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The Best Roadside Assistance Options For Canadians

The Best Roadside Assistance Options For Canadians

When you’re in the midst of a long and bitterly cold Canadian winter, it’s not a stretch to imagine yourself in any number of difficult, weather-related circumstances. Stranded on a dark highway in a snowstorm, a dead battery while you’re out shopping miles from home – both are distinct possibilities in the Great White North. And it’s not just the inclement weather. Canada is a vast country, with no shortage of remote areas to explore. It’s why so many Canadians invest in roadside assistance programs, to give them peace of mind when travelling.

Living in Alberta, I’ve kept a longstanding membership with the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), which is a Canada Automobile Association (CAA) partner. While I’ve never had any issues with AMA, I often wonder if there are better roadside assistance programs out there, both from a price and service standpoint. What I do know is that there’s a growing list to choose from.

For most Canadians, the name CAA has become synonymous with roadside assistance coverage, but these days, they face increased competition from household names like Costco, and Canadian Tire, and a number of popular, credit card affiliated programs, like TD Auto Club. As such, I decided to put together the following comparison, for my own benefit, and for yours.

How Does Roadside Assistance Work?

In a nutshell, roadside assistance coverage provides emergency service when your vehicle breaks down. Regardless of the weather conditions, if you find yourself stranded due to a mechanical issue, a flat tire, dead battery, or you simply locked your keys in your car, you can call a toll free number and receive emergency services at no cost, aside from the annual membership fee. Of course, there are limitations to free services, but the idea is to have just enough help to get your vehicle unlocked, or towed to the nearest garage. The following is a list of common services that roadside assistance provides:

  • Vehicle towing
  • Battery boost
  • Door Unlocking
  • Winching/Pull Out
  • Gas delivery
  • Tire change

While all roadside assistance programs offer these basic services, some go further than others. For example, towing distances vary, and some coverages provide free gas on delivery, while others charge extra. Now that you know how roadside assistance works, let’s compare some of the top programs available to Canadians.

CAA Roadside Assistance

CAA has been providing Canadians with emergency roadside assistance for decades. According to their website, they have more than 6,000,000 members, and 100 offices nationwide. Not only that, but they boast a network of more than 35,000 towing vehicles at their disposal. In addition to roadside assistance, CAA is well known for travel planning and insurance services, while members receive discounts on hotels and car rentals.

CAA Features

  • Classic membership is $79.50/year
  • 5 emergency calls per year
  • 5 km towing range
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out service
  • Gas delivery
  • Coverage is tied to the registered member
  • Hotel and car rental discounts
  • Travel planning services

Costco Roadside Assistance

Retail giant Costco offers roadside assistance coverage to its existing members, for a fee. Because Costco happens to be my favourite store, I was interested to see how they compare with CAA. If you’re considering Costco for roadside assistance, keep in mind that you must be a Costco member to be eligible, which means having to pay the actual Costco membership fee. That said, if you make use of everything Costco has to offer, it’s not hard to make back in savings what you spend in membership costs.

Costco Standard Plus Features

  • Standard Plus membership is $63.99/year
  • 4 emergency calls per year
  • Towing range of up to 250 km
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out (well-travelled roads only)
  • Gas delivery (inc. free gas)
  • Coverage is tied to the registered vehicle (less than 12 years old)

Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance

Like Costco, Canadian Tire is another large retailer offering roadside assistance. It seems like a natural fit for a company that provides automotive parts and service to millions of Canadians.

Canadian Tire Silver Plan Features

  • Standard Plus membership is $69.95/year
  • 3 emergency calls per year
  • Towing range of up to 10 km
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out
  • Gas delivery
  • Coverage is tied to the registered vehicle

Free Roadside Assistance (Credit Card Perks)

In addition to CAA, Costco, and Canadian Tire, there is yet another popular option for roadside assistance in Canada; that is, coverage offered by your credit card. What’s more, is that credit card roadside assistance is free, technically speaking. In other words, it’s included as a perk along with the various other rewards and benefits the credit card has to offer.

There are a number of Canadian credit cards that offer roadside assistance as a benefit. I’ve listed the features of a few below. Keep in mind that the credit card itself will usually have an annual fee, so if your only reason for owning it is the roadside assistance, then it may not hold the same value as the other options we’ve previously considered. On the other hand, if you make use of all of the various features and benefits of the card, it may be the cheapest way to make sure you’re protected on the roads. Below, I’ve detailed roadside assistance plans from Home Trust, BMO, and TD, in no particular order:

Home Trust Roadside Assistance

Home Trust offers roadside assistance with the Home Trust Preferred Visa Card. Unlike the other two cards I’m featuring here, this one doesn’t have an annual fee, so before even looking at the roadside assistance coverage, the value is pretty high.

Home Trust Roadside Assistance Features

  • No fee credit card
  • 4 emergency calls per year
  • 5 km towing range
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out service
  • Gas delivery + 5L of free gas
  • Membership belongs to the credit card holder

Deluxe TD Auto Club Roadside Assistance

TD Auto Club has been around for years and comes complimentary with the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite card, a premium credit card that carries a $120 annual fee. One thing I really like about TD Auto Club is the fact that it not only provides emergency coverage to the primary cardholder, but also to a spouse, and any children under 22 living under the same roof when they are driving. This is sure to provide peace of mind to anyone with young drivers in the house.

Deluxe TD Auto Club Features

  • 24-hour assistance
  • Complimentary with TD Cash Back Visa Infinite card
  • Unlimited emergency calls per year
  • Towing range up to 200 km
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out service
  • Gas delivery + 5L of free gas
  • Membership belongs to the credit card holder

In addition to standard benefits, TD Auto Club goes a step further, or better yet, a mile or two further, with their extended accident emergency services. You’ll receive up to $200 of coverage where required in the following scenarios: accident towing, rental car/emergency transportation, emergency accommodation including meals, and additional transportation when needed to take you back to the repair shop.

BMO Roadside Assistance

BMO provides roadside assistance on not one, but three credit cards; the BMO Cash Back World Elite Mastercard, The BMO Cash Back Mastercard, and the BMO Shell CashBack World Mastercard. The Shell CashBack card has the lowest annual fee, at $79.

BMO Roadside Assistance Features

  • 24-hour assistance
  • Complimentary with one of 3 BMO Mastercards
  • 4 Emergency calls per year
  • Towing range up to 10 km
  • Battery boost
  • Tire change (excl. repair)
  • Door unlock
  • Winch/pull out service
  • Gas delivery
  • Membership belongs to the credit card holder

Which Roadside Assistance Coverage is Best Suited For Me?

As you can see, there are many things to consider when choosing roadside assistance. For example, the emergency towing distances vary greatly, from 5 km to 250 km per call. You might not need the extra miles if you never leave the city, but if you live in a rural area, or take long road trips, you’re better off with the TD Auto Club or Costco coverage. If cost is the biggest factor, the Home Trust plan is tough to beat, as the credit card itself has no annual fee – it really is a free service.

One last thing I should point out is that, with the exception of the Deluxe TD Auto Club, which is a premium plan, the programs I’ve covered in this article are the standard plans offered by the respective company. Each has a premium tier you can choose, at a higher cost. But for most Canadians, the services I’ve outlined here will be more than sufficient. It’s up to you to decide.

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