7 On Your Side: Roadside Insurance, Gamble?

For Marc Perlman, there's nothing better than cruising the open road in his SUV.

"It's kind of low to the ground, small, 4-cylinder engine. So, it's got some pickup," says Marc.

But recently, Marc is the one who needed to be picked up after his alternator and battery died. Luckily, he has emergency roadside assistance, not through a motor club like AAA or Allstate, but attached to his actual auto insurance policy.

"It was offered as one of the options on the website," says Marc.

Phil Reed with Edmunds.com says roadside service plans are exploding in popularity.  So it's no wonder that some of the largest auto insurers out there are now hopping into the driver's seat.

"Companies are trying to distinguish themselves by offering perks to drivers," says Reed.

Basic perks like towing and lockout services, tire changes, and gas delivery. The insurance industry says these new plans are offered at a fraction of the cost of traditional motor clubs.

"Usually running anywhere from about $6 to about $20 a year," says Loretta Worters with Insurance Information Institute.

Marc pays about a dollar a month for his plan with Progressive and thinks it's a great deal.

But Worters says ask questions if you sign up for a service. Some insurers actually keep track of how many roadside claims you file per year!

Worters adds, "If you have a number of car accidents or speeding tickets, then this may be one more factor that could add to the premiums for your car insurance."

We spoke with five of the top auto insurers: Progressive, Allstate, Farmer's Insurance, State Farm and Nationwide. Four of them offer safety service: Progressive, Allstate, Farmer's Insurance and State Farm. Two confirm that they do consider roadside claims a risk: State Farm and Farmer's Insurance.

"Usually if you've had three or more claims in one year a company will often re-evaluate whether you have higher risks," Worters explains.

On the flip side, motor clubs are not tied to your insurance...so they won't affect your rates. Most also provide a wider range of services.

"Many people will say, you know, you use AAA once for a hotel and it's paid for itself," says Reed.

So how do you know which program is right for you?  Reed says it's really about personal preference.

"It's a good idea to look back over your driving history. What situations have occurred and what do you want to prevent?," says Reed.

As for Marc, he hasn't hit any more bumps in the road.  But says he's happy his insurer is one that doesn't keep count!

"It was real helpful that one time that I needed it," says Marc.

If you're going to add an emergency service plan to your policy...ask whether your insurer considers roadside claims a risk factor. It could end up saving you some cash in the end!

Christine Nelson Reporting cnelson@kltv.com