To figure out whether to go with a plan that you get free or to join an auto club, think about who or what the various plans cover. That can be more confusing than you think. For example, under Allstate’s insurance policy, only the insured vehicle is covered. Enroll in the Allstate Motor Club and you’re covered in any car as long as a member is driving.
Most automaker plans apply only to the new or certified used car for which they were issued. That’s fine unless you want to cover the family jalopy. (When Volvo’s new-car coverage expires, you can renew it for $69 a year and cover all your vehicles.)
Cell-phone plans, such as those from Verizon and Sprint PCS, cover whoever has the phone at the time. So if your daughter is out with her pals and the car breaks down, she can use your plan-covered phone to get help.
Auto-club plans typically follow the member, providing coverage no matter what the vehicle, in some cases even for rentals. Such plans may allow you to add family members at additional cost. For the same $49.95, the GM Motor Club covers you, your spouse, and children under 21 living at home. The plan, not to be confused with the one that comes with GM cars, is available to all drivers.
Some carmakers’ plans, including Lexus roadside assistance, provide towing only to a dealership or, if one isn’t available nearby, the nearest repair shop. Other plans let you choose your towing destination but charge if you exceed mileage limits.
Many providers allow you to expand those limits or add other features by upgrading your membership. At $74 a year for family coverage, AARP’s Standard plan provides towing for only 5 miles. Pay $25 more for the Premier version and your towing limits increase to 100 miles.