Does BMW road service cover all accident tows?

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A BMW owner says his roadside assistance program doesn't seem to pay as promised and the tow billing issue may also apply to other auto maker programs.

Roadside assistance is a great perk auto makers offer customers. Many programs claim to pay for towing services from an accident. But with BMW, that doesn't always appear to be the case. When police are on the scene of your car accident, you may actually be paying for that tow.

Rus Smith's garage is empty as he waits for his BMW to be repaired after a major accident. Moments after the accident, Smith says he called BMW roadside assistance, they dispatched Quik Pik Towing, and Quik Pik towed his vehicle to an authorized BMW center. Smith later learned that his insurer paid for the service.

"I immediately asked him why is that on there, I used roadside assistance to remove my vehicle from the road, there should be no charge," Smith said.

Smith says he's owned 15 BMW vehicles in his lifetime. He says under BMW's Roadside Assistance program, towing after an accident is paid by BMW; not him.

"I know their policies pretty well, what it tells me is that when I use roadside assistance, I am not going to be charged for the service," Smith said.

Quik Pik tells CBS 5 News that the moment police take charge of an accident scene, Quik Pik's contract with BMW no longer applies. Quik Pik says services under police jurisdiction get billed to the driver's insurance, even though BMW dispatched them. If that's true, Smith says BMW should be more upfront about it.

"Because their documentation clearly states that there will be no charge for collision or accident towing," Smith said.

Smith says a BMW roadside assistance card isn't as valuable if customers are paying for accident tows; and the more insurers pay out, the more impact it has on all drivers.

"You, me, the gentleman behind the camera, we pay more for our insurance policies as a result of this," Smith said.

Regarding their road service programs, Toyota and Ford told CBS 5 News the tow company is likely correct. So when police take over an accident scene, your insurer will likely pay. Therefore, it may be wiser to call your insurer; not roadside assistance for Toyota or Ford. Your insurer will have negotiated a contracted rate with their own partner tow company. General Motors and AAA tell CBS 5 News that their road service programs continue to cover drivers even under police jurisdiction.

After many attempts to nail down a definitive answer, BMW would not confirm or deny the tow company's claims. BMW corporate officials refused multiple requests to discuss this matter over the phone. Therefore, it is very possible your BMW roadside assistance will, like the others mentioned, not pay for certain accident tows; you will.

Quik Pik stands by their comments. Their owners says services performed under police jurisdiction aren't billed to any car maker's roadside assistance program; they are always billed to the driver's insurance. Both Smith and BMW confirm that Quik Pik did not bill BMW for Smith's service.

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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