Summer vacation season is well underway, and most Americans are taking their trips by road -- 86 percent of vacationers said in a recent survey that they are traveling by car this summer. And according to the American Automobile Association’s Fuel Gauge Report, gas prices have peaked at around $2.75 a gallon for the rest of the season.
That means it’s the perfect time pack the kids in the car and hit the open road. But nothing derails a road trip faster than a flat tire on the interstate, which is why you want to make sure you have access to speedy roadside assistance in case something goes wrong. Enter Urgent.ly, a new app that helps stranded drivers get back on the road.
Available on: Android, iOS
Cost: Free to download, fixed-fee pricing for services
They don’t come right out and say it, but the folks at Urgent.ly think that you can do away with your grandfather’s AAA membership for roadside assistance and rely on their app instead. You don’t need a membership to use it: Urgent.ly is free to download. When you find yourself in a jam, boot up the app and voila: a map pops up indicating where you are and potential wait-times for help to arrive. You enter some information about your vehicle type and then you can choose from five options: “I need a tow,” “I’m locked out,” “my battery is dead,” “I’m out of fuel,” and “I have a flat tire.”
The app shows how long it will take for one of Urgent.ly’s network service providers to reach your location, plus the estimated cost of the service. Its pricing schedule is supposedly consistent nationwide:
-$75 for dead battery, flat tire, out of gas or lock out.
-$99 for 0-10 mile tow.
-$125 for 11-20 mile tow.
-$155 for 21-30 mile tow.
-$155 plus $4 per mile for tow over 30 miles.
That said, when I requested a flat tire fix for my imaginary Acura in lower Manhattan, the estimated price listed on the app was $50. According to the company, Urgent.ly adds providers to its service from a 20-year-old network, and all providers are vetted by the company before they join.
The app itself is easy to use and even offers a “FamilyView” system that places multiple people on one account. “If a family member uses Urgent.ly to request help, the main account holder knows right away, and both can track the progress of the tow truck operator on their phone’s map,” said a company spokesperson.
The biggest strike against it, however, is the limited number of cities the app is available in. While its network is listed in major cities nationwide, it’s not everywhere. And it’s unclear whether you’d have access to Urgent.ly’s services if you’re on the road in the middle of nowhere -- which is precisely when you’d need something like this the most.
Verdict: The app is free to download, so there’s no reason not to install it on your phone before a big road trip. But you should definitely plan for backup, as the list of cities where it works is by no means exhaustive for the continental United States.