In a world where everyone is trying to build the "Uber of..." there is a new entry to the list: Urgent.ly, which is focused on roadside service.
Users install the free app on their phone, and when minor driving disaster strikes, assistance is just a tap away. Prices are estimated up front, and users pay via the app, using their credit card number.
The service is not inexpensive. A tow of 10 miles or less costs a flat $99 dollars - a fee that would buy one a year of AAA Plus membership. Plus members get 10 free 100 mile tows per year. Trying to tow a car 45 miles using the app, on the other hand, cost one CNET reporter $211.
The service also offers vehicle lockout service (that police often provide for free), dead battery jump, fuel service and flat tire fix. All of which start at a $75 flat fee.
Tow-truck drivers also have the Urgent.ly app installed on their phone - through which they receive information like the location of the vehicle in distress and payment via the app. And they even take Apple Pay.
The app also includes family view, a feature that allows allows Urgent.ly drivers to add multiple family members to their account - a feature focused at households with teen drivers. If one family member uses the app to request roadside assistance, the app will ping other family members with a notification.
Urgent.ly was not designed for automatic crash response and does not offer a shortcut to emergency services just yet - but the app's developers have noted that they might consider adding such a function in the future.
So why choose Urgent.ly over a club like AAA? Urgent.ly co-founder and CEO Chris Spanos says the issue is frequency of use, as he estimates that the average driver needs roadside service about once every two-and-a-half years. Operating on that theory, AAA membership costs $164 to $312 over a three-year period. So if a member only needs one relatively short tow (less than 10 miles) and one flat tire fixed - and they are in the most expensive tier of AAA service - then technically they paid $312 for those two pieces of road service. It is worth noting, however, that a AAA member in the least expensive membership level would still be paying less for their tow and flat tire ($164 vs. $174) and still have free tows and free roadside service to spare.
And, of course, there are AAA's other perks - which include discounts on hotels, rental cars and other services outside of just roadside assistance.
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