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Roadside Assistance Plans

In the best of all possible worlds, your RV will never break down ­ or if it does, it will only have problems when you are parked within 50 feet of a service center. Now if you are an optimist and believe in this scenario (along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny), you need not worry about any kind of emergency road service. For the rest of us, here are a few key questions that have been raised and answered on RV-Talk.

1. There are a number of emergency road service plans on the market. Which one is best?

Here you are in a win-win situation. While some members seem to prefer one service over another, usually because of the price they found advertised, none of the RV plans have been criticized for not providing the service you need. The main plans that are available are those sponsored by Good Sams, FMCA, and Camping World. Each plan allows you to call an 800 number for assistance, and each plan provides towing, tire changing, minor repairs, etc. at no additional cost. Usually you will make the call, wait on hold (or give a call-back number) while the operator contacts a towing service in your area, and then wait patiently for help to arrive. Your waiting time obviously will depend on your location, but most folks indicate they were assisted within an hour or two.

2. Are there any plans I should avoid?

While AAA offers excellent nationwide road service for automobiles, their RV plans are not uniform. With the AAA RV Plus option, there are several limitations. First, remember that AAA is the umbrella organization that individual area auto clubs can belong to. This means that not all "AAA" road service plans are the same - some do not have RV plans at all. This will affect you if you get stranded and need roadside assistance in an area where the local AAA doesn't cover RV's ­ you may have to pay for service and then submit a claim to your own auto club later. For many folks, this would defeat the purpose of having an ERS in the first place! Also, some AAA plans plan would not pay to have the trailer towed if the tow vehicle was the problem ­ they'd just leave it there wherever the breakdown occurred; in some areas, it might be the worse for wear when you return. Another thing to check into if you have either a crew cab or a dually: whether or not your auto club's plan will deal with either of them. There are auto clubs that don't cover changing of the inside tire of a pair of dual wheels, nor will they tow anything longer than an extended cab.

This does not mean you won’t receive service. If you do all your camping in your club’s service area, you might find it convenient to maintain AAA for your RV as well; several members indicated they had had no problems.

3. My plan restricts service if the RV is more than 100 feet from a road or street. What effect will this have if I am off road?

The language in FMCA’s policy reads “100 feet from a paved road or inaccessible by a winch truck”; other plans probably have similar language. That does not limit it to public roads; the interior roads in a campground would probably be covered.

One member indicated that he had to use his emergency road service while camped in a fairly remote United States Forest Service campground. The wrecker had a fairly well maintained forest road to reach his and there was never a question abut the coverage. Another member who has coverage with Good Sam's took a wrong road down near Yuma, finally coming to a halt where the "road" ended in soft sand. When they got a tow vehicle in Yuma, the man said..."you're lucky you have the Good Sam's assistance program because no one else pays for off the highway assistance." Odds are that the other plans would have covered the situation as well (one member said that Camping World told him they would cover any “maintained” dirt road), but if you plan on getting stuck on a dirt road, you might want to call first!

4. Exactly what is covered by these plans?

FMCA’s plan is typical of most. It will either provide road service to allow you to drive to a service garage for further repairs or it will tow you to a garage. In most cases, you have some choice about where you are taken, though no plan is going to tow you to a garage 200 miles away when several others are located ten miles down the road! The plan also covers fuel delivery if you should be unlucky enough to run out of gas, tire change, battery jump start, and lock out service. FMCA also provides an emergency trip interruption plan to cover limited expenses in case you have a collision over 100 miles from home. The plan covers your recreational vehicle and two family cars as well.

Most plans will be similar, though you are always advised to read the fine print before you make a decision.

5. I have an insurance policy that covers emergency road service. Why do I need two plans?

If your policy offers the same coverage, you would be nuts to pay extra for another one, but be sure the coverage is the same. Most insurance policies cover accidents, not mechanical breakdowns; a few might also cover breakdowns but would reimburse you after you paid the initial bills. If you think your insurance provider would take care of your needs, check with an agent and ask if the coverage would take care of the specific areas listed under question 4 above.

One plan that has been mentioned by several members is the “ProAssist ERS” from Progressive Insurance. It is not a stand along service, it is included in the insurance policy. If you are considering a new insurance company or are already covered by Progressive, you might want to see exactly what their service covers.

6. How much do these plans cost?

As of this moment, the range is $69-89, but that might change tomorrow morning! Most of the plans are in the same ball park, and many will provide you a discount the first year you enroll. Does that mean you could change plans every year to get the first year discount? Well, maybe! After a few years, your pattern of re- enrolling might well ring up a red flag in the accounting office. You also need to decide whether you want to work with a new group each year. I personally find a merchant I like and stick with him, but other folks revel in getting the best bargain.