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Free Roadside Assistance

This article was written by in Frugality. 11 comments.

There’s a toll-free number on the back of my driver’s license labeled “Roadside Assistance.” I’d never noticed it before today, when a co-worker was telling me how she used the number to get her tire changed on the dangerously-busy Tollway.

“For free?” I asked. “Of course,” she said.

So I started to wonder if I’d been paying AAA for services that I could be getting for free. I did some Googling and found this:

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The toll-free line has been operated by DPS since 1989 for motorists to use when reporting non-life-threatening situations… If a tow truck is ultimately dispatched, the motorist is responsible for any costs incurred. Some cities and agencies do have courtesy patrols and roadside trucks to provide non-towing services and they may be dispatched by the local agencies when appropriate.

Examples of when a motorist should call the Roadside Assistance Hotline include: stranded with car problems, hazardous road conditions, debris in the roadway, suspicious activity at a rest area, and obviously intoxicated or dangerous drivers.

So, to summarize: we want you to call us if you’re having trouble or see something dangerous. We might send help, and it might be free.

My state isn’t the only one with a possibly-free state-run roadside assistance program. If part of the recession means not renewing whatever service you use for emergency roadside assistance, check online to see what’s available for free.

Updated October 13, 2016 and originally published March 10, 2009.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I once got help with a flat for free. I did not call a hotline, but a truck owned by the state department of transportation stopped behind me and helped. This service is only available within large cities though.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

It is too bad that the program is government-run. If it was a volunteer program, I think that I might join.


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avatar 3 Anonymous

I’m in Texas and once ran out of gas on I-35 between San Antonio & New Braunfels at midnight (my gas gauge was stuck)…and I called the number and a DPS trooper showed up with a 5 gal gas can for me! The trooper was so nice about it and said the state would prefer I not walk along the highway at night. No charge and I will forever be a fan!

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Makes sense. Cheaper for the local government to send out someone to help than to send out someone to clean up and scrape stuff off the pavement.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Near as I can tell, NJ does NOT have this. Nothing on my license, nothing on the DMV website.

AAA is preferable anyway. I’ve worked with the NJ DMV on multiple things – it’s unreliable.

I like to say to those people who believe that the government can actually do something well to think of 3 things:
1. Amtrak
2. The Post Office
3. The DMV

Once you get these images fixed in your mind, then wrap around the concept of government run health care. I shudder.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

what state are you in?

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avatar 7 Anonymous

This is true for Texas (and here they call it DPS, so perhaps this was about the service in Texas).

I’d recommend those who have AAA memberships or are considering one also look at an alternative membership:

Please be sure to click the link about AAA’s policy agenda, too. You may find that AAA has been doing things that you don’t agree with. There are alternatives!

My parents have AAA and used it a TON when we were kids (flat tires, break downs in the middle of a road trip, one sibling locking the youngest sibling in the car). I am not a member. As a cyclist, i can’t imagine supporting AAA.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

Can you post a link where to find the services each state provides?

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avatar 9 Smithee

I looked for about an hour, but couldn’t find a summary or state-by-state comparison.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I’m a Dallas resident and was pretty excited about this program, it’s one of the reasons I cancelled AAA. Had a flat in downtown Dallas, called the toll free number and they basically transferred me to a towing company, it was glorified directory assistance.

The service you get varies significantly based on where in Texas you are etc, but don’t rely on it to replace AAA.

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avatar 11 Evelyn Doss

I called the number on the back of my Texas..and they told me they don’t send people out for flat tires…oh ok im out in the middle of nowhere on the side of the freeway…

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