50 a year – real cheap and great service. You can call them any hour of the day and they’ll also help you out if u lock yourself out of the car.

This is especially good for those with older cars. I don’t know if they have AAA in Canada though.

Hey Frugal

I’ve been with the Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance program for close to 3 years now. I’ve used them a grand total of 6 times in 3 years and was I glad that I had their number each time. They were generally quick to respond and did a good job each time. Have no complaints and will continue to use them going forward.

Easy trick:

Don’t buy road side assistance. The first time you need it, buy it. You can purchase CAA over the phone with a credit card and they will help you out immediately. At this point the CAA membership is an alternative for paying for a tow, and the overall cost is probably pretty comparable, but you get the protection for the rest of the year.

I’ve done this myself, it works!

Do any of these services cover driving in the US? I haven’t had my vehicle need such a service except once when I was driving to our Corporate HQ in the US.

You’re right oneadvice, online comparision sites are the best way to get the best deal for me too.

Jean

I agree that, in normal city driving in an average vehicle, road-side assistance isn’t necessary, for the price. However, I have a CAA membership, which also gives me discounts on my home insurance. As the discounts are more than the cost of the annual membership, I am basically receiving road-side assistance coverage for free.

I had been with CAA for years until about a year & a half ago. After I got a renewal notice/invoice, I switched to “PC Financial Roadside Assistance”. The reason being, they say there are 3 ‘Free” calls per year but on the renewal, they said they were increasing my fee because I’d used 3 calls the previous year!!! I’d called for things like unlocking the door & a short tow (5 kms). D’oh! Free eh?! Not! I said ‘ADIOS!’ to CAA & switched to PC. I’ve had to call for a tow once since & had good service. No regrets.

We have two vehicles as well as a motorcycle and three children that drive so either need coverage on all three vehicles or on all five of us – any suggestions?

@Kathryn- Canadian tire will actually tow you to any location of your choice within the limits of your plan, it does not have to be Canadian Tire. HOWEVER, if you do go to Canadian Tire it does not count as one of your service calls for the year. I was hesitant about purchasing a plan from them for the same reasons but when I called their customer service number the gentleman explained how there plans actually work. Hopefully I wont actually ever have to use it.

In Reply to Kathryn,

“I like the idea of their ‘roadside on request’ plan but hate that they’ll only take you to a Canadian Tire for car repairs.”

it’s not true, the gold, silver and ror plans will tow you anywhere you like. The extra to that they do unlimited tows to canadian tire. So as where caa plus give you 5 claims…canadian tire gives you 5 claims anywhere, and as many tows as you need to canadian tire as a bonus. Oh plus you can’t beat that package of coupons, one free oil change and 4 discounted ones every year. I’ve had the plan for years now and I love it. (more then caa) ;)

I have TD Delux road side assisstance, unfortunatley my experience is very very bad, the call centre guy avoiding to send tow truck, my car tire rod broken, he said it’s an accident, I explained him this is not but he refused me to serve

please never buy TD Delux membership

My experience with TD deluxe Auto Club is terrible. My car battery was dead, and I was on the phone with the call centre for 45 minutes. The agent had difficulty finding my location on googlemap or other map services, and I had to help him for 30 minutes to find my location. I had to repeat the same excruciating experience to help the agent locate the destination. Finally, after 45 minutes, I gave up. I called the Auto Club later to lodge a service complaint, and got a bland “thank you for calling” type of response. They would start an internal review, but I would not receive any follow-up or offer for the trouble.

This is just thoroughly bad customer service. They did not deliver the promised service when I was distress and needed it the most.

We have had Alberta Motor Association for almost 2 years now, the AMA Roadside assistance SUCKS! Honestly, we broke down in Niagara Falls[starter solenoid], after a half hour of talking to somebody on their 1-800 number operator we simply gave up. It was 11:00 pm at night beside the Niagara Falls, and the only thing the operator on the telephone was interested in was trying to troubleshoot our car problems on the phone. ALL WE wanted was a TOW! Simple, it used to be that was what tow trucks were used for. We did not want a telephone mechanic, we did not want the tow truck operator to show up an start pulling wrenches on our car, we just wanted a tow to a repair facility. We gave up. We got some local help. We continued our trip across the continent and broke down in Burlington, Vermont[alternator]. This time when we phoned their toll free phone number in the United States, and they simply tried to Dodge the main issue which was; Would somebody please send us a tow truck? We even phoned the Alberta Motor Association when we returned to Canada, and they did not offer to help us in any way or form. Now here we have a snow storm that finished a couple of days ago, and the same old story. Our other car the fuel pump is gone 170,000 kms, and we once again can not get a tow truck to show up. It is sad and pathetic, all at once. We are canceling our AMA membership and we will buy Roadside Assistance from ANYBODY but AMA. The AMA roadside assistance is a complete WASTE of Money. Take you money and BURN it, it will be a more enjoyable experience.