Could using roadside assistance through car insurance impact you down the road?

Next time you get a flat tire, need a jumpstart or a tow, you might want to think twice about who you call for help.

"I went out to the driveway, had a flat tire," Rhonda Long Mar said.

It was one of those mornings in March 2019 for Long Mar who discovered a flat tire on her car parked in her driveway.

"I carry the card for Liberty Mutual that says 24-hour roadside assistance," Long Mar said. "Eventually, somebody showed up and changed the tire for me."

Liberty Mutual is one of many insurance companies who advertise the security that comes with their roadside assistance. Long Mar said she paid $20 out of pocket and then didn't think much else about it.

Two years later, Long Mar found a much lower auto insurance rate with another carrier, but they wouldn't take her because they said she had three incidents on her insurance record in the last three years.

One of them was the flat tire incident from her driveway.

"It just shouldn't be there," Long Mar said. "It's not a claim. It's something that I paid for."

Liberty Mutual wouldn't talk about Long Mar’s case with us, but confirmed that it is company policy to track and document use of the company's roadside assistance service, saying they "typically include a report to a shared industry database when a claim is filed against that coverage."

The company said that the claims don't impact auto insurance rates but can't comment on how other companies might view them when considering taking on a customer.

"If you had known it was going to be treated as a claim, would you have used them?" Ben Simmoneau asked.

"No. Absolutely not," Long Mar said.

Massachusetts State Rep. Jay Barrows said this is rare for companies to do.

"Most of the carriers that I've spoken to do not consider it an incident or a claim," Barrows said.

Barrows runs an independent insurance agency in Mansfield and said consumers should check with their insurance company to see how they treat roadside assistance before using it.

The best way for someone like Long Mar to find a cheaper rate is to use a local agent, who has relationships with many companies, and agents can cut through the industry gridlock.

Go to "someone who's going to review the marketplace, maybe eight or ten different companies, put your data in, come back with a rate and say here's what we can find," Barrows said.

In Long Mar's case, even though she paid out of pocket, Liberty Mutual also paid for the tire change so the company is investigating. Liberty Mutual offered her $120 in compensation.

Roadside assistance through an outside company - like AAA - might be more expensive but won't show up on your auto insurance.


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