Beware of HONK and Other Third Party Roadside Assistance
Updated: May 19, 2019
Be aware that Emergency Roadside Assistance costs money. It is not free or low cost. If you are paying very little for a safety net, that means that safety net is not very strong, if available at all when you really need it. Did you know that many roadside assistance policies included for a low price are only available during certain times? This means that you are unable to get a hold of them after hours when you are most vulnerable. Even when you can access your policy, you take the risk of waiting many hours for service. If you happen to have your roadside emergency after hours, or just tired of waiting, you can pay up front for service, also called “out of pocket”.
Good news though, you will be reimbursed according to your policy. Your reimbursement will be according to your policy level. Again, if you are paying very little, chances are that you are not covered as much as you think you are. Most lower cost roadside assistance policies have severe limits. Always remember, you get what you pay for. Don't fall for a false sense of security.
Know what your policies cover and have a fund of at least a couple hundred dollars put away just in case you need to get home in the middle of the night. Remember that after hours service will always cost more.
If you travel out of your normal area often, it is best to also have a national motor club policy. Make sure it is not the minimum plan, get the best plan you can afford with the most mileage benefits. You never know how far you will be from a safe place if you break down when traveling long distances.
That national plan is just for the reimbursement feature, not for actually ordering service. Know how to search for a local company anywhere in order to get the best service.
Make sure to keep receipts for everything connected to your roadside emergency to submit for reimbursement. Every unexpected expense should be submitted for reimbursement. Food, daycare, lost time at work, transportation, car rental, hotel, everything you did not expect to do or had to do extra could be covered.
Most people know that their auto insurance policies come with roadside assistance. Did you know to check your credit card and cell phone plans for roadside coverage, too? Since these plans cost very little or are included for free, they may not cover much, but every little bit helps. Just be aware of their limitations so you won’t be caught finding that out in a bad situation. Unfortunately, we have noticed benefits are being lowered despite rising costs. Don’t be fooled by perks or benefits that you will never use. Saving money at a store that is not even in your area does you no good.
Remember a roadside assistance plan is part of a network which is negotiated to give your plan provider lower costs. This means lower quality service and labor. You will pay for that low price in other ways. Do you want to pay with your time by waiting 2-6 hours for service? Or worse, end up with low quality labor that can cause thousands in damage to your vehicle just because they do not get paid enough to care. How would you feel if you ordered a tow truck and a regular pickup truck with a flatbed trailer that has flimsy ramps pulled up?
Many plans associated with insurance policies are nothing more than another third party calling around for the cheapest price. That is one of the biggest reasons you are stuck on the side of the road for hours and hours just so they can call around to save themselves some money. The latest trend we have noticed is that an insurance company will pay a tow truck company the low negotiated price yet charge you the full market rate and keep the difference.
Never ever use a third party to find a service provider. It will always cost you more in the long run. A third party is nothing more than a glorified directory. Time magazine describes this third party phenomenon as “connecting a network of users with a network of independent-contractor trucks, taking a slice off fees paid by users. When truck-owners sign up as partners, they agree to a fee schedule of fixed prices for each service, so there’s no bidding war and no surprises.” --http://time.com/3608307/honk-urgently-aaa-roadside-assistance/
You may not see the hidden costs or surprises, but trust me they are there. Your service provider is getting paid at least 25% less than what you paid the third party. And you don’t get better service. To the contrary, you end up with an unknown, often shady company just trying to get volume and happy to cut corners to do it.
Trust yourself to do a basic internet search for the service you need. Ignore the ads, anyone can pay to be there no matter how unqualified they may be. Ignore the third party sites. Their information is often skewed like Yelp. Why use something like Honk when you can pay the same and actually get to pick out who comes to provide the service? When you use a site like Honk, Urgent.ly, etc, you never know who will show up, what they will look like, or if they are even qualified to do the job correctly. Would you want some dude in flip flops, no uniform, and an unmarked vehicle arriving to provide a critical emergency service? Why would you chance that by using a third party?
Do not let third parties trick you into thinking you cannot do your own search or that their search is better. They do not have access to better providers. Actually the opposite is the norm. You can get better information by looking at the local providers yourself. Yes, it takes a few minutes more. Is it really worth risking your safety just to save 3 or 4 minutes of your time?
Check the reviews first. Do they look legit, from friends or family, or bought? Would you use those industry specific terms in your review?
Check the number of reviews. Up to a handful of reviews could mean either they are new at this or they are fake. Either way, is that what you really want?
Check the date on the reviews to confirm they are recent and not old.
Check for current pictures recently uploaded. Make sure the pictures are real and not stock photos or photo-shopped. I can’t tell you how many companies I have seen that Photoshop their logo onto someone else’s truck or service vehicle.
Check for pictures that show real people in actual uniforms. If they are wearing street clothes with a $5 vest over it then chances are that they are not a great service company or very qualified.
This growing trend of third parties is tearing apart all service industries. The roadside assistance industry is being hit worst of all since most third parties are owned and run by the biggest insurance companies and are being used by every other insurance company to cut call center costs. If you don’t believe me, check out the Honk 4 Help Facebook page. The Facebook page reviews and post comments are very enlightening to the practices of such a company.
Urgent.ly Facebook page does not even allow for recommendations or reviews. Oddly, none of their posts have many comments other than a recurring funding service ad.
Don’t take my word for it, you can decide if these type of companies are worth betting your safety on. For some reason there is no Google listing or reviews for these type of third party businesses. How shady is that? How are you are supposed to trust them when they wont even openly show you the opinion of others about them?
A few minutes of preparation can save lots of headache. Take those 5 minutes right now to find a great local roadside assistance company. Make sure they provide full service and not one of those that will force a tow over a flat tire change. Program that into every phone in the household so you and your family will have it ready for an emergency. These few minutes of preparation will save you lots of money and headache in the long run.
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Author: Robyn Hart
Social Media Director