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Roadside Assistance vs. Mechanical Breakdown Coverage

    4 minute read

    Despite your best efforts, there will likely come a time when your car needs some form of repair or service to maintain its functionality. When these repairs are planned and well-known, it is easier to budget for and minimize interruptions to your day-to-day while your car is in the shop. However, when breakdowns or accidents occur spontaneously, and you’re stuck on the side of the road, optional coverages such as roadside assistance could help get you back on track quickly. But is roadside assistance different from mechanical breakdown coverage?

    Although the two coverages sound similar, there are a few key differences that are important to know. Let’s compare the two and explore different reasons why you may choose one over the other.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Roadside assistance offers basic mechanical aid whenever your vehicle is stuck on the side of the road due to scenarios such as a dead battery, flat tire, or lack of fuel.
    • Mechanical breakdown coverage can cover costs associated with repairs after one of your car’s systems fails, such as your engine or transmission.
    • The age of your vehicle can affect whether or not you can purchase mechanical breakdown coverage.

    What Is Roadside Assistance Coverage? 

    Roadside assistance is an optional insurance coverage that can provide peace of mind whenever you are on the road. As the name suggests, roadside assistance coverage offers basic mechanical aid for your vehicle if you are stuck on the side of the road due to a dead battery, lack of fuel, or a flat tire.

    person with roadside assistance getting help on the road

    Although many insurance providers offer roadside assistance, you can receive similar benefits through other avenues, such as an auto membership club or credit card company. Keep in mind exact coverages and coverage limits can vary depending on your roadside assistance provider.  

    So, how does roadside assistance work? Let’s say you’re driving in an unfamiliar location late at night when suddenly you hear a pop and feel your car’s tire going flat. With roadside assistance, help is only a quick phone call away that will send out a professional to aid you and your vehicle. While this coverage can cap the amount paid per service, you won’t typically have to pay any money out of pocket, which could save you plenty if you require tow service. Bear in mind that you may be limited to a set number of service calls per policy term.

    Roadside assistance typically covers the following services:

    • Towing services
    • Flat tire assistance
    • Fluid and fuel delivery
    • Battery assistance
    • Lock-out services

    What Is Mechanical Breakdown Insurance?

    Mechanical breakdown insurance, also called MBI, is an optional coverage that provides aid when your car needs mechanical help. MBI covers the cost of car repairs not resulting from a car accident. This coverage is typically similar to a vehicle’s extended warranty except that it is through an insurance provider instead of a manufacturer or dealer. Because MBI covers mechanical and electrical repairs to your car not caused by an accident, carrying the coverage can help fill in any gaps in your auto insurance policy coverage.

    Adult looking at their engine after a car breakdown

    It’s important to note that MBI strictly covers the failure or repair of internal systems and components. It does not cover any damage resulting from a collision or general maintenance services such as oil changes or tire rotations. Other excluded damages include normal wear and tear issues caused by daily use.

    Although “breakdown” is a part of the term, MBI is not the same as roadside assistance. Standard mechanical breakdown insurance plans may not always cover your tow to the mechanic if you’re stuck on the road, but they will cover repair costs if the breakdown was caused by engine failure—up to your policy’s limits. However, some carriers, such as Mercury Insurance, do include 24-hour roadside assistance as a part of their mechanical protection plan.

    Covered repairs may vary depending on your provider, but most MBI policies will cover issues with some of the following parts:

    • Engine
    • Brakes
    • Transmission
    • Heating and cooling systems
    • Drivetrain
    • Exhaust

    Do I Need Both Coverages on My Car Insurance Policy? 

    Both roadside assistance and mechanical breakdown insurance are beneficial to drivers for a variety of reasons, but should you carry both? Depending on your vehicle, you may be limited to which coverage you can purchase. 

    Person inspecting their car to find what caused breakdown

    Mechanical breakdown insurance is only available for cars that meet specific provider requirements, such as being under 15 months old or under 15,000 miles. Each provider has their own guidelines, but don’t expect to purchase a new MBI policy for an older vehicle with over 100,000 miles. Plus, available coverage for older vehicles is often limited to specific components of your car rather than broad coverage. If your vehicle meets a carrier’s requirements for MBI, double-check to see if a roadside assistance service is included in your plan.

    If you’re simply looking for a little extra piece of mind when you’re on the road, then roadside assistance is likely the better option. Plus, it’s usually an inexpensive addition to your car insurance policy. Although plenty of carriers do offer some form of roadside assistance, always compare coverage limits and exclusions from multiple providers to get the best deal of coverage and price.

    Speak With a Car Insurance Specialist 

    Not sure which coverage is right for you? Our insurance specialists can help. At AIS, we have over 55 years of experience helping our customers navigate the insurance marketplace. With our growing network of trusted insurance partners, we’ll do our best to find you an insurance policy that suits your needs and budget. To get started, give us a call today at (888) 772-4247, or begin your quote online.

    The information in this article is obtained from various sources and offered for educational purposes only. Furthermore, it should not replace the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.