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Australian drivers spent $78 million on roadside call-out fees over 2 years

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Girl talks on phone and looks into car bonnet

Australian drivers without roadside assistance cover are paying big bucks for call-out fees after breaking down, according to new research by Finder.

A new Finder survey of 1,008 respondents has revealed that almost a third (31%) of Australian drivers have experienced a roadside incident or breakdown within the past two years.

Of this group, 53% were covered by roadside assistance, while a further 26% say they signed up for it on the spot.

If we conservatively estimate that the average call-out fee is $100 without roadside assistance, this means that Australians are spending $78 million per year on call-out fees alone.

This figure doesn't take into account drivers who have broken down more than once within the past two years.

Taylor Blackburn, insurance expert at Finder, said that a broken down vehicle can strike when you least expect it, so drivers need to be prepared.

"Flat tyres, an empty fuel tank or dead batteries are just some of the reasons drivers find themselves stranded on the side of the road.

"While most car insurers will let you sign up for cover at the time your car breaks down, they'll also charge $100 or more callout fee to add this in after the fact.

"On the other hand, you can preemptively buy roadside assistance from as little as $7 per month, as a built-in or standalone option with most car insurance policies.

"This way if you do break down, at least you won't get slammed with additional fees on the side of the road," Blackburn said.

Finder's research shows that millennials (38%) and gen X (38%) experience more than double the rate of engine troubles than baby boomers (14%).

However, of those drivers that have broken down over the past two years, the majority of baby boomers (86%) were covered by roadside assistance, compared to just 48% of gen X.

Blackburn said that drivers may be able to score a discount on roadside assistance if they take out a policy with their existing car insurance provider.

"Taking out roadside assistance cover with your current insurer may get you a loyalty bonus, which can boost your savings.

"But you can also take out cover through automobile clubs like RACV, RACQ and the NRMA.

"Although these tend to cost more, they also come with benefits like discounted flights, dining and petrol, all of which can sweeten the deal," Blackburn said.

Methodology:

  • Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker is owned by Finder and run by Qualtrics, an SAP company.
  • The survey contains data from 1,018 Australians in February 2021.
  • Analysis assumes an average roadside assistance call-out fee of $100 based on research of major insurance providers.

How to find the best roadside assistance cover for you

  • You don't have to be locked in. If you'd prefer to avoid a yearly membership or contract, your best bet is a standalone service that charges per call-out. This includes providers like Youi, which offer two free call-outs with comprehensive cover, or an app-based service like Road Angels, which charges per call-out.
  • Take out roadside assistance with your current provider. If you're happy with your car insurer and you just want basic roadside assist, you can take out roadside assistance with your current provider if they offer it. This will save you time comparing prices on a relatively cheap product – and you may be eligible for a loyalty bonus.
  • Consider perks. If you're a fan of member discounts, look to membership services like the NRMA or RACV. These providers offer a wide range of discounts on products like petrol, flights, movie tickets, entertainment and more.

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