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Edited by Jackie Cohen
Last Updated June 15, 2022
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Picture this: You’re out driving and the check engine light comes on. Or you hear a weird noise and think “maybe I should pull over and get this checked out?” Have you ever tried to start your car and found the battery dead? These are all scenarios where having roadside assistance can be a lifesaver.
And when it comes to roadside assistance programs, the most famous is the AAA membership. AAA members drive with the peace of mind of knowing if they get stuck on the side of the road, they’ll have backup. But it isn’t free. So let’s see if a AAA membership is worth your money. And to save on auto insurance, count on Insurify to give you free quotes and easy comparison.
- Whether you get it from AAA, your car insurance, or somewhere else, roadside assistance is a must-have.
- If you have an old car and use the membership discounts, a AAA membership is usually worth it.
- Auto insurance companies have roadside assistance programs, but you won’t get AAA’s world-class towing or other perks.
Why Roadside Assistance Is a Great Idea
Is a AAA membership worth the cost?
The services a AAA membership offers, including their iconic roadside assistance offering and other perks, make the relatively affordable membership worth the cost.
AAA roadside assistance is the best-known brand of this service, but auto insurance companies and even credit card and cell phone companies have roadside assistance available for nominal monthly fees. It’s hard to overestimate how important this can be if you get yourself in a jam. Towing services can cost a fortune out of pocket, especially if you’re far from home.
And whenever you’re driving, a whole lot of minor but totally disruptive things can go wrong. Here are just a few scenarios where roadside assistance services can help. It only takes one of these per year to pay back the membership costs for most roadside assistance programs.
- You get a flat tire.
- Your car gets stuck in mud or snow.
- You lock your keys in your car.
- Your car has a dead battery and won’t start.
- You run out of gas.
- Your car displays alarming behavior, noises, or maintenance/emergency lights and can’t be driven without professional attention.
These things happen to drivers all over American roads all the time. When it happens to you, where will you go for help? A membership with a roadside assistance program can save money on emergency services and help you access them a lot faster and more safely than you would from the side of the highway.
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What is AAA?
AAA is the American Automobile Association, an organization created in 1902 to promote car travel when road tripping was in its infancy. These auto clubs formed in 40 states and regions, and all administer their own membership programs. AAA benefits vary slightly depending on the auto club you’re a part of. Let’s talk about what a AAA membership is for.
What a AAA Membership Gets You
As a AAA club member, you’re part of something bigger than roadside assistance services. But let’s start with that bundle of member benefits, then explore the various other deals and discounts that you qualify for when you join AAA. Options for RVs and motorcycles are available!
Roadside Assistance Services
AAA has been helping drivers with all kinds of roadside calamities for over a century. They’ve seen it all, and if you’re looking for timely, professional, comprehensive roadside assistance services, AAA is the gold standard. These are the services they offer their members for free, regardless of membership tier.
Towing: When you need a tow to a garage, or anywhere else you want your car parked while you can’t drive it, AAA will send you a truck on the same day. Depending on your membership tier, you’ll be limited in how far they’ll take your car. Everyone gets four tows per year.
Tire changes: Is a flat tire your worst nightmare? If you have a spare tire and will want some help changing a tire on the side of the road, AAA will help.
Battery service: It’s not a good feeling when you turn your ignition and can’t start your car. And what if you forgot your jumper cables or can’t find anyone to help jump-start it? AAA will come out ASAP, diagnose your battery, and jump-start you if you need it. Battery replacement is also part of AAA service.
Lock-out service: What do you do if you lock your keys in your car? If you’re a AAA member, you just call, and they send a locksmith service pronto. Depending on your membership tier, you’ll be covered up to $50, $100, or $150.
Free fuel delivery: Run out of gas too far from a gas station to get your own fuel? You can bet that AAA has your back. AAA Classic members have to pay for the gas, but Plus and Premier members get it for free.
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Other Membership Benefits
Interestingly, roadside assistance is only the bedrock of benefits when it comes to AAA memberships. AAA club members also get access to a whole slate of perks and AAA discounts that sometimes only partially relate to car travel. These vary depending on your location and which membership tier you choose. They include:
Rental car discounts: AAA members are automatic Hertz members and can start earning free car rentals with Hertz’s Gold Plus program.
AAA discounts: These are variable but can save members money on hotels, gas, theme parks, shopping, and a lot more. If you’re motivated to take advantage of these, they can really add up for serious shoppers.
Travel information and maps: Avid travel planners can get excited about AAA’s free maps and mobile app to help road trips go smoothly (available to AAA members). AAA travel resources are a flagship service from the organization’s early days.
Legal fee reimbursement: If you plead not guilty in a case related to auto travel, AAA has small reimbursement sums available to members.
Transportation reimbursement: If you’re stranded at a repair shop or elsewhere from a tow service and need to get to a hotel or back home, you can rent a car and AAA will reimburse up to a certain limit.
Discounts at vetted repair shops: AAA has a network of approved repair shops where members can earn a 10 percent discount up to $50.
Identity theft insurance: For upper membership tiers, AAA members can access identity theft monitoring and insurance that can really come in handy in a crisis.
Passport photos: Traveling abroad and getting passport shots taken? AAA will pick up the tab if you’re a Premier or Plus member.
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AAA Membership Tiers and Pricing
AAA memberships vary by location and are split into three membership tiers. In general, an annual fee pays for a primary member, then family members are charged a lower fee in addition.
Classic: $38–$90 per year
The AAA Classic membership has the bare-bones roadside assistance service you look for from AAA. The caveat is that you’ll have to pay for gas if you need fuel delivery, and you’re usually only entitled to a several-mile tow back to your destination (it goes up to seven, but some states limit you to three). Bump up your membership tier to get a lot more towing distance.
Plus: $60–$140 per year
AAA Plus membership earns you free fuel delivery alongside more generous reimbursement potential for travel disruption and legal fees as well as locksmith services. You’ll also get up to 100-mile tow service if you need it, which could help you get home or to your repair shop of choice instead of the nearest one wherever you break down.
Premier $120–$170 per year
A Premier membership entitles you to the full suite of AAA benefits and services, including up to 200-mile tow services and free fuel delivery with gas included. (Plus members get this, too.) For the extra money, it’s sometimes best to take full advantage of the perks the membership has to offer, and with a AAA Premier membership, you won’t miss out.
AAA Car Insurance
AAA is also an auto insurance company. You’ll have to become a AAA member to join, but the member discounts on an auto insurance policy tend to pay for it. You should absolutely consider AAA when you’re looking for auto insurance companies. RV, home, renters, and other insurance products are available as well.
Roadside Assistance from Your Insurance Policy
Many car insurance companies offer roadside assistance as an add-on to a typical car insurance policy. This can be as cheap as $10 per year, but make sure you ask a lot of questions about the service. Sometimes, you can only access roadside assistance by making a claim, which isn’t too useful if you have a dead battery and need a jump start.
You can read more about all the roadside assistance programs out there, from insurance companies to credit cards and other auto clubs. Even cell phone service companies and carmakers themselves have roadside service programs.
Deciding If a AAA Membership Is Right for You
If you’re considering a AAA membership, ask yourself:
Will I use the AAA discounts and deals? The annual membership fee is substantial compared to some programs that only offer roadside assistance. But if you see yourself diving into the membership benefits on rental cars, travel, auto repair, and other opportunities to save money, the membership will likely pay for itself over the year.
Is my car likely to need roadside assistance once a year? Are you a frequent commuter, or do you tend to plan long road trips for vacation? Is your car aging and not the most reliable? These are reasons to strongly consider a AAA membership. Alternatively, if you drive infrequently and have a new car, you might not justify the cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
“Triple-A” is the American Automobile Association, a network of motor clubs that started in the early days of American car travel. The club memberships primarily provide roadside assistance services when their members need towing, fuel delivery, a battery jump start, help with a flat tire, and other services. But the auto club also provides insurance coverage and many other perks.
It depends on where you live and what membership tier you choose. Your membership level affects how many miles of towing you are entitled to and the limits on some of your benefits. Along with standard roadside assistance services, AAA members save money on cruises, rental cars, and hotels, along with extras like passport photos and identity theft protection.
This depends on whether your car is prone to breakdowns that would make roadside assistance services highly useful. Towing can be really handy, but if you have a super-reliable car, drive infrequently, and aren’t likely to make the most of the AAA membership perks and discounts, you might not earn out your membership fee. But the peace of mind alone can be worth it.
You might be thinking that all those perks and deals sound nice, but you don’t see yourself following through on all that extra stuff. If this is your situation, you might not make back the AAA membership fee on savings. Many insurance companies offer roadside assistance services at a decent price, so check those out and see what the benefits are.
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