Does Roadside Assistance Live Up to Expectations?


Automakers, both luxury and non, promote complimentary roadside assistance as a selling point. But does the reality of using the service meet with the expectations car owners may have?

We unfortunately had the chance to find out.

While driving through the city of Chicago, a brand-new 2014 Acura RLX test car I was piloting picked a fight with a large pothole and lost, leaving a nasty gash in the side wall of the front passenger's side tire.

After beeps and warning notifications informed us of the immediate drop to "0 PSI," I carefully pulled over and found a safe spot to change the blown-out tire with a spare.

No dice.


Like many new cars on the market, the RLX doesn't have a full-size spare or a compact (donut) tire. The solution: an air pump and gel that inflates and temporarily seals the tire. This answer to our problem proved useless due to the sheer size of the damage to the tire.

Why don't carmakers put full-size or compact "donut" spare tires in cars as often as they used to? Three reasons: fuel-economy, cost and space saving. The absence of a spare tire in the RLX may have left a generous under-floor cargo area, but the side effect proved undesirable in this situation.

I then did what any owner would do. I made a phone call to Acura roadside assistance to get a fix or a tow.

We were told help would arrive within an hour, a tolerable amount of time we figured.

Nearly 90 minutes later, we were still waiting, even after automated calls from Acura to inquire about whether a tow truck had arrived. A few more automated calls later, and a call from the contracted tow truck driver, we were still waiting.


A little more than two hours had passed when the sight of a flatbed tow truck with yellow lights flashing showed up in our rearview mirror.

How does Acura's roadside assistance program match up against other manufacturers' programs?

Most car companies today either contract their roadside assistance programs to third-party service providers or handle all the calls in-house. Mercedes-Benz, for example, has 99% of its calls answered by dealer-trained technicians. Companies like Agero, which represents 70% of the top auto brands, responds to more than 12 million calls a year. Here's a chart showing the average response times for some of the most popular car brands as reported by the automakers:


We're left wondering why our wait was more than two hours for a local tow truck to arrive — headquartered three blocks from where we were — and take the car to a dealership nine minutes away? If the RLX test car had come with a full-size spare or donut, we could have been back on the road within minutes of the popped tire fiasco.

However, we also wonder how many Acura owners would know how to change a spare tire even if there was one.

Let us know your experiences using roadside assistance programs. 

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A dealership 9 minutes away? I would have called them directly and surely someone would have offered some customer service by coming to get you and/or the blown tire instead of flatbedding the whole car.


i hate how everyone's getting rid of the spare... one of the most useful pieces of equipment on the car....


"However, we also wonder how many Acura owners would know how to change a spare tire even if there was one."

It doesn't matter. If they want to tow the car or call roadside assistance, that's okay, but for people like me and a number of my customers we'd rather have the spare. It wouldn't matter if I owned a Kia or a BMW, it gives me better control over the situation and my time.

I continue to defend the need for a spare tire in my vehicle and will gladly suffer the mileage penalty. Which there probably is none, realistically.


I wouldn't buy a car that had no spare tire … period, end of story … and I would consider a full-size spare to be a big plus over a compact donut.


Called about keys locked in car. First person couldn't get the door open and he ruined the window seal and interior door with device. Second guy opened the door with no damage. Total time 3 hours. After a few months, vendor replaced our window seal and interior door panel (car was a month old when I locked my keys in it).


It's not the car brand. It's the tow company that contracts with them. It's the luck of the draw. Personally, I belong to AAA even though the car has roadside assistance. My discount on eyeglasses with AAA is larger than the annual cost. No brainer.


I have roadside assistance with my insurance, Esurance. I have had to use them several times, and they have always been prompt and helpful.

Christopher Parker

My problem with AAA is that they lobby against transit and against environmental conservation. Not how I want my money used!


My kids car lost the entire wheel(tire n rim) on a major roadway with no shoulder.I almost got run over twice waving people into next lane,AAA said they would expedite a flatbed because of the dangerous location.Yeah,right...3 hours later...also said they'd notify state police to come..that never happened...but thanx to a trucker who lent us his triangles we were semi-safe(no pun intended).AAA sucks!


funny how someone mention AAA took three hours to arrive, they pay their contractors very little to the point that the contractors will make AAA lowest priority. We need to send car manufactures a loud message that we the consumers will not buy their vehicles due to lack of spare tire.

Barbara S

Ruined tire off I89 in rural NH, got off the exit, onto 2 lane road. Called my roadside service. They wanted to know nearest cross street, how many blocks was it, google maps says there is a pond nearby... yeah, right, BEHIND that hill. I tried to tell them if you just let the company know what exit we are off the highway I think they'll find us, amidst all the other broken down cars.


AAA is usually the best but they pay their contractors about 1/4 of what the going rate is. So guess what calls get run first, especially since most drivers get paid 25% commission on calls. I've found if you tip the drivers They usually remember you and they will pick up on the call quicker.

Mr. Khan

I have Two Acura MDX's '09 and '12 and i know how to change a tire. yes sir. 20 years as a body shop owner and you learn many things.

Paul R.

Several years ago our Dodge minivan blew a tire on the turnpike. We called AAA but before they arrived a Lexus dealers service truck pulled over and plugged our flat. The guy said it's their policy to check disabled minivans regardless of brand. He wouldn't even accept a tip. We sent a very thankful letter to his dealership.

catherine u

I really thought that my experience was unique. I also hit a pot hole with my BMW and ended up with a flat. NO Donut and you are stuck with having to tow. My dealer suggested calling BMW roadside assistance. Almost 3 hours later. No TOW TRUCK. I call it a poorly run service. When they sell you the car it always is sold as this great service. absolutely right Mercedes roadside assistance much better.

I think waiting more than 30- 40 minutes is unacceptable and dangerous now days.


So many have inadequate service. Here's what I have complete comprehensive!!

BMW needs to contract with efficient tow drivers that will be available and arrive on time. NO excuses

There are a lot of Roadside Service Companies to choose from. Do you have the best one?


Wow! After reading this blog i had to go check to see if I have a spare tire! LoL. Roadside assistance is much needed and I think everyone should have some sort of coverage. My car broke down on me a few weeks ago and I tried using the roadside assistance through my insurance only to find out there's a 15 miles limit. I don't just take my car to any shop. I don't have a new car, 07 BMW but I just don't trust everyone. So I ended up using my other roadside assistance which has 100 miles of towing per call and unlimited times per year.

Joe LoCascio

My wife road over the edge of a shoulder while trying to get around a stalled car and punctured the side of the front tire, which flattened immediately.She pressed the emergency call button for Lexus Roadside Assistance and talked to the operator, explaining that my 94 yer old mother in-law, 6 year old grandson, and another female adult were in the car and that they were parked on a narrow bend on the shoulder of a very heavily traveled, unlit road,road and that it was going to be dark in a few minutes. . While the roadside assistance operator was very courteous, she was also very inefficient. She waivered between whether to call the police and or roadside assistance first, was unsure of which police department to call and it was 20 minutes before she called back to inform my wife that she had contacted the police. It was another 10 minutes before she called back to say that she contacted the local Lexus dealer. It took over an hour for the dealer to finally arrive to change the tire. Thank God for the efficiency of the Prince Georges County Police Department and the police officer who arrived promptly and set up behind my wife's car and set up flares and stayed with the car until the tire was repaired. Shame on Lexus Roadside Assistance and the local Lexus Dealer for the hour and 45 minute response time, knowing the precarious location and the makeup of the passengers in the car.


I wish Nissan offered roadside assistance with their warranty, and I also wish that Honda made more noise about offering roadside assistance with their warranty coverage. I feel this coverage offers some peace of mind upon purchasing a vehicle, but the manufacturers should make sure to improve this feature and make sure that no one be stranded for unacceptable amounts of time especially in unsafe situations. Peace...
AladdinSane < ~ ☆

We here with MCA have the best affordable coverage any motor club can provide. We offer benefits 365 days a year ..(Unlimited services calls) If you would like more information. Please visit out site. Thanks MCA

We here with MCA have the best affordable coverage any motor club can provide. We offer benefits 365 days a year ..(Unlimited services calls) If you would like more information. Please visit out site. Thanks MCA


This service was the worst I have ever pay for, to make the long story short I had to pay $195 because my battery died they sent me some guy that came in his own car highly unprepared I don't even think he knew what he was doing because he had to call like two different people to get the job done, and not even then the car didn't start he left saying they were going to send a tow truck which never happened because BMW wanted to charge me $195 again according to them the $195 I paid was for this guy to come over and get the job done which he didn't because the car stayed the same way he found it.


Useless. I waited four hours before their tow truck arrived. Fortunately, I was at home. Glad I wasn't stranded on the freeway. They contract with people who just don't care. Avoid at all cost.

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