Will Auto Insurance Cover Emergency Travel Expenses?
Last Updated on October 16, 2020
You buy car insurance to cover unexpected expenses – like car repairs. But does car insurance cover hotels, meals, and other emergency travel expenses?
If your car breaks down while you’re a long way from home, then you may need to wait for your car to be repaired. That could mean one or more nights in a hotel. It could also mean other unexpected charges – like meals, personal hygiene items, and more.
Fortunately, it’s possible for car insurance to cover certain emergency travel expenses.
Depending on your policy, your car insurance company may cover hotel accommodations, meals, and other expenses in certain situations. Some roadside assistance policies cover these costs if your car breaks down more than 100 miles from home, for example.
Today, we’re explaining how car insurance covers emergency travel expenses, including what expenses may or may not be covered.
Standard Car Insurance Policies Do Not Cover Emergency Travel Expenses
First, a standard car insurance policy will not cover emergency travel expenses.
If you have ordinary liability insurance, collision coverage, or comprehensive coverage, for example, then it’s unlikely that your car insurance company will reimburse you for any travel-related expenses – including mechanical breakdowns, flat tire changes, and hotel accommodations, meals, and other expenses.
However, if you have roadside assistance on your auto insurance policy, then you could be covered for these expenses. Many roadside assistance policies – especially the higher-end plans – offer emergency travel reimbursement.
Many Roadside Assistance Plans Cover Emergency Travel Expenses
Roadside assistance covers situations where your car is disabled. A good roadside assistance plan covers towing, lockout assistance, flat tire changes, and battery jumpstarts.
Higher-end roadside assistance policies may also cover fuel delivery, winch-outs, and unlimited distance towing.
On a higher-end roadside assistance plan, you may also get emergency travel reimbursement coverage. If your car breaks down while you are a long way from home, then your car insurance will cover certain meals, hotels, and other expenses while you wait for your car to be repaired.
How Emergency Travel Reimbursement Works
Emergency travel reimbursement covers certain unexpected costs associated with a vehicle breakdown.
A standard travel reimbursement plan covers up to $1,000 of hotel accommodations and meals after a covered incident – like a mechanical breakdown.
To qualify, your vehicle needs to be a certain distance away from home. Most travel reimbursement plans require you to be at least 100 miles away from home, for example. If your car breaks down while getting groceries in your neighborhood, then you won’t get a free night at a hotel: you need to be far away from home when the breakdown occurred.
Your car also needs to be out of service for a certain period of time to qualify for emergency travel reimbursement. It may take three or four days for a local auto body shop to repair your vehicle, for example. In this situation, your emergency travel expense coverage should kick in.
How to Receive Emergency Travel Reimbursement
If you believe you qualify for emergency travel reimbursement, then you’ll need to send receipts and other documents to your insurance company to prove the loss. Insurance companies will require this documentation within 20 to 30 days of the incident.
You may need to provide the following information:
- A statement of your loss
- Original receipts for expenses
- A copy of the filed accident report (if damages were caused by a collision)
- A copy of the repair order indicating services were performed (if damages were caused by a breakdown or other incident)
- Send this information to your insurer, then wait for a response.
What Does Roadside Assistance Cover?
Standard auto insurance policies do not include roadside assistance. However, most major insurers let you add roadside assistance for just a few dollars per month.
A typical roadside assistance plan starts at $50 to $70 per year. Higher-end roadside assistance plans are priced at $120 to $200 per year.
Things covered by roadside assistance plans include:
Flat Tires: The plan covers the cost of sending someone to change your flat tire with your car’s spare tire. If you don’t have a spare tire, then your car will be towed within a specific coverage area.
Jump Start: If your car battery is dead and requires a jumpstart, then your roadside assistance policy will cover the cost of the jumpstart. If your car’s battery cannot be jumpstarted, then your plan will cover towing to the nearest mechanic or service station.
Lockouts: Your plan covers the cost of sending a locksmith to unlock your vehicle.
Fuel Delivery: If you run out of gas, then your plan will cover the cost of someone delivering fuel to your vehicle. Some plans cover the fuel itself (typically only $10 to $20 of fuel), while other plans do not.
Towing: Roadside assistance covers the cost of towing. A tow truck will tow your car to the nearest service station. A basic roadside assistance plan only covers 3 to 15 miles of towing. Higher-end plans may have 100 miles of towing coverage – or no limits whatsoever.
Winching: If your car has slid off the road and needs to be pulled out, then your plan may cover the cost of extrication or winching.
A typical roadside assistance policy covers up to $100 per event, with a certain maximum number of claims per year. You might be able to file three claims per year, for example, with $100 of maximum compensation for each claim.
How to Get Roadside Assistance
If you want coverage for emergency travel expenses, then you may want to buy roadside assistance.
Some of the best ways to get roadside assistance include:
Your Insurance Company: All major insurance policies offer roadside assistance coverage. Some companies have their own plans, while others have partnered with third-party vendors.
Car Manufacturers: Many car manufacturers offer free roadside assistance as part of the factory warranty after a car’s initial purchase. This warranty only applies for a certain timeframe or a number of miles driven.
Credit Cards: All Visa cardholders have access to a pay-per-use roadside service at $69.95 per event. Other credit cards like Discover have similar programs. Check your credit card to see if you’re already covered.
Travel Insurance: If you have travel insurance, then it should have trip interruption coverage, which could cover events like roadside breakdowns. Your travel insurance is separate from your auto insurance.
Final Word on Auto Insurance and Emergency Travel Expenses
Roadside assistance claims peak in the summer and winter. If your car breaks down away from home, then you may need to spend several nights in a hotel waiting for repairs.
A standard car insurance policy will not cover these emergency travel expenses – like accommodations and meals. However, a roadside assistance policy – like AAA – may cover these costs.