Honk app gets tow trucks for drivers lacking roadside coverage

Honk is the latest app designed to give drivers a hand when they need roadside assistance

For those who can’t summon a tow truck through the company that made their vehicle, their motor club or their insurance provider, a number of apps are providing a hand.

The latest venture comes out of Santa Monica. Honk announced Wednesday that drivers nationwide can now use the company's website or app to request and pay for roadside assistance, including to retrieve keys locked in a vehicle, replace a tire or get a tow. The minimum price per request is $49, and Honk provides a guaranteed maximum price and an ETA during the booking process.

Honk founder Corey Brundage said he started developing the app last year after his fiancee left her car's headlights on one evening and drained its battery. He said he was frustrated by spending a day trying to negotiate prices and timing for a tow.

Since then, he said, more than 20,000 truck operators have joined his service, with competitive and sometimes better rates compared with roadside assistance firms. He said conversations with college students have led him to believe that there’s a demand for such an app among people who aren’t covered by their parents' AAA plans, which start at about the same cost as one Honk service call.

“People don’t want to pay for something they don’t use, but I think that piece of mind -- that we’re around with a press of a button when needed -- should be free,” Brundage said.

But how to get people to remember to use the app that once a year or so when they’re in a pickle is the challenge left to solve. People complain to everyone every time their car breaks down, and Brundage said his hope is that Honk slowly enters those conversations and catches on. Competitors include RepairPal and Urgent.ly, which just signed a deal to power the roadside-assistance feature in the MapQuest navigation app.

Brundage, who’s founded several start-ups, is still looking for a hit. This is his second venture-capital-funded company. Honk has $1.8 million from a group that includes prominent Los Angeles angel Paige Craig and venture capital firms Double M Capital, Karlin Ventures and Venture51.

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