Toyota's Roadside Assistance Leaves You Stranded Out Of Gas

Reader Chris spent some extra money on a Toyota extended warranty which comes with free roadside assistance in the event his vehicle breaks down or runs out of gas. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Chris’ girlfriend one day when she ran out of gas on a Cleveland freeway. She called roadside assistance for help, but when the rescue driver finally arrived he’d only brought a half-gallon of gas, not enough to get her RAV 4 started. Since the roadside assistance terms allow for 3 gallons of gas she asked the driver to bring additional gas to which he replied, “They don’t pay me enough for that,” and drove off. Chris’ letter, inside…

Dear Consumerist,

My girlfriend and I bought a new car from Classic Toyota. Along with it we bought the extended warranty. I know these usually pad the pockets of the seller, but she’s a high milage driver since she drives for work quite a bit, and since we were able to haggle on the pricing a bit, it came out to about the same price as a AAA membership, and comes with free roadside assistance. I figured it would be worth it. Boy was I wrong, apparently.

On the 9th, she ran out of gas on the freeway I was at work at the time so I couldn’t run to the gas station and pick up a gas can. Well, that stinks. Good thing we have roadside assistance, right? Wrong. After an hour’s wait (perfectly reasonable, I wasn’t upset yet and nor was she) the employee from roadside assistance pulled up in the eastbound lane (she was in the westbound, and told the call center that multiple times) and yelled across multiple lanes of rush hour traffic “Hey are you the one who needs help? Are you out of gas?”. She told him that he was and he drove saying “I’m going to go get you some gas”. So, apparently when you call up roadside assistance and told them you run out of gas, they don’t actually bring gas with them?

Anyway, he drives ahead to the next freeway exit, gets some gas, and comes back westbound to “help” her out. When he gets out of his car she immediately notices something is up. He has a tiny gas can in his hand. She knew immediately that there was no way it held even a gallon of gas. He put it in the tank and told her to start it up. Obviously, it didn’t work. My girlfriend drives a Rav 4 with a 15 gallon tank. Half a gallon wouldn’t even fill the fuel line. She asked how much gas he put in the car, and the man lied and told her it was 2 gallons! They pushed the car forward a bit to make sure it was on level ground, and it still didn’t work. I told her via text message to leave the key in the forward position for a bit to let fuel enter the engine. Still no dice. She asked him again how much gas the man put in. He said “It’s two gallons, but half a gallon should start this car. Half a gallon should definitely start this car”.

He gets back in his van, and talks on his walkie talkie for a bit, then comes back out. My girlfriend asks if he can go get her some more gas. Even pretending that the guy actually gave her 2 gallons of gas, we were entitled to up to 3 plus up $100 for repairs plus a tow. The roadside assistance guys response to more gas? “No. They don’t pay me enough for that.” Then he got in to his van and drove off! We called up the dealership and raised hell with the general manager, and he eventually got someone to come out and give my girlfriend 2 gallons of gas. But all told my girlfriend spend 3 hours on the side of the freeway in 95 degree heat and 60% humidity because the roadside assistance guy “doesn’t get paid enough. Thank GOD my girlfriend was on the way to pick up my infant daughter from day-care as opposed to driving home with her.

I’ve been wrestling ever since with the dealership and First Extended, the company that handles our contract. First extended tells me I should be calling the company that actually came out. The company they sub-contract to. Roadside Rescue of Cleveland, LLC doesn’t return my phone calls. The dealership handed me a $25 gas voucher and told me I can cancel my warranty and have the prorated amount refunded. This outcome is completely unacceptable. Do they have any idea how much day care charges for keeping your baby over? A hell of a lot more than $25. That’s how much.

Where the heck am I supposed to go with this, Consumerist? I can’t get anyone to talk to me, let alone help me out!

We agree that the contractor Roadside Rescue is at fault and Toyota is also responsible which is perhaps why they gave you a $25 gas voucher and are willing to refund your warranty. We think you should take your voucher and refund and be glad that you are rid of a dysfunctional relationship. Companies usually won’t compensate you for events that happened because of their blunder, whether it be lost wages or day care fees so chances are you are out of luck in that area. Also, Consumerist readers might already know that extended car warranties are a usually rip off.

(Photo: Getty)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.