I had a similar experience that I wanted to share. I think that the problem is the disconnect between "Common Sense" and "Industry Standard" I had our 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe towed from my farm in Oxford, NC to the shop in Oxford, NC 14 miles away. Due to the fact that the brake lines are completely rusted through and the vehicle is unsafe to drive. (Though GM is in denial about it and I have already reported it to NTSHA.)
I called up roadside assistance. I was informed that the limit was $50 for the tow. I'm thinking, (common Sense) "It's 14 miles I got this in the bag!" Apparently (industry standard) the way it works is that it is usual and customary that they will charge you by the mile to drive out from their shop in this case Henderson, NC to your location Oxford, Unloaded miles 27 miles @ $1.75/mile then loaded miles 14 miles @ $2.25/ mile + fee for the service of loading and unloading $35.00. My bill was $113.00 (he rounded down the $0.75 cents) for a 14 mile tow (-$50 for the "Covered" part of the tow) =$63.00 out of pocket.
A calm rational person might say WTF? However this is apparently the industry norm.. the rule not the exception. If their contracted towing company is a shop nearby that is awesome and the $50 covered amount is sufficient. In my case it was nearly 30 miles away. Plus if their tow truck which was the case with my tow has the ability to pick up another car on the way to get yours they pocket the bonus money of getting 2 cars picked up and taken to the same shop in Oxford for the price of one.
Right or wrong is subjective the firm that USAA contracts with is I think the biggest one in the country. We the members are not going to be able to get the towing operators to change their billing practices. I would think the only thing is to try to negotiate for a larger covered amount for the same rate. Something that may be unrealistic; however what we the members can do is better inform ourselves so that we can be better prepared.