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The hidden dark side of roadside assistance

Auto insurers are great about offering add-ons to your policy that seem in theory like great conveniences at a great price. But using these seemingly benign “benefits” could marginalize you in the insurance marketplace and result in jacked-up rates!

Some auto insurers that offer roadside assistance treat your use of it as an at-fault claim and put that through on your C.L.U.E. report — even though you only needed a tow or the fix or a flat tire!

“It’s the Wild West with no rules on what insurers can decide to report on your C.L.U.E. report,” money expert Clark Howard says. “And you have no right of appeal either.”

So here’s the # 1 rule about roadside assistance: Never get it from your own insurer. Get it from AAA or elsewhere.

Read more: Emergency roadside assistance app is an alternative to AAA

Shopping around is the best way to get a lower rate

If your auto insurance is costing you too much, you’ve got to look around at other insurers. Here’s how to start the process…

Begin by identifying solid companies

Clark has long talked about the merits of Amica Mutual and USAA. But those aren’t the only two companies you should look at. Consider buying a one-time subscription to Consumer Reports and checking their latest list of the best auto insurance companies to find others that should make it onto your shortlist.

Get your quotes

Once you have a list of candidates, you’ll want to start getting quotes. This typically takes around 15 minutes on the phone per insurer. Have your most recent policy in front of you in case any questions come up about the make and model of your vehicle(s).

Working with an insurance broker is another option. He or she will get multiple quotes for you and you’ll have access to all the insurers they do business with. It’s an easy one-stop shop that lets you still have the flexibility of comparison pricing.

Compare quotes

Once you get the quotes back, it’s time to compare them. Each quote should be based on the same amount of coverage so you can do an apples-to-apples comparison. What if a poorly ranked company offers you a great quote? Clark says to avoid them! While the premium might be tempting, you want to be sure your insurer is there for you when the chips are down.

Know when to drop comprehensive and collision

The general rule is when the cost of comp and collision exceeds 10% of your old vehicle’s value, that’s the time to dump it and just have liability coverage. You can determine your vehicle’s value at Edmunds.com, KBB.com or NADA.com.

So let’s take a simple example. Say your vehicle is worth $4,000. If you’re paying anything more than $400 annually (that’s 10% of $4,000) for comp and collision, it no longer makes any financial sense. One notable exception to this rule: If there’s no way you could financially cover the loss of your vehicle, forget the math and keep paying for comp and collision.

Be prepared to take a higher deductible

You should always opt for a $1,000 deductible for the best savings on your policy. At that level, you’ll pay a lower premium and t be tempted to file any small piddling claims.

Don’t forget about discounts!

There are a ton of different discounts out there. Here are some you can ask about:

     •     Antitheft devices

     •     Multiple policies with the same company

     •     College students living away from home

     •     Defensive driving courses

     •     Drivers ed courses

     •     Low annual mileage

     •     Long-time customer

     •     More than one car

     •     No accidents in three years

     •     No moving violations in three years

     •     Student drivers with good grades

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Jacksonville Auto Insurance

Jacksonville is in northeast Florida and is the largest city in the state by area. The city was named after President Andrew Jackson and was heavily damaged during the Civil War. Today, Jacksonville is a major transportation hub, with a port and large rail and trucking routes running through the city.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has a variety of animals, from giraffes to flamingoes to salamanders, as well as botanical gardens. The Cummer Museum has more than 5,000 items running from 2100 B.C.E. to contemporary works. Beaches such as Little Talbot Island State Park are a popular destination for visitors.

Miami Auto Insurance

Miami was named for a local Native American tribe and became a city in 1896. It is the southernmost major city in the United States. A major tourist destination, Miami is known as the cruise capital of the world, serving as a port for many ships bound for the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Miami Beach is home to one of the largest collections of art deco architecture in the world, which draws many fans of the style to the city. Bayside Marketplace has many shops and restaurants and offers views of the ocean. The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is housed in an Italian Renaissance-style villa and includes European furniture and art as well as Italian fountains and sculptures in its vast gardens.

Tampa Auto Insurance

Tampa is along the Gulf Coast of Florida and the third most populous city in the state. The city's economy is based on tourism, construction and health care. Tampa is home to McDill Air Force Base and U.S. Central Command.

Busch Gardens Tampa has roller coaster rides, animal habitats and live shows. Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary for abandoned and abused big cats like tigers, lions, ocelets and bobcats that allows visitors to come see the animals in their habitat. Bok Tower Gardens surrounds a 205-foot carillon tower with designed gardens and a wilderness preserve.

Orlando Auto Insurance

Incorporated in 1875, Orlando is perhaps best known as the home of Disney World, which opened in 1971. The theme park provides many jobs, directly and indirectly, to the city's residents, and makes it one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Orlando is the sixth largest city in the state and is located in central Florida.

Many families make a pilgrimage to Orlando to visit Disney World, the theme park established by Walt Disney. SeaWorld and Universal Studios also offer their own takes on the theme park experience, with the former showcasing sea animals and the latter roller coaster rides. For those looking for a quieter alternative, the Harry P. Leu Gardens has 50 acres of gardens surrounding a historical house.

St. Petersburg Auto Insurance

St. Petersburg is on the Gulf Coast of Florida across Old Tampa Bay and was named after the city in Russia. The arrival of a rail line in the 20th century brought the first wave of tourists from the frigid northern states. St. Petersburg became a popular retirement destination with the invention of air conditioning.

Baseball fans descend on the city every March to watch major league players participate in spring training, a tradition that was established in 1914. The Dali Museum celebrates the work of artist Salvador Dali with more than 2,000 of his creations. The area's many beaches are also popular with tourist, including Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach.

Fort Lauderdale Auto Insurance

Fort Lauderdale is on the east coast of Florida and is north of Miami. The city was originally settled by Seminole Indians and was the site of New River Fort during the Second Seminole War. Today, Fort Lauderdale's economy is based on tourism.

The city's beaches are a major attraction for visitors, who can swim, sail and snorkel in the Atlantic Ocean. Las Olas Boulevard has numerous boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. The Bonnett House Museum and Gardens has an art collection amid meticulously designed gardens.

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