Australia has the 9th biggest road network in the world, which can be both boon and bane because driving on long solitary roads is also a cause for concern and inconvenience to motorists. What if your car breaks down? What if the battery goes dead? What if there’s no Good Samaritan in sight to help you jumpstart it? Thankfully, there’s a lifeline you can call — your roadside assistance provider!
What is roadside assistance?
When your vehicle suddenly fails you in the middle of nowhere, trust your roadside assistance, also referred to as breakdown cover, to help you out and get you back on the road. It’s a lifeline you can call whatever time of day or night. The assistance provider may first try to walk you through your car’s problem over the phone and assist you in fixing it. If that doesn’t work, however, they’ll send over their nearest mechanic or contractor.
This service often comes as part of insurance covers but not necessarily so; motoring organisations and clubs may also offer it as standalone. The exact inclusions may vary depending on the level of cover you choose from those provided by the company. Read more about this topic below.
What services are included in roadside assistance or breakdown cover?
A roadside assistance coverage deals with unexpected car breakdowns due to mechanical failure, accident, or other issues, up to a fixed amount as stipulated in the contract or policy. It generally includes the following:
- Breakdown troubleshooting – if your car stalls or won’t start for whatever reason, your roadside assistance company will help find remedies to get you back on the road.
- Emergency fuel – if you run out of gas, roadside assistance can provide you with enough fuel to get you to the nearest refilling station.
- Jumpstart or battery replacement – whether you need your battery jumpstarted or replaced, trust your road assistance technician to help you.
- Tyre change – if you’re stranded with a flat tyre and can't replace it yourself, the company will dispatch its contractor to the area to do it for you.
- Key recovery – getting yourself locked out of your car can be frustrating, more so if it happens on the road. You may call your roadside assistance company to bring your spare keys to you, help you access your car, or get you a locksmith to do it.
- Tow truck – a truck can tow you to a repair shop if your car requires more fixing than what the roadside contractor provides.
- Other perks – the cover may include accommodation and taxi fare if there’s a need; available in top-end contracts.
Is roadside assistance part of a new car warranty or insurance?
A new car warranty is technically different from roadside assistance. However, most car dealers incorporate roadside assistance provisions in the basic warranty. So if your car is still covered by warranty, you should read the policy and find out what it says about breakdown assistance.
Insurance is also different from a breakdown cover, although some insurers provide it on top of the insurance for an extra fee. A few companies even include a certain number of free callouts per year to members with standard insurance.
Compensation from insurance is called a claim; relief from a roadside breakdown is called a callout. While a claim increases your risk rating due to damage or loss (thus, increasing your insurance premium), a callout does not affect your roadside assistance premium.
How do you access roadside assistance?
Always keep your roadside assistance hotline visible in your car, saved on your phone, and within easy reach. Also remember that roadside assistance covers a nominated vehicle, not the person who drives or owns it.
During the call you make to the company, you will be asked several questions about the breakdown to find out the likely cause of the problem. They will try to walk you through the situation to diagnose and troubleshoot the situation.
If that first attempt fails, they will send you their roadside mechanic or contractor to rescue you or bring your vehicle to the nearest shop.
How do you choose the best roadside assistance in Australia?
As mentioned above, the prudent thing to do would be to look into your warranty or insurance and see if it carries road assistance provisions. Automakers, like Hyundai and Ford, also offer this coverage through state motoring clubs if you regularly get your car maintained at their dealerships or authorised service centres.
Try asking your local motoring associations and automobile clubs if the annual membership fee covers roadside assistance – they usually do. If you’re thinking about buying a new or standalone roadside cover, compare several companies based on the following factors:
- Cost – yearly membership or subscription fees vary widely but can be as economical as $70 per year. Enquire about joining fees and other hidden costs. Can you buy it as a standalone? Or can you only get it in conjunction with an insurance subscription?
- Your usual destination – if your typical route is within the city, a budget plan would serve your purpose. Conversely, if you regularly travel interstate, you should consider the next two items.
- Fleet size of rescue vehicles – you’d want to know how big the company’s fleet is because this translates to faster response time.
- Network size – a provider’s response time is also directly related to the size of its network of qualified contractors and their location across the country.
- Inclusions – check for what’s included. If it covers towing, how many kilometres is its towing limit? Roadside assistance usually pays for minor repairs, like blown fuses and spark plugs, worn-out hoses and drive belts. But what about major repairs, who shoulders it?
- Callout limits – is there an annual limit for callouts? If so, then you need to understand that it's you who pays for subsequent callouts.
- Levels of cover – most membership-based covers offer various levels of assistance, from basic to top-shelf coverage.
- Pre-existing condition – some companies charge extra if your car breaks down due to a condition that had been there before you signed up to their roadside assistance program.
Whether you’re signing up with a motoring club or paying extra on your comprehensive car insurance to avail of a roadside assistance package, make sure you do due diligence. Compare all your options side by side before choosing the company with the most favourable terms. If you need guidance about matters regarding cars, car parts, and the motoring industry, please don’t hesitate to visit us at Carpart.com.au. Our blog section is a rich resource of all things cars, while our Ads and Auto Parts Finder are your easiest links to the most affordable auto parts in Australia.