Most Americans Won’t Ask for Help if Their Car Breaks Down, But Drivers Would Stop to Help Others

Did you know that there are 69 million vehicle breakdowns in the U.S. every year?

That comes out to one in three drivers, so it’s not a surprise if you’ve found yourself dealing with a car breakdown. Or that you’ve seen a car broken down on the side of the road. What would you do in either situation?

That’s what we wanted to find out. We took a unique approach by surveying Americans on what they would do in the case of a car breakdown as a bystander or the driver. Needless to say, the results were unexpected.

Key takeaways:

  • 56% of Americans would stop for someone having car trouble.
  • Only 3% of drivers would flag down a stranger for help if they had a flat tire.
  • 34% of Americans would use roadside assistance if they had a flat tire or if they were locked out of their car.
  • 66% of men would fix their own flat tire, while 38% of women would do the same.

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    In this article

      56% of Americans would stop for someone having car trouble, but it depends on their circumstance

      A majority of Americans were willing to extend a hand to help someone during car trouble, but they wouldn’t stop for just anyone. While 37% of Americans said they would stop no matter the situation, the other 19% revealed that it would depend on who was in the car — a family (11%), a woman (7%) or a man (1%).

      When we broke this down by gender, we found that men were more likely to help someone having car trouble regardless of what they look like (46%) compared to women (27%) who were less likely to help someone. However, women would be more willing to stop if they saw a family or another woman in the car (23%) while only 13% of men answered similarly.

      Our data found that people in the Northeast were the most unlikely to stop for someone on the side of the road at 52%. That’s compared to the people who said they wouldn’t stop in the Midwest (40%), South (46%) and West (39%).

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      Only 3% of drivers would flag down a driver to help them with a flat tire

      We wanted to get the perspective of those who broke down too — do drivers even want someone to stop and help?

      Although 56% of drivers would stop to help someone on the side of the road, only 3% of drivers with a flat tire would actually try to flag someone down. In fact, 52% said they would fix a flat tire on their own. But that varies greatly by gender — 66% of men would fix their own flat tire, while 38% of women would do the same.

      Women are more apt to call roadside assistance when they get a flat tire (35%) while only 22% of men would use roadside assistance for the same issue. We also found it interesting that 24% of women said they would call a family member or friend for help, but only 7% of men would do the same.

      It’s worth noting that while many auto insurance companies will offer roadside assistance as a policy add on, benefits vary, so not all types of breakdowns are covered. Let’s delve deeper into the reasons why Americans would call roadside assistance.

      34% of Americans would use roadside assistance if they had a flat tire or if they were locked out of their car

      We asked Americans what they would call roadside assistance for and found that 39% of people wouldn’t call roadside assistance at all. However, the other 61% of people would use roadside assistance in some capacity. We gave surveyors the option to select multiple options and these were the results.

      Since 39% of Americans said they wouldn’t call roadside assistance for car trouble, we wanted to know what they would do instead.

      Calling a significant other was the second most popular response that Americans had if their car broke down, but that varied greatly by demographics.

      When we asked women, 29% said they would call a significant other while only 13% of men would do the same. For men, the second most popular response behind roadside assistance was to try to fix it themselves (30%).

      We also found that the age group most likely to try to fix their car themselves was those between the ages of 35-44 (28%). That’s significantly more people than we saw in other age groups who would try to fix it themselves: age 18-24 (17%), ages 25-34 (18%), ages 45-54 (21%), ages 55-64 (18%), ages 65 and over (14%).

      Methodology

      The Simple Dollar conducted an online survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older to learn what they would do in situations with car problems. The survey consisted of 4 questions fielded January 2020 using Google Surveys.