CAA Roadside Assistance: Should You Make It Your Companion On The Road?

By Maude Gauthier | Published on 18 Jul 2023

a blue and white logo with a car and a crane hook

    Did you break down in the turning lane? Get out of the way with CAA Roadside Assistance! When you’re on the road, unexpected car trouble can cause major delays—even if the problem could be fixed quickly in a garage. Investing in roadside assistance will generally protect you from the worst. Plus, it’ll usually ensure that you aren’t trapped in an unsafe situation with no way to get home.

    As one of Canada’s most prominent auto companies, the Canadian Auto Association’s (CAA) Roadside Assistance program is a popular pick. Indeed, CAA offers one of the best roadside assistance programs in Canada. But is it really your best option? In most regions, yes! For a more thorough look at CAA Roadside Assistance plans, keep reading below.

    How to get CAA Roadside Assistance

    At the moment, all CAA Membership plans include some degree of Roadside Assistance coverage. However, if you’ve gotten into an unfortunate situation on the road, either you or a passenger will have to be a CAA member in order to receive service—non-members cannot pay for help out of pocket. You should also know that roadside assistance is not automatically included in your CAA auto insurance policy (if you have one).

    Since CAA has different branches across the country, exact membership rates and perks vary based on location. Generally, the Basic/Classic membership tier (names vary across the country) costs between $75 and $100 CAD/year, though higher tier memberships are also available.

    Differences in CAA Roadside Assistance programs accross Canada

    CAA has different membership regions and perks vary by location. CAA operates across Canada, and while the core services remain consistent, there are some differences between provinces. To maximize your safety and prevent disappointments, we highly recommend that you check your region’s CAA page to determine which services are offered in your area. 

    The benefits

    Depending on region and membership level, your CAA Roadside Assistance membership may include the following perks.

    Perhaps the most essential roadside service, emergency towing, ensures that CAA will tow your vehicle to a mechanic when it is no longer working. Higher membership tiers generally allow you to tow your car farther at no cost, though some CAA regions also allow you to pay out of pocket to tow your vehicle farther. CAA may also deliver fuel or tow your car to a gas station. Complimentary car rental could also be included.

    CAA offers a safe return home service. Depending on the situation, CAA workers may drive you home. While this is helpful when your car has been towed, it can also be a life-saver (literally) if you suddenly cannot operate your vehicle. Vehicle extraction is another CAA service. If you cannot get to your car (i.e. it has fallen into a ditch), CAA may be able to extract it (as long as it isn’t dangerous to do so).

    Nobody likes to brag about it, but people often get locked out of their cars. If you’ve locked your keys into your car, CAA locksmith services can help you retrieve them. Needing a battery boost is also very common. CAA may be able to help jump-start or replace your battery on the road. Again, exact solutions available depend on region. Flat tire assistance is also generally included. Different CAA regions offer various flat tire solutions, including helping you replace the flat tire with a spare, delivering a new tire, or towing you to a mechanic.

    In addition to auto coverage, some CAA regions offer bicycle assistance, motorcycle assistance, or both. CAA also offers road trip interruption and accident protection, up to $2,000 in some cases.

    Another word of warning: some perks are only available to higher membership tiers. Alternatively, they may offer premium members greater flexibility. When registering or renewing your membership, we recommend that you take a moment to check which tier-specific perks you’ll be eligible for. 

    More Perks!

    Your membership to CAA may also include some level of insurance, as well as interesting discounts. For example, members of the Atlantic region get life, health and dental insurance with their classic membership, and they can save up to 20% on home and auto insurance with CAA. Remember to compare car insurance policies before applying, but let’s admit that such a discount is hard to beat! Members also save 3¢/L on fuel at Shell and a $50 travel voucher.

    What does CAA Roadside Assistance NOT cover?

    For the most part, CAA Roadside Assistance coverage is pretty thorough. However, you generally cannot use your CAA perks, like an oil change for example, on a vehicle that is already in the process of being serviced. Additionally, some of the features may not be eligible in your region.

    Since CAA only operates in North America, it does not cover any car issues that you run into outside of the continent.

    CAA Roadside Assistance Membership Levels

    The exact CAA Roadside Assistance perks that you are eligible for vary by region and membership tier. In general, CAA offers 3 membership tiers: Basic (sometimes called Classic), Plus and Premier. Let’s explore the key features of these plans.

    Some of the biggest differences across membership tiers that we’ve noticed are related to towing distance. The Basic Membership offers towing for up to 10 km, the Plus Membership extends it to 200 km, and the Premier Membership increases it further to 320 km. Some regions also only include bike, recreational vehicle or motorcycle service for upper tiers. 

    Basic Membership

    The Basic Membership plan starts at approximately $75 per year, varying slightly between provinces. Basic Membership includes emergency roadside assistance, battery service, free fuel delivery, and lockout protection, plus other services varying by province.

    Some regions also offer an Everyday or A la carte plan. It starts at $20 per year. Although it is cheap, it excludes most services. In short, you get the discounts but you cannot have roadside emergency services, except for bike assist in some provinces.

    Plus Membership

    The Plus Membership plan starts at around $119 per year in Ontario but can be much more expensive in other provinces like Quebec. Plus Membership includes all the benefits of Basic Membership, along with extended coverage. This includes longer towing distances (up to 200 km) and free fuel (the actual fuel and not just the delivery).

    Premier Membership

    The Premier Membership plan starts at approximately $149 per year, with major differences among provinces. It can cost over $200 in some cases. Premier Membership offers comprehensive coverage, encompassing all the benefits of Plus Membership. Additionally, Premier members enjoy extended towing distances (up to 320 km), increased coverage for locksmith services (up to $100), and higher reimbursement limits for accidents.

    How to request CAA roadside assistance service

    Accidents on the road can be very stressful. Here’s what to do if your car is totaled or you need to access CAA Roadside Assistance for any other problem. First, contact CAA and/or your car insurance provider, depending on the situation you’re facing. For instance, you can call CAA’s toll-free number (1-800-222-4357), send them a text to ask for help, use the CAA Roadside Service app where you will also be able to track your tow truck’s approach, or visit CAA Roadside Service’s website to make a request online.

    Regardless of the contact method, you’ll be asked to provide basic information such as your location, the vehicle’s identifying information, your CAA membership info, and the problem you’re currently experiencing. From there, a team will be dispatched to help out and provide a lift, if necessary.

    Alternatives to CAA Roadside Assistance

    What if CAA’s services are not the best fit for you? You should definitely explore more roadside assistance programs before you subscribe.

    Deluxe TD Auto Club

    The Deluxe TD Auto Club offers one of the most comprehensive roadside assistance services in the country. The Deluxe TD Car Membership entitles you to full emergency towing and breakdown services within a 200 km radius. How can you get these benefits? By getting a TD credit card such as the TD Cash Back Visa Infinite.

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    At $139 annually, this card is only available to those with a minimum personal income of $60,000 per year or a household income of $100,000. Available throughout Canada and the continental U.S., the  Deluxe TD Auto Club Membership entitles you to 6 service calls per year. In addition, in the event that TD Auto Club cannot dispatch its services or be reached, you can contact the service of your choice and request a refund, for an amount up to $250 depending on the service. In the event of a traffic accident, vehicle theft or inclement weather, the TD Auto Club can reimburse you for emergency accommodation and meals (up to $200), return to the recovered stolen vehicle (up to $200) and basic personal expenses at the hotel (up to $50), among other perks.

    BMO Roadside Assistance

    With BMO roadside assistance, you can get help if your car breaks down. Towing is available to the nearest repair center within a 10 km radius. The delivery of approximately 10 litres of gas, or the amount needed to get to the nearest gas station, is also offered. However, the cost of the fuel is your responsibility. You are also entitled to winching, battery boosting, door unlocking and tire changing.

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    To access these benefits, apply for the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard. This credit card costs $120 per year and is available to individuals with an annual personal income of at least $80,000 or a household income of $150,000. The service covers Canada and the continental United States and allows for 4 calls per year. You also get 5% cash back on groceries, 4% on transit, 3% on gas, 2% on recurring bill payments and 1% on all other purchases.

    Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance

    When it comes to roadside assistance offered by leaders in Canada, Canadian Tire and CAA offer similar programs. You can subscribe directly to the Canadian Tire program or apply for a Canadian Tire credit card which includes roadside assistance.

    The Gold Member Plan provides comprehensive coverage in Canada and the United States. It costs $114.99 per year. The number of service calls you are entitled to and the services you can get are very similar to those of CAA. For instance, towing to the destination of your choice is available up to 200 km per call. Free delivery of up to $5 worth of fuel, battery boosting, door unlocking and tire replacement with your spare are also available.

    With no annual fee, the World Elite Triangle Mastercard, this credit card is an easy way to get around paying for Canadian Tire roadside assistance. However, it requires $80,000 in personal income per year or $150,000 per household. With this card, you also earn Canadian Tire cash back. For instance, you get 4% on almost everything at Canadian Tire and discounts at Gas+ stations.

    Pros and Cons of CAA Roadside Assistance

    On the plus side, CAA’s coverage is very thorough. It’s reassuring to know that you’re protected throughout North America, even if you’re just a passenger. Most people will rarely need to worry about coverage. CAA Membership also comes with other perks such as discounts at partnered restaurants, hotels, and car rental companies. There’s a good chance that your membership will partially pay for itself. 

    That being said, it’s also frustrating (though understandable) that services vary by both region and membership tier. That makes it difficult to know exactly what you’re eligible for. Plus, if you don’t run into trouble for a while, it can start to feel like the membership fees are adding up pointlessly. Though the coverage will almost certainly come in handy if you run into major car trouble.

    FAQs about CAA roadside assistance

    How much is CAA roadside assistance?

    The basic CAA membership varies between $75 and $100 per year depending on your province of territory. CAA also offers higher tier memberships and prices can go over $200. Before you make a decision, compare their services and prices with the roadside assistance add-on you could get with your car insurance policy.

    Which is better, CAA or Canadian Tire roadside assistance?

    Overall, CAA is better for most Canadians. It offers a broad array of services, competitive pricing structures and a reputation for excellent customer service. It is a reliable roadside assistance service. However, the optimal choice always depends on your needs. For instance, Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance could work better for those who frequently have their vehicles serviced at Canadian Tire.

    What does CAA roadside assistance cover?

    CAA services depend on your province and membership plan. CAA roadside assistance can include emergency towing, fuel delivery, a safe return home service, vehicle extraction, locksmith services, battery boost, flat tire assistance, accident protection, as well as bicycle and motorcycle assistance.

    Maude Gauthier is a journalist for Hardbacon. Since completing her Ph.D. in communications at University of Montreal, she has been writing about finance, insurance and credit cards for companies like Fonds FMOQ and Code F. As a responsible user of credit cards, she can spend hours reading the fine print to fully understand their benefits. Because of their simplicity, she developed a preference for cash back cards. After suffering steep increases with her former insurer, she can now proudly say that she saved hundreds of dollars by shopping around for her auto and home insurance. In her free time, she reads novels and enjoys streaming popular shows (and possibly less popular shows, like animal documentaries).