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TAMPA, Fla. — Roadside assistance can be a lifesaver if you need to jumpstart a dead battery or fix a flat tire.
The popular service is often a relatively inexpensive add-on to your auto insurance coverage.
But could using it too much wind up costing you more down the road?
VERIFY viewer Courtney asked if it’s true that each call for assistance counts as a claim on your policy.
Yes, roadside assistance calls can count as claims on your policy but generally insurers do not have a set limit for how many emergency road service claims you can make before it impacts your rates. Excessive claims could flag your policy for review.
In an emergency or a bind, roadside assistance coverage can help get you back on the road, and with existing full collision and comprehensive coverage, it’s usually a reasonable add-on to your policy, Mark Friedlander with the Insurance Information Institute said.
“It runs maybe $10 to $15 a year to add it on,” Friedlander said. “The one caveat is how much can you use the service before it has a negative impact on you.”
Using it for emergency situations, a few times a year, shouldn’t have any impact on your insurance costs or coverage, he said. But if you have an unreliable vehicle you’re going to run into a problem.
“If you have a vehicle that never starts—you have to call the roadside assistance once a week to have them jumpstart your car because you have a bad battery—these claims, even though they’re small compared to say, a collision claim on your car, they add up.”
If you have a lot of roadside assistance claims, according to Friedlander, you are going to be labeled a high-risk policyholder.
But how many becomes too many?
It varies by insurer, unfortunately, so there is no hard and fast limit.
“It’s up to each company. They have their own guidelines when it comes to what roadside assistance claims, duty or coverage,” Friedlander said. “But if you’re using this quite regularly, most likely, you’re going to raise a flag with your insurer.”
That flag could lead to higher rates or your insurer choosing not to renew your policy.
In Florida, insurers are required to give you 120 days written notice if they’re not going to renew your policy.
VERIFY reached out to five of the most popular insurance providers—USAA, State Farm, Geico, Progressive and Nationwide—asking if they had set limits for roadside assistance claims before it could start impacting your rate.
A spokesperson for Nationwide told VERIFY “abuse of service” could result in cancellation of roadside assistance coverage but requests, regardless of volume, would not affect your premium.
Asked what would constitute an “abuse of service,” VERIFY did not receive a response.
A USAA spokesperson did not directly address our question, saying, “In general, insurance companies do not put a limit on the number of claims a policyholder can make,” while adding that a number of factors can impact premiums.
“There’s no industry standard,” Friedlander said. “But it’s pretty clear to us based on what we see in the marketplace if you are using your roadside assistance quite regularly, you will raise some type of high-risk flag with your auto insurance.”
There are other roadside assistance options not tied to your insurance. Popular options can include private auto clubs like AAA, and even some credit cards offer the service. Most automakers also offer roadside assistance plans up to so many miles or months after the purchase of a new vehicle.
But, Friedlander notes, none of those options are unlimited either.
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