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Looking For Roadside Assistance?

If you've ever broken down on the road, you know the benefit of roadside assistance.

AAA, with its 49 million members, is probably the first service that comes to mind.

"My wife and I have been members of AAA for about 12 years," said driver Garrett Johnson. "It works. It's worth it."

However, you also have other options. Consumer Reports recently put several services to the test, including AAA and roadside help offered by carmakers, insurance companies, credit cards and even cell phone providers, such as Verizon and Sprint PCS.

"There are a range of services, lots of extras and many prices," said Consumer Reports' Tony Giorgianni. "Auto clubs, for example, range from $40 a year to as much as $100."

Your first step is to check to see what coverage you might already have, including what comes with your credit cards or your new car. Some manufacturers offer roadside assistance free for the length of the warranty. Some certified used cars, such as Toyota and Chrysler, do the same.

Consumer Reports said it's important to read the fine print carefully to know exactly what the plan covers. Some cover a specific car, no matter who's behind the wheel. Other plans cover the member, no matter which vehicle they're driving -- even a rental car.

"If you have coverage through your cell phone, typically you have to have the phone with you in order to get roadside assistance," said Giorgianni. "No phone, no roadside assistance. So don't leave it at home."

Lastly, Consumer Reports said to weigh costs against your needs. Most people don't need the most elaborate plan.

"If your family has more than one car, more than one driver, consider a full-service auto club like AAA, GM Club, AARP, or the Better World Club," said Giorgianni.

Consumer Reports also urged consumers to be aware that roadside assistance that comes with an insurance policy could also come with a hitch.

Some carriers consider a roadside help call a negative, just like an accident claim. Consumer Reports said that could lead to your rates going up, or your being dropped by the company.

"All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2006. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.